I was a studio art and writing double major in college. After I graduated, I jumped straight into advertising in New York. The craft of story-telling and the people I worked with then are foundational in my work even today. Advertising was a means to tell stories about brands or products. Over the years, I became an artist because I wanted to tell my own stories, truths and create my own make believe worlds.
A lot of my work deals with time, memory and space. Sixteen was an installation of 16 mysterious wooden chests built in a bold spectrum of colors. These chests were crafted to resemble treasure boxes, which fit one inside the other — the largest, the size of an over-sized antique travel trunk, down to the smallest, the size of a musical box. The viewer is implicated in the telling of a story through the ritual of opening each subsequent box. This story is mine as much as it is anyone else’s – within each box is a surprising turning point that determines the places we go, the people we meet and the experiences we have. The boxes cocoon a picayune sense of dislocation and loneliness born from my generation’s freedom, and capture our tendency to look back even whilst moving on. The work is a psychological and emotional documentation of our migration from east-to-west-and-west-back-to-east, mirroring the moving economic center of the world.
I don’t have loyalties to certain mediums. I actually think that promiscuity is important. Different stories deserve to be told in different formats.
I FLY LIKE PAPER is based on my fixation on the concept of home and the associated feeling of nostalgia. Each paper airplane, symbolic of travel, bursts from a single window and explodes out to visually and physically overwhelm the viewer. My intention is to recreate this tsunamic force of emotion so great that it swallows one whole. The smallest paper plane is the size of my palm, the biggest one is of me lying down.
WALTER began as a series of guerilla installations of a colossal rabbit, which emerged across Singapore’s standard landscape of flats and heartland enclaves. The sculpture’s incongruity to his environment forced people to re examine overlooked and over familiar spaces by invoking a sense of surprise and wonder. By inserting and documenting a surreal and whimsical object within the “invisible normal,” it forced people to see the wonderful in their everyday. So yes, WALTER was precocious and subversive but naïve at the same time.
My new solo WINDOWSHOP is an installation of a cabinet of curiosities unique to this day and age. Scoured, bartered, haggled, coaxed, stripped, painted and polished, thousands of objects, hand-picked from local junk stores, homes, shops and nostalgia collectors, form a peculiar collection of tailor-made, brass-titled furniture pieces. Each title tells a story of the objects within. From merry-go-rounds to marble cases, the titles constitute a visual litany of funny, irreverent and at times, painfully honest observations about people and objects in relationship to time, place, memory, truth and love.
Like cabinets of curiosities built in Renaissance Europe, WINDOWSHOP serves as a personal memory theatre in the context of Singapore’s own Golden Age. Yet unlike cabinets of curiosities of yore, which tended toward a pompous collection of Art and Antiquities, WINDOWSHOP seeks to curate and celebrate the infinitely everyday and beautifully ordinary of our times.
The work is representative of my own documentative obsession as an artist and a mirror of my generation’s infatuation with the past. It sheds light on our human fascination with keeping things, and begs us to question that which is truly priceless.
PERFECT DAY is a neon installation perched on top of a rooftop bar at Odeon Towers. It draws bold theatrical design cues from KTV signages, which proliferate seedier parts of Singapore. The work is boldly juxtaposed against the elegant, white-gloved backdrop of Raffles Hotel, and is both a wry parody of the manufactured happy-clappy wonderlands which local KTVs represent, and a rebellious beacon of optimism hoisted into the sky. The borrowed idiom, which literally translates to a beautiful day, is the first four words that all Chinese-Singaporeans were taught to start any school essay with, be it a tale of love, drama, tragedy, or adventure. Traces of childhood naïveté and hope embedded in the idiom serve as a secret code that opens the door of time travel to all who chance upon it, drawing them back to a past where all narratives began with that perfect day.