Jan 10 will be red letter day in art lovers' calendar in Singapore

Isaac Julien
Mazu, Turning (Ten Thousand Waves) 2010

So many art galleries have chosen Jan 10 for opening a new show, right before Art Stage Singapore, that you will need to put skates on to go around town and see them all on that night! One must see will be Ten Thousand Waves Photographs, at Valentine Willie Fine Art, a limited edition of photographs taken from Isaac Julian's nine screen video installation, Ten Thousand Waves, first unveiled at the Sydney Biennale in 2010.

Conceived and made over four years, Ten Thousand Waves saw Julien collaborating with some of China’s leading artistic voices, including: the screen siren Maggie Cheung; rising star Zhao Tao; poet Wang Ping; master calligrapher Gong Fagen; artist Yang Fudong; acclaimed cinematographer
Zhao Xiaoshi; and a 100-strong Chinese cast and crew. The film’s original musical score is
by fellow East Londoner Jah Wobble and The Chinese Dub Orchestra and contemporary classical composer Maria de Alvear.

Installation view, Shanghart Gallery, Shanghai
Photography Adrian Zhou

Filmed on location in the remote Guangxi province and at the famous Shanghai Film Studios
and various sites around Shanghai, the work combined fact, fiction and film essay genres against a background of Chinese history, legend and landscape to create a meditation on global human

The original inspiration for Ten Thousan Waves was the Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2004, in which 23 Chinese cockle-pickers died. In response to this event, Julien commissioned the poet Wang Ping to come to England and write Small Boats, a poem that is recited in the work. In the successive years, Julien has spent time in China slowly coming to understand the country and its people’s perspectives and developing the relationships that have enabled him to undertake this rich and multifaceted work.

Through conversations with academics, curators and artists both in China and the UK, Julien uncovered a symbolic body of material which he has used to create a work that explores modern and traditional Chinese values and superstitions. These are encapsulated in a fable about the goddess Mazu (played by Maggie Cheung) that comes from Fujian Province, from where the Morecambe Bay cockle-pickers originated.

Maiden of Silence

The Tale of Yishan Island tells the tale of 16th Century fishermen lost and in danger at sea. At the heart of the legend is the goddess figure who leads the fishermen to safety. Using this fable as a starting point Julien draws on this story and the poignant connection between it and the 21st Century tragedy of Chinese migrants who died struggling to survive in the North of England.


The British installation and video artist was nominated for the TurnerPrize in 2001 for his films The Long Road to Mazatlán (1999)and Vagabondia (2000). In the same year, he received the Eugene McDermott Award from MIT in Massachusetts, USA. He received the Grand Jury Award at the KunstFilm Biennale in Cologne, Germany for his work, Baltimore (2003).

Julien’s debut film, Looking for Langston (1989) won theTeddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. His feature film Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival.