This exhibition was highly recommended by the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival because of the artist’s involvement in the upcoming Festival in 2019. So, in order to grab the first glimpse of the Suzann Victor’s sculpture installation, I went to Gajah Gallery in the middle of one hot day soon after the panel discussion by Fringe Festival 2018.
“See like a Heretic on Vision and Belief” – A solo exhibition of Suzann Victor
Going to a gallery during a quiet weekday sometimes can be more informative and enjoyable than attending an opening with guests around you. I feel as if the whole exhibition is there for me and me ONLY.
The walk to the “Factory” based gallery was a bit far, but upon stepping into Gajang Gallery, I felt calm and cool. The spacious white venue was filled with Catholic sculptures in different form and colors delivered some kind of spiritual power to interrupt the tranquility. Something in between the heaven and earth was happening there.
Suzann is a Sydney-based artist well known for her mixed-media artworks and kinetic installations that touch upon psychological, religious and social-political issues. The stillness and the single tone of the sculptures annoyed my inner balance of peace. One question after another kept popping up in my mind. Why Catholic figures? Why crushed stained glasses?
Artworks can lead a viewer’s mind to ponder on things that the artist offers, they can be a medium to connect and transfer one’s mind to another. These sculptures of religious icons provoked my personal religious beliefs and spiritual value. At the same time, I learned to appreciate the complicated production process by the Yogya Art Lab in Indonesia. Firstly, to polish and wash away all the heavy makeup and paint on the figures, then crushed and tried different stained glass, then reapplied with layers of crushed stained glass on the sculptures until satisfaction. I cannot even guess how many trials and errors had happened during the entire process. That is indeed a test of patience and endurance for both the artist and the Lab.
Knowing that Suzann is fond of using light and translucence subject in her artworks, I spent quite some time on reading her past works and art progress. This time, her aesthetic sense of recreation once again would suggest and provoke a controversial discourse. Forcenterpiecepiece “Blood Angel” 2017 , the artist produced a dome structure with 1504 plastic prism lenses to shroud the Archangel Gabriel and the defeating devil. I stepped in and out few times to check the effect of the lenses which had manifested and reflected over hundred of wings of the sculpture all over the entire dome surface. In addition to that our perception of looking from both inside or outside could be altered according to the position of the spectator. Obviously, there were some serious calculations required from Suzann who had had her foundation laid from her previous art projects and experiments .
My mind got caught on the complicated production process and I began to contemplate the whole process over and over again. What we saw in the exhibition were the final products, they looked as neutral as they could be, but I am sure they do carry much complexity both in mental, physical, technical and methodology aspects during the entire process? What are the ideas behind all these religious figures? How do they relate to us? Alternatively, they are to each other?
These after-washed sculptures previously identified to the early Catholic history with their painted personality and newly reshaped expressions . In the gallery, they were being re-imaged and reemerged as a subject of art, from religious ritual to aesthetic presentation where a new identification to be recognized in the contemporary art era. This is an opportunity successfully instigated by the artist for both believer and heretic to rethink about this perplexed transformation matter in life.
Suzann’s art path started since 1980’s with her paintings, installations, and public artworks in Singapore, Venice, and Sydney. She is the only Singaporean female representative at the national pavilion since its inaugural participation in the Venice Biennale (2001). Her works shown at major events like the 6th Havana Biennale, the 6th Gwangju Biennale, the 5th Seoul International Media Art Biennale and the 49th Venice Biennale, the 2013 Singapore Biennale.
After Amenda Heng, Suzann Victor is another female artist to lead the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in 2019. I shall pencil it down on my diary.