The weeks leading up to an exhibition are always the most difficult. All manner of details will suddenly require your attention, and there’s the task of ensuring that the work in question has been completed, or on schedule for arrival. In short, it’s hell week.
But ahead of the upcoming Martell Air Gallery exhibition, curator and Martell brand ambassador Kelley Cheng takes some time off a stressful work day and welcomes us into The Press Room, her office space and studio for her publishing and design consultancy business. Spunky, quirky and with an affable candour, Cheng dishes on her inspirations behind creating such a large scale exhibition in the medium of augmented reality, and her life-long passion for art and design.
Tell us a little bit more about the inspirations for your upcoming exhibition, Martell Air Gallery that can be experienced through a site specific mobile application at Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay?
I might have been enjoying the best of what Martell’s art de vivre in France has to offer, but at the back of my mind, I was always conscious of the work that I had to deliver when it was over. Which was also why I kept telling myself not to get too drunk (laughs).
The exhibition being a celebration of Martell’s 300 years and Singapore’s SG 50 jubilee was to be a gift by the brand to Singapore. Thinking through that, I realised that there was a certain degree of similarity between distillation of cognac and the development of a young nation. This made me consider the traditional Chinese elements of earth, metal, wind, fire and water, as it’s just like alchemy, and features prominently in both the process of distilling cognac and nation building. Hence I decided to curate the exhibition using the 5 elements as an organising structure. I eventually decided on having three artists for each of the 5 sections, making up a total of 15 pieces of art that can be discovered within the Marina Bay area.
What made you decide on augmented reality as a medium?
The Martell Air Gallery, which uses augmented reality via a mobile application was actually Martell’s idea. This proves to be a better, more permanent gift than a short term physical exhibition because when you give someone something, you want them to be able to keep it forever.
What were some of your considerations in picking the artists and art works?
Each of the five sections will have three artists from different disciplines, which allows us to see different interpretations of a theme. I have included painters, photographers, writers, film makers, architects and illustrators. A total of 15 of them. I wanted young upcoming creatives/artists like Sarah Choo, Debbie Ding, Lennard Ong; more established artists like Ben Phua, Michael Lee, Justin Lee; veteran architect Voon Wong, illustrators like Mindflyer and Anngee Neo; promising film-maker Kristen Tan, and writer Amanda Lee Koe. I deliberately wanted young upcoming talents like Sarah, Debbie, Lennard, Kirsten and Amanda, because they are going to be the voices of the next generation.
What can audiences expect from this experience?
The most immediate aim is to give them a whole different experience in viewing art. Going to a gallery and walking through art works is nothing new. What I hope audiences will take away is to get a whole new perspective, where they can walk around Marina Bay and be able to equally appreciate art that might be flashed onto the sky, on a building or on the water’s surface. To me, that would be the most exciting and most valuable aspect of the gallery.
Can you share with us more about the experience of Martell’s Art de Vivire?
The experience was really out-of-this-world and simply once in a lifetime where they brought us out to both Cognac and Versailles. There, we experienced the entire distilling process of the Martell cognac and had a wonderful dinner out in the vineyards. That was just nothing short of amazing but the Tri-centennial celebration itself though, was nothing short of jaw-dropping. It was held at the Palace of Versailles, itself already an amazing venue. Imagine if any brand in Singapore would hire the Istana for an event, it is the same level of prestige. When the guests were invited out to the garden of the palace, the vast garden with perfectly coiffered trees and plants was so magnificient that we thought that was the highlight; but Imagine our surprise when the French Air Force come out and do an airshow for us with fighter jets performing all kinds of acrobatics with the colours of the French flag!
What’s your personal interpretation of the French Art de Vivre, or art of life like?
Throughout this whole experience, it really showed up how Martell viewed the art of living, or Art de Vivre. For me though, the art of living means to live a life of passion. This is doing the things I love and enjoy—art and design. There are the hard times that come with growing your own business; and you’re often left alone to face those challenges. But it also means that when the good times come, I’m able to better appreciate what I have because of the struggles, and sometimes I even surprise myself at what I could achieve or create. I always knew that I wanted to pursue a life that allowed me to pursue my arts and creativity, and I was going to do it no matter what.
Tell us more about your own personal experience with art.
I used to run my own magazine, titled ish which served as a platform for young aspiring artists and designers. Then, that progressed to me having my own gallery called Night & Day, which would serve as a free space for young artists to showcase their work. A couple of the artists which I selected for the Martell Air Gallery are artists I had worked with before and personally curated shows for them before. These include artists Ben Phua, Mindflyer, Anngee Neo. There also used to be a bar beneath that space (which Cheng used to own as well) which artists and designers used to hang out, and aspiring musicians come to jam and play if they need a space. So my journey of supporting young artists started from a 2D platform into a 3D platform.
Experience the Martell Air Gallery for yourself by downloading the mobile application from either Google Play or Apple’s App Store. However, this is a site-specific showcase so do head on down to the Marina Bay to fully immerse yourself in the experience.
Photos: Albert Tan and Martell Air Gallery