Under the Palm Trees Marie Mons (France)
Under the Palm Trees
Marie Mons (France)
27 September 2014, INSTINC SOHO
Text by Lim Jia Ning Michelle
Imagine standing under palm trees, beneath fronds that gently waver as they provide some momentary refuge from the harshness of our Singaporean heat. To recall shadows under the palm trees is then to conjure a certain measure of respite.
Here indoors, we need not conjure it, for it is given to us. We are surrounded by fronds, rendered in the stark light and darkness of black ink. The artist Marie Mons walks the line between representation and distortion with her palm tree prints; they reveal her process into abstraction.
One length of the wall presents diptychs of palm trees that are faithfully reproduced in unbroken squares. The pairings offer contrasts between close-up and distant views of the vegetation. They also play with the alternation of positive and negative space – a quality that is sharply enhanced in the monochrome.
On the opposite wall, the orderliness of that earlier work is juxtaposed by picture planes have been violently sliced into several segments. Images are unevenly printed and off-kilter. This experimental treatment of the images transforms the subject matter from it photographic beginnings into something that bears closer resemblance to expressionist painting. The artist’s hand is made apparent as she approaches the print as mark making rather than representation.
Elsewhere, square-format photographs supplement Mons’ take on this garden city. In place of lush vegetation, one is proffered views of a city eternally in construction. The freakish symmetry of trains and bougainvillea bushes exists in the same breath as a candid moment in which a woman yawns at an ice-cream cart; the view from a quiet HDB corridor is given the same weight as one that opens up onto a grand horizon of Singapore’s bustling shipping trade.
In this jumble of scenes, the unglamorous and the offbeat are thrown in with the more popular, sanctioned narratives that we Singaporeans have of ourselves. If these photographs appear prosaic, that is only because the nature of life in this city-state is so. Mons has taken a documentary approach towards depicting her sojourn in this city, reflecting all that we are back at ourselves.
This exhibition seems to propose that one might find respite amidst the bizarre concoction of wet markets, glass buildings, and kopitiam chairs. Is such refuge possible amidst the dissonance? Standing between the alternately calm and frenetic in this show, this becomes an open-ended question.
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