Suzann Victor is a Sydney-based Singaporean artist renowned for her thought-provoking performance and installation-based works that investigate the relationships between colonial history, the body, art, and architecture.Read More
Beginning as an abstract painter in the late 1980s, Suzann Victor shifted towards community-building, performance, and installation art with the establishment of 5th Passage Artists Ltd. Co-founded in 1991 by Victor, Susie Lingham, and Han Ling, the 5th Passage gallery in Parkway Parade was a non-profit exhibition space providing support for emerging artists in Singapore. The initiative dissolved in 1994, however, following the Singaporean government's 10-year de facto ban on performance art—a result of Josef Ng's controversial performance, Brother Cane, at the gallery.
Against this background emerged Still Waters (1998), in which Suzann Victor filled the second-storey drain of the Singapore Art Museum with water and performed a series of movements inside. The drain acted as a liminal space free from state-endorsed rules while belonging to the building that was not, and served as a site for her protest against government censorship of art. In 2019, the annual M1 Singapore Fringe Festival was organised around the theme of 'Still Waters', reflecting the relevance of Victor's work in contemporary Singapore.
In Suzann Victor's exploration of the postcolonial, the chandelier becomes a potent motif as an object with Western origins that has since become desired and ubiquitous in Asia. At the 49th Venice Biennale, where she was the first woman to represent Singapore, Victor presented Dusted by Rich Manoeuvre (2001). The swinging installation consisting of four red chandeliers made from crushed glass-crystalware appeared as if it were about to crash without ever reaching that climax.
In Contours of a Rich Manoeuvre (2006)—another chandelier work—Victor engaged with the embedded history of architecture by placing a row of chandelier-pendulums above a bridge between the 19th-century colonial and modern wings of the National Museum of Singapore. The chandeliers swung over periods of 15 minutes, during which their lights created an ephemeral illustration of a range of figures, including a Chinese red dragon in the air.
The solo exhibition Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor (2015) at STPI in Singapore continued Victor's examination of postcolonial narratives as well as individual and collective histories in paper-oriented works. In the series 'I was like that myself ... we all held each other's hands' (2015), Victor wove together old photographic images of Singapore and Chinese New Year decorations. Placed inside oval frames, the collages are further obscured and rendered nostalgic by the layer of Fresnel lenses over them.
Suzann Victor holds a PhD in Visual Art from Western Sydney University (2008), where she also received her MA and BA, both with honours. In addition to the Venice Biennale, her work has been included in major international exhibitions including the 4th Singapore Biennale (2013), 5th Seoul International Media Art Biennale (2008), 6th Havana Biennial (1997), and the 2nd Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (1996).
GENSET, Gajah Gallery, Singapore (2020); Shaping Geographies: Art, Woman, Southeast Asia, Gajah Gallery, Singapore (2019); Sunshower: Southeast Asian Contemporary Art from 1980's to Now, The National Art Center and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2017); Bantu! Art Summit, Gajah Gallery Yogyakarta (2016); 5 Stars: Art Reflects on Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy and Progress, Singapore Art Museum (2015).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021
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Suzann Victor represented Singapore at the Venice Biennale in 2001 and is better known for her large-scale installations, such as her seminal swinging chandeliers at the National Museum of Singapore, and performance art, but for her most recent show, at STPI now through Feb 21, the Sydney-based Singaporean artist turned to paper and printmaking...
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