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Aloft at Hermès: An Interview with Dawn Ng & Jinnie Seo

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Aloft at Hermès: An Interview with Dawn Ng & Jinnie Seo
The newly re-vamped Hermès flagship at Liat Towers in Singapore. (Image courtesy of Masao Nishikawa and Hermès)

Hermès is experiencing an artistic Renaissance at their Liat Towers flagship store in Singapore. As part of their makeover, the 176 year old fashion house has launched two new projects as part of their makeover after 30 years at their prestigeous address along Orchard Road. The top floor of the three-storey boutique has now become an art space 'Aloft at Hermès' that will be curated by Director of STPI, Emi Eu with the theme 'Horizons' this year. Two artists are invited to interpret this annual exhibition, the first being Singaporean artist Dawn Ng, who has transformed the space into a kaleidsopic labyrinth of pastel shades and mirrors in her work How o Disappear into a Rainbow. Simultaneously, Korean-American artist Jinnie Seo has launched a series of specially-commissioned windows from guest artists around the world, with the theme 'Nature at Full Gallop'.

We speak to both artists to find out more about their pojects, and about the relatiosnhip between art, fashion and commerce.

 

How did you get involved with this project for Hermès? 

Dawn NG Emi Eu, the director of STPI and curator of this project, approached me late in 2015 about an opportunity for a solo commission that would fill the new  Hermès gallery space, Aloft, and kick off their re-designed flagship altogether. 

Jinnie SEO It is an honour to be invited back to do the first artist window in celebration of the re-opening of Hermès store at Liat Towers. My first encounter with Hermès Singapore was in 2006 when I was invited to do a site-specific installation at the Third Floor – Hermès art space, which is now the Aloft gallery. I also had the opportunity to work on the window display and the spiral staircase leading up to the Third Floor art space.  It was a culminating experience for me.

One of the windows specially designed by Korean-American artist Jinnie Seo
(Image courtesy of Masao Nishikawa and Hermès)

‘Horizons’ is the selected theme for this year’s exhibitions that are showing in Aloft. How did you approach the theme in terms of your commission? 

NG Well Emi spoke of new perspectives and horizons and I liked where she was going with the idea a fresh beginning. I thought about newness in the context of the world we live in today, which tends to shout and blare to rise above the visual and social noise around us to create that big bang. I wanted to take the work in the opposite direction - to a place that was soft, naive and innocent. I thought it this softness and purity was much more powerful and startling when transformed into a surreal environment for someone to be immersed in, and it brought me to the idea of first light, the ethereal hues of daybreak that creep across a room or seep through our eyelids when we wake. I wanted to create a sense of moving through these abstract pastel colour planes, disappearing and re-emerging alongside its surfaces and reflections.

"How to Disappear into a Rainbow" by Singapore artist Dawn Ng at Aloft at Hermès
(Image courtesy of Masao Nishikawa and Hermès)

Jinnie, you are the first artist to launch a series of windows that will be commissioned from guest artists. What was your creative process for your creation?

SEO In the spirit of Hermes 2016 theme, “Nature at Full Gallop,” we have investigated its meaning by exploring the forces and the traces of movements constantly arising in nature, from micro to macroscopic world, from the invisible to the visible realm – Anatomy of Gallop, Nature in Action.


Dawn, you often create quite site-specific work, such as the neon work you have at Loof and Do Not Step on the Cirrus Clouds at East Coast. How to Disappear into a Rainbow is also a site-specific installation – what were some of the properties of the space that factored into your work? 

NG Aloft takes up the top floor L-shaped open atrium of the Hermès flagship in Singapore. 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. Secondly, during the day there is a unique amount of light which pours through the Aloft space. The use of mirrors, staggered angles, and high gloss paint in this installation were deliberate choices to play with and amplify natural light reflections, angles and shadows within the work. 

Details of "How to Disappear into a Rainbow" by Singapore artist Dawn Ng at Aloft at Hermès
​(Image courtesy of Masao Nishikawa and Hermès)

Jinnie, since the people viewing your work will mostly be customers of Hermès as opposed to being museum or gallery visitors, do you think the reception towards your work would be any different? If so, have you factored this into your creative process?

SEO As a visual artist who focuses on the on-site installation artworks, the given space and its context are important aspect of the work.

In collaborating with Hermès objects, our aim is to have the window to show different sides of the products through storytelling and in harmony with its surrounding spatial installation.  Having limited space, full exposure to the outside, being a part of the façade of the store, the window carries a lot of weight in telling a story to attract the viewer’s quick four second glance as she walks or drives by.  It is a welcoming challenge for us to work through the process of creating the multi-perspective views of the window, as I become the viewer envisioning myself walking and looking at the window. 

 

In Japan, some of the most cutting-edge art exhibitions are shown in department stores, while in the West there has been a tendency for art and commerce to try and appear as separate entities. How do you feel about having your works shown in a store like Hermès’s Liat Towers flagship store? Do you feel that art and commerce can mix? 

NG I appreciate their efforts to dedicate and carve out an entire floor as a permanent gallery space. I think it allows any work to usurp its environment fully and create its own little universe.

SEO I welcome the idea of mixing art and commerce in which they share an intimate relationship.  Every object shown in the commercial window or the museum space has gone through some form of creative process.  Only difference between the artist and craftsman’s work is the functionality of the work. Incidentally, I have previously commissioned to create two sets of drawing and drinking tables inspired by poems by 16th century Korean female poets.  Currently, one set of the tables is on view at the Triennale Museum in Milan.

 

To see more of Dawn Ng's work please click here.

 

 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.



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