Artist Interview: Ripple Root (Singapore)

The series exhibited at Printmakers’ Assembly draws from Singapore’s history of nation-building and points towards a sense of hope. What inspired the making of this triptych?

We were greatly inspired by Orchard Road in the early 1830s – home to fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations and pepper farms. We looked at these early black-and-white photographs and wanted to reimagine these familiar scenes with the introduction of colour, reflecting on the past through our creative lens. The triptych’s narrative is relatable in the broader sense of things; given the current climate, we wanted to put forth a positive message that no matter the life circumstance, there is always a way out or forward.

How did the both of you decide to work together, and are there ever any challenges doing so?

We both appreciate whimsicality and light-heartedness when it comes to art. In the beginning, we were interested in creating a style that reflected a fresh, contemporary vision (since we were both trained overseas), while paying homage to local history. It was the year of SG50 and we both had full-time jobs, but we began painting for fun on the weekends and created our first body of work based off the Mangrove Swamp – something uniquely local that hadn’t really been tapped on before as an artistic subject matter. It was a seminal point of reference because when we featured it in our first exhibition “Strong Currents Will Paddle” (2015), we decided to pursue our practice as Ripple Root full-time and haven’t looked back since.

As nerve-wrecking as it is doing something creative for a living, no two days are alike and we’re still enjoying the ride.

How did you decide on your process of taking turns to add layers? Has that intuition grown more sensitive throughout your years of working together?

Each of us wanted to see the other’s personal response to the piece, thus beginning a ‘game of tag’ approach that has persisted till now. We love what happens when the two of us come together, and it’s definitely evolved to become more seamless; operating with a united mind and vision, you can’t tell who did what. It applies not just to the art-making but in day-to-day decisions – we’re definitely telepathic twins right now!

What does being a collective mean to each of you?

Estella: There is a shared understanding, a common pursuit that is greater than the sum of its parts. I like the feeling that you’re working towards something bigger than yourself.

Liquan: It means someone has your back, and you have theirs at all times.

Besides your silkscreen works, Ripple Root has also created large-scale murals and site-specific art. What is the significance of making works in accessible places?

We love how the work belongs to the city – that it’s out there in the open and anyone can interact with it. Art doesn’t have to be confined to the four walls of a gallery; it can resonate with a stranger, it can uplift anyone. We relish the challenge of a different medium or a different scale, and enjoy it when our art takes on new forms and keep people and even ourselves guessing.