14 August 2015
Curatorial Statement by Pamela Ng, Co-Collaborator
Yvonne Lo: Guardians of Memories
Opening 21 August 2015, Friday
INSTINC Gallery @ SOHO 2, Singapore
Hailing from Hong Kong, Yvonne has just completed her one-month residency in Singapore, as part of INSTINC Gallery’s programme INSTINC AIR for mid-career to established artists who want to delve more into their work.
When she studied in the States, in 1985, she learnt a now-defunct photographic process called Kwikprint, with a manual method that allows for multiple layers; where you can change your mind at any one point and add a permanent mark with light exposure. Similarly, when she first encountered Photoshop as a photography teacher, she loved the same process of editing layers with the added convenience of neatness and portability! She enjoys the freedom where only imagination and personal satisfaction limits you.
In Guardians of Memories Yvonne wanted to capture personal memories of individuals and share them in a way that tapped onto a universal emotion that everyone could connect with. Yvonne’s works also remind us that we are all special in our own ways. She asked around in Singapore for people to photograph who had an unusual collection and by chance, met a fellow artist, Pamela Ng, who had a small toy collection.
Looking at “Pamela’s Collection 1”, you can instantly see how her connection with Bea Nettles’s works shapes her own work, both visually and philosophically. Encountering Bea’s works in Texas, she was instantly struck by the autobiographical visual narratives that were distinctively feminine. Yvonne was taken by the inclusive method of creating and sharing stories based on ordinary objects from daily life. For her this very process is like life itself; we all collect both normal and iconic objects which run parallel to the moments in life that are at timesseemingly routine and dreary while at other times they are memorable flashes that leave a lasting impression.
In “Pamela’s Collection 4” she takes a wind-up toy and contextualises it with socio-political readings by juxtaposing it with a telling sculpture and a view from behind a fence. She enjoys telling stories through her digital images; a natural evolution from her previous career more than three decades ago as a photojournalist.
The landscape photos used in her collages for this series were site-specific and some of the places in Singapore she visited include the Botanical Gardens and Fort Canning Park where she found the flora and fauna to be “Wild and unexpected, where being near the equator, it seems like everything wants to burst into bloom, all at once!” She has captured her delight in the exuberant “Pamela’s Collection 5” where she selected a toy with outstretched hands declaring “I love you this much!”.
The brighter colours she used in “Pamela’s Collection 3” were inspired by her June 2015 Morocco residency where she was surrounded by contrasting hues of high saturation that shaped form yet complemented each other. This is a new thread in her works that she plans to continue explore as she is having fun dabbling in bolder colours.
For the first time, she is working with videos as she feels they capture a time element that the collages cannot express; thus exploring another dimension of photo imaging. Individually, each collaged still image contains its own intact story and can stand alone as a single message. However videos need continuous movements to convey a message, so to her the messaging is more complex, deepening her exploration of the theme.
Yvonne shares that, “Reality never satisfies me! Imagination is larger than life; it is my way of capturing what I feel are more important. Photography captures detailed, minute moments that point to moments of discovery!”
We hope you discover all the glorious beauty of your own life in Guardians of Memories; exalting both the mundane and spectacular.
Interview by Eunice Lim
Could you tell us more how these works began? What were your first encounters?
Yvonne: I met Pamela at an exhibition, asking around if anyone collect things in relation to the project idea I had.
Pam: I thought her project sounded really meaningful. Actually I have a small toy collection at home which I have not thought about for a long time, so I thought of inviting Yvonne over to my place and have a look and see whether it is useful.
When you went over to her place and saw her collection, was there anything in particular which you found interesting compared to lets say a stamp collection?
Y: I have a preconception, because Pamela is a Singaporean, there must have been some sort of relation to Singapore
P: Like Merlion statues? (laughs)
Y: What I saw was something more universal, nothing related to Singapore. Toys that were related to childhood memories and many beautiful memories.
Do you relate to these toys from Pamela?
Y: I feel they are my toys. It’s amazing that we started talking about them and completely forgot about the project.
P: We found out more about the stories behind each toy, and through that perhaps it inspired her to create her works. It was a natural progress.
Y: The conversation brings us back to teenage years (or earlier).
Were there specific stories behind these toys? You mentioned that through talking you yourself found out more behind each toy, so what has changed?
P: I started collecting these toys about 8-10 years back. I started by liking them basically. All of them have their own stories, like one of the dolls in “Pam Collect #2” with the skyline. I am always very interested in vintage toys, I got her when I returned to Melbourne after studying there and went to the toy shop I frequent. When I first saw her from the window I was very captivated, so I went back the second day and immediately bought her. I was very happy! Her arms were all in tact at first, but she couldn’t survive the humidity in Singapore. Therefore her right arm is missing and her skin tone has changed. I have always like robots and batman too.
Any reason behind it? Was it the TV you watched?
Pam: I have watched other superhero. Superman’s alright, spiderman too. But I feel batman has the depth of a real human being because he is not all sunshine and happy all the time. He is complex like most humans are, that’s why I like batman.
For the rabbit is actually done by a korean artist who came to Singapore the proceeds went to charity for a good cause. I really like this duality and characteristic of this toy. She looks very sweet with a girly bow on her neck, but if you turn around she has a tattoo on her butt. And I thought that was very unusual ! There’s a wide variety of toys, if you see in the video Yvonne made, some were gifts too. I saw my toys as a renewed excitement. I never thought they could be seen this way through someone else’s eyes
The mouse in the wheel against the building became like a socio-political commentary. The narrative changes, Yvonne has immortalised them in a way there are so many new stories behind these toys.
In working with Pamela’s toys, have your views or art practice changed?
Y: It does. For a long time, I have been very interested in very old vintage printing process. I like how things are combined and incorporated with daily life. And it can be embedded with some personal meaning in it. So I have been engaged with this kind of process. Photoshop is very clean and still, during this residency it helped me break out of my comfort zone.
Usually you work alone, has this collaboration inspired you to collaborate more often with others in the future?
Y: I have done some documentary work before, it is quite tiring as you need to follow reality. So that is another part i wan to avoid. So I thought how can I do some documentary works yet be able to imagine it in new ways. While doing these works on this residency, I thought I will be able to understand Singapore more. However it does not seem the case. It took another direction and I began to understand Pamela more - her personality & who she is, not really Singapore. Perhaps the boundaries are not clear for all nations. When I look at someone’s collection, I thought could unearth history of their nationality; that was my preconception.
P: I think when you mention earlier that you thought i was going to have very ‘Singaporean’ artefacts or toys, the fact you found my toys very universal kind of points at what being Singaporean is. Because in one sense we are very global even though we are multi racial nation, maybe we connect because we are Asians and artistic. Maybe when you saw that my collection was very universal, it could have tapped onto a shared consciousness.
Y: I was expecting people’s collections to have some kind of conformity. Through this project I realised the preconceived way is so stereotype. Sometimes when we go overseas we only want to confirmed what we preconceive, this is not the right way. For instance, I initially thought I saw a lot of foreigners & tourists; people wearing the hijab etc. However, now when I take a closer look, I started to see more locals.
Any other discoveries you both realised through this collaboration?
P: It is interesting as Yvonne used to document dolls, so I believe when she saw my collection she was very genuinely excited. And through this we connected to each other’s inner child.
Perhaps this is something both of you would like to spark through this exhibition.
Y & P: Perhaps, yes.