Scalable (2022), is a suite of five works utilizing the grid to show how scale may affect what we perceive as being representative of Western Modern Art, although practiced by the East for centuries. The idea came to me while wondering why “bigger meant better” in contemporary art. Is it because big works invade your space? Are impactful when enlarged?

Andrew Ooi, Scale Study, 2022 | 15.75 x 15.75 x 2.5 inches, 40 x 40 x 6.4 cm | ink, paper, cord | Photo: Matthew Sze

Consider the modernist art movements of Pop Art and Minimalism. How much of size is part of their identity? How much of it is Modern Art’s? And do I, as an artist, identifying as neither (typically) Western or Eastern, need to “go big” for my work to be seen as important or Modern?

Andrew Ooi, Scale 1, 2022 | 21 x 21 x 2 inches, 53 x 53 x 5.1 cm | ink, paper, cord | Photo: Matthew Sze

To answer these questions I referred to an earlier collection of mine, Anatomy of Resilience (2014-2017) originally made as an interpretation of Geometric Abstraction.

Andrew Ooi, Scale 2, 2022 | 21.75 x 21.75 x 2 inches, 55.2 x 55.2 x 5.1 cm | ink, paper, cord | Photo: Matthew Sze

However, as with all my art, I had hand-pieced these artworks, meaning each retained the mark of its maker; opposite from the contemporary Western art I admire, which applies repetitive action, not as a testament toward skill or tradition like the East, but to erase, so that only the purity of the form exists, ironically also exemplary of Eastern art.

Andrew Ooi, Scale 3, 2022 | 22 x 22 x 2 inches, 56 x 56 x 5.1 cm | ink, paper, cord | Photo: Matthew Sze

Soon, further comparisons followed such as size (wide and long), form (vertical and horizontal orientation) and composition (flat and picture-plane). But among all, two were of greater significance. That when it came to being contemporary, it was the adaptation of Western and Eastern aesthetics by the other which would inspire their unique version of Modern Art, and that without the grid, none of it would be possible. Not even Modern Art.

Andrew Ooi, Scale 4, 2022 | 22.5 x 22.5 x 1 inches, 57.2 x 57.2 x 2.5 cm | ink, paper, cord | Photo: Matthew Sze

It is for these reasons why Scalable artworks are variations of the grid–in muted tones found in “traditional” Eastern, and “contemporary” Western paintings–still made by hand, though using a hybrid-synthetic paper with string–a universal measure–resizing the subjectivity of what art, and which artist, we see as (typically) Modern, and important.