The past two months have seen a lot of developments in my art, or rather my thinking.
I have always been excited about selling my art. Would it be an exaggeration to say that it is the end goal of my practice? Why am I creating art? To feed the fuel of consumerism and capitalism?
Nothing seemed wrong until I enrolled in the current Master of Visual Arts programme. I am incresingly aware of the pitfalls and limitations of the gallery system. Hypothetically, if I am to escape the gallery system (am I?), where to? It is of course not to say that the gallery system is evil. The galleries offer plenty of opportunities to artists both financially and professionally. However, one also detects tension between the gallery and the artist when the gallery wants to hold onto a popular (lucrative) style, or when the artist wants to venture into the arena of experimentation.
Then what is the alternative? Do artists step outside the system to sell works? Like Damien Hirst (Once you are a star, you can pretty do anything?) or Christo (Pretty clever I must say.)
Would the museum system be the solution? Museums are much more willing to take non-object artworks, yet their pockets are also much shallower than private or corporate collectors. Then what do artists live on? Do artists have dual careers, creating commercial and “serious” works concurrently? Do they resort to a comfortable and stable art school salary? Get a day job! Or is it easier to sell their souls?
I am reading intensely in hope of arriving at an answer. My ideas seem to change weekly. In May 2014, there will be our first exhibition at school. I am rather excited to see what comes out.
A few weeks ago, Alice Liu who runs Listhus Art Space in Iceland (where I spent the past July) came for a studio visit. Over dinner, we were conversing about art and life.
I still can’t forget what she said, “Art-making is a very naked activity–it sells feelings and emotions. If the artist is too detached from the artwork, then the artwork is commercial.”
Over the past few months, I have contemplated intensively about my practice and art in general. I look back at my old works and am embarrassed. I look at the future and am scared. I look around me and realized that I was not a prodigy child. I am a late bloomer. I wasted a lot of time. But I am beginning to understand a few things.
1. There will always be opposing voices to any decision I make. Be aware of the constructive criticism but also hear the supportive voices and my own inner voice.
2. Trends come and go. Hold dear to what you feel strongly about.
3. Learn to be vulnerable. It will make your art stronger.
4. I will never stop doubting myself. I have however always gotten up in the morning and gone back to the studio. I probably will tomorrow.
From Halloween to their Christmas Fair, I was honoured to be Singapore International School’s 2013 Artist-in-Residence. Over the past few weeks, we worked on individual introspective psychological self-portrait paintings based on my body of works “I Don’t Know if You Know How Much I Love You.” Each of their pieces features an animal that reflect their personality, beliefs and/or identity. It could be a realistic, hybrid or mythical animal. We also worked on the symbolic meaning of colours, painting the background with a colour that represents them.
The grand finale of the experience was definitely last Saturday’s Christmas Fair. In front of the visitors, we worked the magic of live painting and team building.
This community mural is a visual depiction of Singapore International School (Hong Kong) in the style of their introspective self portraits. The mythical merlion is almost an animal synonym of Singapore. On the other hand, sparrows are not only a common bird in Hong Kong, and also enjoy being in a Chinese proverb “sparrows are small but have a complete set of internal organs.” This describes the compact and vibrant city of Hong Kong eloquently.
The merlion is surrounded by a flock of sparrows (the single Singaporean school amidst the local Hong Kong culture.) The twenty-one sparrows are a celebration of the school’s twenty-first anniversary.
I sketched out the merlion while the secondary students researched and drew individual sparrows with skills taught during class. I am absolutely proud of them as they received practically no help! This is concrete proof how much they had absorbed during class. The background colour red represents both Singapore’s national colour and Hong Kong’s flag colour.
It was a tremendous learning experience for both the student artists and myself. As much as they needed to learn to let go, the same could be said about me! They kept asking to render the sparrows they draw. The response was always, it is a communal mural, so whoever is there at that time will do the rendering. The input from other teachers and student artists made the mural better than I ever could on my own.
Last weekend finally saw the open studio that I had prepared for months. It was wonderful to see old and new friends.
I had conceptualized the open studio months ago in Iceland during my residency. When this body of works is finished, I plan to have an exhibition–somehow I doubt whether it would take place in Hong Kong. (It may be! Who knows?) Anyhow, it is still wonderful to share my experiences and artworks from Iceland with my friends here.
Thank you everyone who has contributed to the open studio–my lovely students for the beautiful bouquet, Carol for taking care of the everything and using an unfamiliar camera to take photos, Diana for helping me set up and the cookies, Auntie Sef for the glasses and the plates, Lee for the champagne and the snacks, GeeGen for the marshmallow and JC for the drinks and snacks.
And of course for everyone who has decided to spend an afternoon of their lives in my studio.
I feel so lucky and loved. Now I am ready to move onto my next projects.