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Cuturi Gallery is a next generation art gallery founded on the belief that art should be empowering and meaningful for everyone. A curator of change and a custodian of artistic diversity, Cuturi Gallery is a challenger of vested interests and of the status quo, pushing the boundaries of how galleries operate. The gallery connects broad audiences to high-quality art by diverse talents that speaks to the heart and tells the story of an undiscovered generation of aspiring artists that will have the art world aching for more. Diminishing aristocratic traditions and providing transparency in an art world that is at times daunting, Cuturi Gallery presents an inclusive and democratised art ecosystem which fosters greater collaboration, understanding and appreciation of art amongst artists, collectors and the industry at large.

61 ALIWAL STREET, SINGAPORE 199937 +65 6980 3068 | +65 8182 0214 | SINGAPORE@CUTURIGALLERY.COM CUTURIGALLERY.COM

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Cuturi Gallery is proud to present Back Room, a solo exhibition by Marla Bendini (b.1986). For the Singaporean artist’s first solo show at the Cuturi Gallery, Back Room features a new collection of oil paintings that provide an intimate insight into the artist’s relationship with her body and trans identity. Marla Bendini is a transgender, non-binary, visual and performance artist based in Singapore. The artistic persona of Marla found her roots in the intersection between art and life, allowing her to confidently embody a fluidity that is vivacious and transgressive in conservative Singapore. Her works are a synthesis of inner thoughts and external scenes that examine various liminal realities; the rich interstices between societal expectations and personal identity, and the beauty of the in-between. Her trans identity is deeply intertwined with her practice, as her work is also concerned with how the trans body allows one to adopt a unique artistic perspective and develop a personal voice that actively challenges conventional constructs of identity. Marla has performed and exhibited her work in Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Sweden, Spain, and the U.S. Most recently, Marla has had two solo exhibitions in Coda Culture, namely “April Fools” in 2020, and “IMHO” in 2019. Back Room offers a behind-the-scenes look into the most intimate aspects of the artist. The exhibition features a series of paintings that are concerned with the role of the state in relation to personal identity, one’s relationship with one’s body, as well as how one views carnal desire and sexual experiences. It also marks Marla’s first foray into oil paint, a medium known for its fluidity and ability to produce both lustrous and subtle finishes. The malleability of this medium paired well with the spontaneous, unstructured nature of her creative approach, enabling Marla to translate the organic and nebulous nature of her thoughts on to the canvas. Additionally, the meticulous layering of oil paint facilitated a painterly process of selfdiscovery and actualisation, as she coaxed her images out of a mental fog and gave them clarity with each coat of paint. These creative aspects are clearly evident in Pro-state Property (2020) which shows the artist in a lalitasana pose, or position of royal ease. The title is a clever pun that implies both sexual gratification and being an instrument of the state (pro-state), with the signature green army singlet acting as a garment that both clothes and restricts Marla within a stifling gender binary. Despite that, the figure is thoroughly at ease with a relaxed air. The layering of oil allowed Marla to paint her body with a renewed sense of tenderness, as each coat of colour takes on the tactile realness of skin and each mark on the canvas represents a sinuous curve. The artist reconnects with her own body through this intimately tactile painting process, as the warm pink hues are suffused with a sensuality that clothes cannot contain. In an act of artistic reclamation, Marla attempts to loosen the body from societal restraints so that she may gently caress the various parts of her – both masculine and feminine properties – and come to be comfortable in her own skin.


