BLOG NOTE: Event is over. This review was commissioned by The Muse in January 2015.
Dawn Ng, probably best remembered for the random appearances of a giant inflatable rabbit she named Walter around Singapore and her Paper Planes installation, is currently holding a solo exhibition titled A Thing of Beauty at Chan Hampe galleries.
Though she is quick to dismiss her new series as a nationalistic representation – unlike Perfect Day that pokes fun at the Singaporean notion of perfection or Everything You Ever Wanted is Right Here that depicts how locals really feel about Singapore.
Each photograph depicts just one family of colours – reds, yellows, greens and challenges the viewer to look beyond the surface.
Or, in Ng’s own words,
“Our vocabulary can’t quite encompass the worlds beyond worlds in a single colour. I meant for each installation of objects to carry worlds within worlds of seeing.”
The 33-year-old, equally at ease working on large-scale installations or smaller-sized artwork, has also received commercial success with Club 21, and will soon be collaborating with a restaurant at the National Gallery.
She is keeping the latter under wraps for now, but reveals that Walter the rabbit will be making a reappearance in Paris in 2016, alongside some of the photographs she took of him around Singapore.
The Muse speaks to Dawn to find out more about her 9th career solo exhibition A Thing of Beauty.
Is A Thing of Beauty an extension of your 2014 work, Pink is a Crazy Little Thing Called Love?
Pink is a Crazy Little Thing Called Love was a collaboration project with Club 21. It was used for an online cover for last year’s Valentine’s day issue. The project was an on the fly experiment in shooting an installation of monochromatic objects. You could say it was a fun warm up of bigger things to come.
Are you attempting to tell the “Singapore story” to an international audience through A Thing of Beauty?
No. All the objects collected from the 138 mom and pop stores across Singapore were not chosen for their nationalistic value. They were chosen for the simple beauty and curiosity in their form, shape and colour. I am telling a story of the things people keep, the feelings and memories they store in something as ordinary as an eraser or cup. I am constantly amused that even the most insignificant object can be pregnant with meaning.
A large portion of your work is about Singapore, will you consider producing works based on another country, another culture?
I don’t mean for my works to be about Singapore. Singapore is my birth home and I grew up here so naturally a lot of the things I draw from in my work are contextual. I am not consciously thinking about nations when I make my work.
How long did it take you to gather all the items?
Over 3 months.
Some of the objects are stacked perilously on top of each other, while some seem to be floating – why is that?
I am interested in the tension created in situations like these. Things falling together or falling apart. It’s the permanent human condition isn’t it?
Do you have a favourite out the nine artworks?
Perhaps beige. It is an altar. A true homage to colour out of the 9.
A Thing of Beauty would be your 9th career solo exhibition, and there are 9 installations in the collection. Is this a coincidence?
Funny you mention that. It is a happy coincidence but some numbers play a surreptitious role in my work like SIXTEEN and 31 Kinds of Wonderful. The number that has haunted me most of my life is 11:11. I see it constantly on clocks, watches, car plates, receipts of all kinds. I am still trying to make sense of that one.
Usually your installations are presented as photographs, will you ever dabble in pure photographic art?
No. I am interested in a photograph in so far as its capacity for documentation and freezing time. I think there is something absolutely romantic and ironic about the idea of a camera as a machine that allows you to capture a split second so that it is yours forever at that very same moment in which that second is lost forever. I don’t consider myself a photographer. Pure photography is a real science. I am constantly dabbling with all sorts of materials. I have no loyalty to any one medium.
Walk us through a typical work day.
I’d love to have one some day. Maybe then I would find some balance. I am just not a very balanced person. It’s constantly all or nothing. Love or hate. Black or white. It bleeds into the way I spend my time, or organise my day.
A Thing of Beauty runs from 16 to 25 January at a pop-up exhibition space across Chan Hampe Galleries (Raffles Hotel Arcade, #01-21) before its international debut at the Art Paris Art Fair in March.
On 25 January at 3pm, the gallery will host a sharing session by the artist.
IMAGES COURTESY OF DAWN NG AND CHAN HAMPE GALLERIES