Honesty Printed on Modesty is a new body of work by Haegue Yang (Berlin/Seoul) that surfaced during her residency at STPI last November. Inspired by her journey in Singapore, she embarked on an experiment to transform foods and spices into works of art that trace history, culture and economics. Obtained from local markets in Little India and Chinatown, these ingredients were used as colours and textures for direct print and papermaking through the combined efforts of the artist and the STPI workshop team.
Her use of modest everyday items explore themes such as Rabindranath Tagore’s notion of domesticity, where the less representational and ordinary is significant and necessary for life (otherwise known as the ‘passive quality’ of women). Shanghai greens, eggplants and instant noodles were endowed with a mystical and significant quality in Golden Singulars while humble spices integrated in Spice Sheets were used to reference a weightier subject Singapore’s colonial history as a commercial port city, and on a larger scale, Southeast Asia’s historical and political experience with colonialism. In Yang’s hands, these regular foods tell of a civilisation’s point of origin and transformation.
The printing process is accentuated in works such as Vegetable Prints, where traditional art techniques like dying and décalcomania were adapted. The embossed surface and traces of natural dye highlights the process by which they were made. Elsewhere, the cut marks in Cutting Board Prints reveal the unconventional printing process of slicing vegetables on paper; while the composition of abstract shadows hint at the movement of spray-painted origami objects on paper in Non-Foldings. These various acts of printing find their culmination in Color-Blown Craters and Duners, where Yang transformed rice grains, dried spices, Chinese herb medicine plants and dried vegetables into abstract landscapes, through an embossing and spraying process.
Yang’s exhibitions this October include Journal of Bouba/kiki, Glasgow Sculpture Studios in Scotland, Journal of Echomimetic Motions, Bergen Kunsthall in Norway, and Anachronistic Layers of Dispersion, Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, USA. Yang is the first artist to be featured in Platform STPI Projects (PSP) – a collaboration between STPI and Platform Projects Ltd that aims to identify, engage and challenge conceptually progressive artists to realise their creative ambitions through STPI’s Visiting Artists Programme.