In Gatekeepers (2020), the pink artist figure appears iridescent against the black background and the broad-shouldered bouncer, as she brandishes a pink Singaporean IC (Identity Card) in an attempt to get into a “club”. The bouncer blocking her entry represents the various gatekeeper figures trans individuals have to “prove” their identity to in order to gain the same level of accessibility which many of us have come to take for granted, while the sinewy texture of the bouncer’s black polo and muscled arms created by broad, violent brushstrokes convey the adamance of their position. In contrast, the pink Marla exudes a feminine softness and an air of self-assuredness, confident in persuading these discriminatory gatekeepers. A pair of jet-black wings have been carved out of the background behind the artist figure, expressing a desire to ascend and soar past these social obstacles. The work serves as a call to stop discrimination based on identity markers, and in using the emblematic pink IC it compels us to conceive of identity as more complex than what is printed on a card. For her triptych titled Wordless Groans (2020), Marla depicts both corporeal and ethereal bodies entangled in sex. As if aided by the fluidity of oil, the bodies in each of the three paintings have been conjoined in an inseparable carnal coil, as it is difficult to discern where one body begins and another ends. The figures are intertwined as they hug and lean on one another, as if for support. In this way, Marla expresses how sexual intercourse is not just about physical gratification, but it also entails an emotional and spiritual exchange communicated through our bodies, as we seek solace in another’s embrace. Eroticism thus conveys desires that cannot be expressed through words. Marla Bendini’s Back Room offers us an intimate glimpse into the private world of the artist. Through its sensually defiant subject matter, it compels us to look beyond gender binaries and the conservative view of sex as taboo, to realise that our identity is written on the pink surface of our flesh and not printed on a pink piece of plastic. Marla Bendini’s Back Room will be on view at Cuturi Gallery from 12 Dec 2020 to 3 Jan 2021.

Text by Lim Shao Yu


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI

Wordless Groans 1, 2020 Oil on canvas 120 x 90 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI

Wordless Groans 2, 2020 Oil on canvas 120 x 90 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

Wordless Groans 3, 2020 Oil on canvas 120 x 90 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

I've Got Your Back, 2020 Oil on canvas 120 x 90 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

Mandi Bunga for a Hardy Fish, 2020 Oil, spray paint and oil pastel on canvas 102 x 76 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

Pro-state Property, 2020 Oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

Gatekeepers, 2020 Oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

Smiley Face, 2020 Oil and spray paint on canvas 102 x 76 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

It Smells Like Rain, 2020 Oil on canvas 102 x 76 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

Telepsychic Operation, 2020 Oil and spray paint on canvas 102 x 76 cm


BACK ROOM: MARLA BENDINI ANIMA ARTIFIIALIS

When a Gun Cocks, 2020 Oil and spray paint on canvas 102 x 76 cm


MARLA BENDINI Born in 1986 in Singapore. Lives and works in Singapore.

Selected Exhibitions 2020

Precious Things, Coda Culture, Singapore New Beginnings, Cuturi Gallery, Singapore April Fools, Coda Culture, Singapore

2018

ArtScience Late: I'm willing, collaborated performance project, Art Science Museum, Singapore

2015

“I’m Nervous” Grey Projects + 10th edition of IndigNation, Singapore

2012

transSport - Madrid + Singapore, Factoria de Arte Y Dasarrollo, Madrid Goodman Arts Centre Gallery, Singapore Handsome: IVSG, The Substation Gallery, Singapore Portraits of Defacement, Your Mother Gallery, Singapore Queer Creatures, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden Image, Materiality and Space, Goodman Arts Centre, Singapore

2011 2010

RETREATTACK, Dhalia Gallery, Singapore HIV: Show me the love, Chan Hampe Gallery, Singapore Conversations between father and son, The Substation Gallery, Singapore

2008

Marla., La Bamba, Pattaya, Thailand


61 ALIWAL STREET, SINGAPORE 199937 +65 6980 3068 | +65 8182 0214 | SINGAPORE@CUTURIGALLERY.COM CUTURIGALLERY.COM

@CUTURIGALLERY

Profile for cuturigallery

Marla Bendini - Back Room  

Cuturi Gallery is proud to present Back Room, a solo exhibition by Marla Bendini (b.1986). For the Singaporean artist’s first solo show at t...

Marla Bendini - Back Room  

Cuturi Gallery is proud to present Back Room, a solo exhibition by Marla Bendini (b.1986). For the Singaporean artist’s first solo show at t...

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