Monthly Archives: August 2012

Five ways with words

1. Epiphany via luxury brand

I suppose many people encounter epiphanies in Hermes stores. I hadn’t until earlier this year. Months after it happened, I still think of a conversation I had with Japanese artist Shinji Ohmaki while we sat on the floor of Hermes’ in-store gallery (Third Floor) in Singapore’s Liat Towers.

Ohmaki was telling me about the installation he had just finished there – a colourful floor- and wall-scape of powdered glass in floral shapes titled Moment and Eternity. It was intricate, delicate, precious, and fleeting, for it was soon to be smudged and destroyed by the slipper-clad feet of exhibition goers.

As I was probing Ohmaki for insights into the experiences that have shaped his art practice, he offered an intriguing morsel: his karate practice has influenced how he perceives space. There is a limited space for karate, he explained, and during training you need to perceive each corner of the space. You always need to think about the limit – the life-and-death line, he said. Your body may be positioned in the middle of a space, but your mind is above and perceiving every part of it. Everything’s interrelated.

Ohmaki’s thoughts on space visualisation left a memorable impression on me. It was a pleasure to experience their manifestation in the confined space of the Third Floor gallery, to which he managed to bring a quality of infinity by smartly manipulating shape and reflection. A few snaps of the work follow …

Ohmaki demonstrating how he applies the motifs:

Then after the layering of colours and a quick vacuum of the excess powder, voila!:

The first of the exhibition goers treading carefully on the opening night:

And some weeks later:

Thanks to Ohmaki for sharing his thoughts, and to Haruka Hikita for her expert translations! Read all about Moment and Eternity and see a great photo of the infinity effect in Cubes magazine, issue 56.

2. Discovery via state

When you live ‘elsewhere’, discoveries seem to happen more often than they otherwise might. Until doing research around the Singapore Art Museum‘s exhibition Lee Wen: Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real, I was unaware that Singaporean performance art was the subject of intense controversy during the 1990s. Government funding was slashed after a particularly ‘prickly’ performance, and though the cuts have since eased, strict licensing still applies.

Lee pushed on with his challenging practice through the lean years and found himself with a Cultural Medallion from the National Arts Council in 2005 and the solo show in 2012. With a celebratory undertone, the show drew on his entire portfolio. The suggested mixture of control and support for performance art practice in Singapore may be looked upon with some confusion. Nevertheless, Lee’s exhibition surely reached out to a wide audience who may have drawn varied messages from it.

I wrote (cautiously) about the show for Art Asia Pacific magazine, issue 79. The article can be read online or in print.

3. Scoops via suburbs

Beyond the theme park rides and the golf course lawns, there is site-sensitive design and a sustainable dwelling ethos to be found on Singapore’s Sentosa island. I discovered an example of it in the form of a meticulously conceived five-level house designed by Singapore-based Australian architectural designer Nicholas Burns in the Sentosa Cove suburban development. Despite its size, it embodies multiple qualities that establish its sustainable nature now and into the future. The materials, vertical screen, and overhang in the shot below start to tell the story. Read more in Monument issue 110.

Back on the mainland, I discovered a house with an equal amount of natural ventilation but a very different aesthetic. Walking through a home crafted by MAKK Architects in Serangoon Garden Estate gave me the impression of touring a spacecraft that had docked with its party wall and that hovered just above the ground. Its white mosaic-tiled, angular facade turns up the hip factor on its architecturally unchallenging street. But there was certainly more to discover than its appearance. The tale is told in d+a magazine, issue 68.

4. Encounter via Internet

For I wrote a feature on Singapore-based French architect Yann Follain – director of the Singapore branch of architecture practice WY-TO. I enjoyed speaking to Follain about high-profile projects such as the exhibition design for Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal at the ArtScience Museum (Marina Bay Sands) and his art direction of ArchiFest in 2010 and 2011. It was even more enjoyable to hear him talk of ‘dreaming’ tropical architecture. Read about it here:

5. Style via craft

I turned my hands to copywriting earlier this year for Singaporean laminate brand Lamitak. With newspapers and fashion stylebooks in its conceptual DNA, Lamitak’s The Craft of Style brochure presents some of the brand’s latest laminate designs with an emphasis on how they were conceived and produced. Thanks to the great team I worked with on the project.