Could you expand further on the various materials and mediums that you’ve incorporated in your work?
Around 70 percent of my work is painted (in layers of acrylic and graphite usually) and the rest is either mixed media, relief print on paper, or fabric collaged on canvas. The printmaking methods I used are pretty experimental, I would customize patterns by carving blocks, printing on canvas or paper, and then pasting the patterns onto canvas. Sometimes I would wrap a block of wood with yarn, paint the yarn and stamp the canvas or paper. I would also collect stones from my neighbourhood and print the patterns onto my paintings and sometimes I print patterns directly from tree bark and big stones.
You draw on a multitude of imagery across Chinese and Western cultures. How do you negotiate between them and arrive at your compositions?
I would borrow from anything, whether it’s Studio Ghibli or Leonardo da Vinci or Gu Kaizhi. I think there are always lessons to be learned. What happens if I fill the canvas with objects I like? You can see traces of art I stole from hidden corners, all filtered through my own aesthetics. Paintings are my visual diaries and they record a perception of my real-life environment. Some of these are lost memories because they are not only simply recorded, but also provide a space for re-imagination.
Is there a reason behind the particular choice of colour palettes for your exhibited works?
The color palette is a result of painting, erasing, and repeating the process till something in the piece begins to strike a chord with me. I would join pieces of painterly contrasts with expressive mark making, often in numerous layers, to create a myriad of patterns. Often, I would peel away or paint over parts to reveal new forms and relationships. The blurry, faded imperfections are fascinating to me and open up the picture. It has to be about implying and suggesting, not explaining or describing.
How do your professional positions as Associate Professor in Art and Director of the International Contemporary Art Research Center at Shenzhen Technology University (SZTU) in China impact your practice and vice versa?
Before joining SZTU, I had been teaching at the National Institute of Education (NIE). Teaching is a job I’m very passionate about and it’s really more of a paid hobby than a job. I have found the educational experience to be truly reciprocal, for the perspectives and insights my students have shared with me throughout the years have been instrumental in all facets of my practice. Thus, I am very excited and committed to fostering young artists and students.
Since running the International Contemporary Art Research Center, I have had the immense pleasure of collaborating with different art institutes around the world in a multiplicity of contexts. The Research Center was set up with the aim of promoting exchange and cooperation in art, education, and culture with different countries, especially Singapore since it is where I lived for two decades. We initially arranged for a study trip for SZTU students at Raffles Design Institute and an art forum, where we invited professors from LASALLE College of the Arts and NIE to fly to SZTU and present as keynote speakers. This was unfortunately postponed due to the virus. I would be very honored if I can get a chance to collaborate with STPI more as an artist or on a research level.