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Disappearing into a rainbow
HOW to Disappear into a Rainbow is about a journey, which Singapore artist Dawn Ng wanted to create for viewers to experience in her commission at Aloft, the fourth-floor space dedicated to contemporary art at the newly renovated Hermes store in Liat Towers.
"Because it's about a journey, the work had to physically incite movement on the part of the otherwise passive viewer," explains Ng, whose work has always dealt with the core themes of time, memory and space, and uses whatever medium best expresses the theme in a way that's unique to its own story.
On entering this current installation, the viewer is immediately immersed in a pastel labyrinth of colour, where his or her motion through the work allows this life-sized kaleidoscope to physically shift and morph around the individual. Each colour panel is strategically juxtaposed against its neighbour to form different colour prisms.
Ng recounts that when Emi Eu, the curator of the show and director of the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, approached her with this Hermes commission, she spoke of new perspectives and horizons.
"I liked where she was going with the idea of a fresh start," says Ng. "I thought about newness in the context of the world we live in today, which tends to shout or blare in order to rise above the visual and social noise around us. I wanted to take the work in the opposite direction - to a place that was soft, naive and innocent.
"I felt this softness and purity was much more powerful and startling when transformed into a surreal environment for someone to be immersed in. This brought me to the idea of first light, the ethereal hues of daybreak, which creep across a room or seep through our eyelids when we awake.
"I wanted to create an abstract sense of moving through the soft pastel colour planes of an early horizon - that childlike, ephemeral place between sleep and consciousness, that gentle awakening to a new beginning," she elaborates.
Ng has translated her concept beautifully into a brick-and-mortar (or, should we say, metal-and-mirror?) installation which evokes this state of consciousness. She was also inspired by Yves Klein, expanding on his belief that colours are portals with the vertiginous quality of transporting the viewer from one realm to another.
Because Aloft takes up the top L-shaped floor, Ng says, the challenge was to create an installation that could contextually cocoon its audience and exist as a world within itself, even though it was part of a store.
As the store was undergoing renovation, she worked off architectural plans at first - but that's not the same as being in the actual space when it was done. "The ceiling was lower than I expected, for instance," she explains.
Fortunately, there was time to tweak the works. Another part was painstakingly selecting a balanced colour palette (not too warm or too cool) for that overall balance and equilibrium.
Eventually, 11 shades were chosen (none which could be too dominant and throw the balance off). and they then had to be arranged correctly.
There was also the opportunity to work with the lighting within the gallery space, says Ng. "The use of mirrors, staggered angles, and high-gloss paint in this installation were deliberate choices to play with and amplify light reflections, angles and shadows within the work to create a plethora of horizons and slivers of infinity."
Ng's recent photographic series called A Thing of Beauty (where she captures installations of small, locally sourced objects, collected from a range of stores in residential Singapore) was exhibited in Paris last year.
Her first site-specific installation was Paper Plain, in 2012, which transformed a warehouse space into different spaces for work. She has also done big-scale installations at the Singapore Art Museum, the Facebook office in Singapore, and the F1 Pit Building for Dom Perignon.
"I do like working with spatial installations as it gives me the ability to create a 'universe' which can consume the individual. It's an exciting medium to play with," she says, adding that her artistic vision is to tell stories which are true to her. "I think the truth is always interesting," she concludes.
- Aloft at Hermes' inaugural exhibition by Dawn Ng is on until Aug 14, 10:30am to 8pm daily, Liat Towers, 541 Orchard Road