Under a new cloud of influence

Under a new cloud of influence
I Was Like That Myself… We All Held Each Other’s Hands) (above) is among five series of works that Suzann Victor created during her residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

It was an offer Suzann Victor could not turn down: an artist residency at Singapore's premier paper- and print-making institute, STPI.

Victor, 55, is better known for her large-scale mixed-media installations and performance art. The several- weeks-long residency at Singapore Tyler Print Institute, which culminates in a solo show, was an "irresistible" opportunity, she says, to explore mediums and techniques unfamiliar to her.

But the journey was also one "filled with fear" when the Singapore artist embarked on it last year.

She tells Life!: "Part of the beauty of this residency is that the artists whom STPI invites are not trained in paper- or print-making, so you come with a kind of innocence - I don't know anything, I don't know if I can do this. But that turns out to be the empowering part, that blindness is what in the end frees you."

Her solo show at the institute comprises five series of works and about 30 pieces, an output that makes her seem like "a crazy overachiever", she jokes.

Most of the works were made in 2 1/2 weeks and are priced for sale between $4,500 and $110,000.

Among this body of work are innovative pieces that use paper pulp as if they were paint pigment and others that may be described as performance on layered paper pulp, which involve her moving on top of large stacked sheets, tearing off portions of pulp.

It was not ego that compelled Victor to shake off her fear of inexperience and prejudice towards print-making - she found it too meticulous and exacting when she encountered it as a student at Lasalle College of the Arts - and to challenge the limits of paper- and print- making in her creations.

Rather, it was the team of technicians at the institute's workshop, whom she credits for providing an "enabling environment by understanding where I come from".

"They said, 'We can do really large works for you, we can provide you with scale… and that just freed me up," she says.

She abandoned herself to her creative impulse and the first work she made during the residency saw her dig her elbows, knees and feet into a 1.5 by 2m sheet of layered coloured pulp.

The soaked stack was placed flat on a raised platform and she moved all over the squishy pulp, stepping, crawling, squatting and kneeling, to tear away layers in a method known as decollage.

The work is in the show and titled Imprint By Subtraction - Performance I.

In another work, We Cloud, she turned paper from a material that is typically painted on into the substance that is used for painting.

She used paper pulp suspension as if it were a paint-like pigment, scooping it onto clear acrylic discs and leaving them to dry. The discs are presented hanging from the ceiling.

When viewed from a distance, the thin, translucent film of paper pulp on the transparent discs appear as if they were delicate blue vapours vanishing into the air.

Draw closer, though, and the profile of the work changes with the pulp gaining greater sense of materiality.

In a series of gestural abstract works, she also paints with strong acid using a print-making technique known as spit bite aquatint.

Because she paints as she circles the large square copper plate, the resulting print with a watercolour-like translucency does not have a fixed orientation and it can be hung on any of its four sides.

Her venture into new ways of making art also proved to be a trip of selfdiscovery.

Victor, who is based in Australia where she lives with her partner and returns occasionally to Singapore, says: "It's unusual for me to be back in Singapore repeatedly within a year, but I came back four times for the residency, hence the idea of identity, home and homelessness, or in between homes."

These notions are present in the series of work, I Was Like That Myself… We All Held Each Other's Hands, which includes an 8m-long mural.

The work comprises a digital print that is composed of archival photo portraits of Singapore's denizens through the ages and floriated Chinese papercut designs.

The print, which suggests a portrait of a family or nation, is presented behind a curtain of circular Fresnel lenses that distort and dislocate the images.

She says: "The show shows off the processes that the institute is capable of, but it is also personal."


View it


Where: STPI, 41 Robertson Quay

When: Till Feb 21, 10am to 7pm (Tuesday to Friday), 9am to 6pm (Saturday), closed on Sunday, by appointment on Monday

Admission: Free

This article was first published on Jan 27, 2015.
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