Last month, four artists, Pang, Lee Yu Juan, Hélène Le Chatelier and Syv Bruzeau came together to meet at the intersection of Singapore and France for “Autographic Matters” – an exhibition that was hosted as part of Voilah! 2016, the French festival in Singapore.
We interview 3 of the artists; Pang and Lee Yu Juan from Singapore as well as French artist Hélène Le Chatelier and owner of the Intersections Gallery, Marie-Pierre Mol about the exhibition.
Intersection.sg: What is the significance of the theme “Autobiography”, does it mean something special to each of you?
Hélène: To me, an autobiography means writing our own story, a subject that speaks of our individual memories. Individual and collective memories shape us every day. And, being human – we are interested in what shapes us – our family history and culture. This theme is special to me as it means that we try to write our own story, define our own paths and ultimately, find our own way.
June: The theme, “Autobiography” is a reflection of the cultural situation in Singapore. Being a Chinese here, the environment is not similar to that of China. Previously, I was trained in Chinese ink and there was a huge gap in relating back to our roots – I could not fully grasp what was taught (i.e. Chinese Ink). My artwork for this exhibition highlights the differences that I had felt whilst taking my diploma in Fine Art. Most of the training comprised of technical learning and I did not understand the reason why it had to be done in this way. My paintings are extracted from the poems itself – brought from the ancient ‘Fan Ti’ scripts. The only difference is that – it is my interpretation and a re-creation of the original poems.
Pang: I perceive the term “Autobiography” as a journal – the documentation of one’s life journey. At this stage, I am addressing grieve and lost, and a notion of home. I will be showcasing a series of writings in a book, written in both Chinese and English. I used tracing paper because a journey is a state of being in-between. The concept is called in-between, so you can only read when you look at the tracing paper.
Intersection.sg: How did the four of you come together to start this exhibition?
Pang: Over coffee, a lot of things happen! Coffee is a stimulant. After meeting and getting to know each other – through our discussions, we agreed that we all had similar art approaches. I went to Hélène’s studio and came across her series of works – this was special to me because I first came across her work from last year at the show. So, it was as if it was serendipity.
Marie-Pierre Mol: The reason why I wanted to bring them together is because of the similarity in their skill-sets. June is good at calligraphy, which links to poetry and painting. Through literary mediums, they are connected. June is inspired by calligraphy, Pang is also a writer and Hélène is a published author, whose artworks sometimes does a bit of a play with words. I thought that all of these were interesting as it is a contemporary way of addressing the same question. Themes of where we are going to and themes of identity. I liked the way of how the root of each medium is traditional, but how they express themselves through their artworks – are new. We are all of the human race and the commonalities break racial barriers.
Hélène: at inkmagination held last year, we exhibited our work – it went well as June and myself both used Chinese ink but in different ways. I am not trained in Chinese paintings. June uses it – but there is a link to my work, almost automatically. We then met with Pang and at the time he was doing an art installation, I wanted to do this as well. So now I am doing it with him. He was asking me about his book, as I published a book before – this became a form of natural sharing for us.
Pang: Yes, I agree – most collaborations come from dialogues that we have with each other.
Hélène: Pang mostly works with the concept of impermanence while I work on memory. You keep some things in mind and sometimes you forget. These 2 elements are linked and we feel that the practice is about life. You cannot always keep them but still this is what an autobiography is about. I am working with the colour black and Pang is working only with white materials.
Intersection.sg: Let’s talk a little bit about the techniques of your artwork.
Hélène: This is a good question because of the mix of techniques used from Pang and I for our installation. And I would say that we work very differently. At home, I collect trees – I like them because the trees that I collect have no roots and this give me something to play with, for my artworks. I hang them on the ceilings at my studio – and when Pang arrived he told me that they were gorgeous. At that moment, I had hundreds of ideas. The reason why we came together is because he was working on an installation – with the use of paper trees, and this, interestingly enough, involved writing. Similarly, “Autobiography” is a way to write and document your life journey – for this, on our combined installation – we decided to use paper leaves instead of leaves with veins. We embossed it with my writing. And, just like the energy of what I write, the perception is similar to that of a heartbeat. So, for us, this was a way to talk about impermanence and the energy that we put into life.
Pang: In my book, there are 31 pieces of writing. The last piece translates as leaves – it reads like this ” It is sunset, a busy day has ended, time to go home.
For me, this series came up first before the collaboration. Naturally, when we took to the idea of leaves, it just fell into place. This was symbolic as a representation of closure, it is like even if you are dead you are just going home. No matter what energy you try to put.
I wrote it in September last year, and I believe every person leaves a mark on you.
June: For me, my technique is pretty direct. It is ink on rice paper, I added acrylic colors. The text was tweaked before that. I scan poetry scripts and then photoshop – so I would tweak them and then use it as a point of reference. I wanted a more futuristic and sculpted element to it. The works evolve to like objects in space. ( Sculptures has a play of light on the sculpture and it looks like her paintings. Volumes and shapes in her calligraphy, better to see it in the sculpture itself.) Derived from the actual Chinese characters, I break them up and form them into something else. Everything is so simplified and abstract – it is showing what I felt. Something we try to formulate for ourselves.
Intersection.sg: (To Pang and June) What is the role of the artist in Singapore? Why have you chosen this path?
June: I would like to encourage people to pursue what they enjoy and not follow just the main track. Even though I have a day job, it is possible to pursue your passion. I always enjoy doing art, it is very natural – I am lucky to have met many supportive people around me. My family was against it before.
Pang: I was trained as a designer and honestly speaking, that career was more rewarding in terms of monetary incentives. At a crossroad of my life – I had this lecturer from the UK ask me if I was interested in my problems of other people’s problems. My artwork has led me to where I am today and the book that I have just published is like an installation – so that everyone can have a piece. You can call this an extension of the artist if you like.
Intersection.sg: (To Hélène) Are there any notable, stark differences from Singapore and France?
Hélène: I reopened the doors many years after I closed it. I worked as a designer previously and wrote my first novel in Ireland before coming to Singapore. It doesn’t, however, make that much difference?
The environment does not make that much difference but you just do not feel like you are at home. The fact that I live abroad pushes me to accomplish and do more. It allows me to do new things and not be scared.
When you are outside of your own environment, you will be less scared to do things. I think for the fact that I started when I reopened that door – is when I really opened that practice again. From when I closed it when I was 20. The environment of Singapore – it bloomed here. My work is really a crossroad of the west and east. It makes even more sense to do it here.
Hélène: I think that at the end of the day we are all pulling the same string of wool – there might be 3 different ways to do it, but it is really the same ball of wool.
For more exhibitions at the Intersections Gallery, click here.