Interview with Sookoon Ang
Opening on the 20th of this month is Singaporean Sookoon Ang’s solo exhibition at Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, entitled EVEREST. Despite her hectic schedule in the days leading up to the opening, The Artling managed to sit down with her to find out more about her project.
Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for EVEREST, and how you and the curator June Yap came together on this project.
EVEREST is the title of my installation as well as the title of my solo exhibition at Objectifs. I first conceived of the idea in 2006 when I was at residency at the Rijkaakademie in Amsterdam. The title plays with the words, “Ever” & “Rest”, which conjure the ideas of the ethereal and eternal peace. It engages the present reality by calling upon the ‘unreal’; a figment of imagination that became actual, vivid and existing in an external objective space. I have been interested in making works that bring about metaphysical element to a physical presence. I naively supposed that if I take a very light fabric, starch the fabric to a 3 peaks form, place helium balloons under the fabric, et viola! I would have a floating ghost mountain. It took me the following years of technical experience to gradually understand what I have to do to produce this installation to its potential. In late 2014, early 2015, I started to push for the realisation (rebirth) of EVEREST.
Coincidently, my first meeting with June also happened in Amsterdam in 2007 when she was on a curatorial visit in The Netherlands. I have always wanted to work with June and when Objectifs offered me this solo exhibition, I asked June if she’d be interested to curate it. It’s been a real pleasure working with June. It’s really great to have her collected & insightful opinions, her openness towards thoughts and ideas, and her humility in light of her many years of experience.
"Fugitive Waves III" by Ang SooKoon
Bronze / 2015 / 29.5 x 20.5 x 30.0cm / 11.8″ x 11.6″ x 8.1″ / Unique / USD $5,580
EVEREST is a multi-disciplinary work that features a wide variety of mediums from wax and bronze figures to sketches, and even video art. Was this as much an exploration into the concept of the monumental as an exploration of the properties and limitations of different mediums?
The exhibition started by building from EVEREST, the installation. The different series of works come together easily because fundamentally they concern the idea of interior landscapes. If I remember correctly, Richard Wilbur said this about my favourite poet, Emily Dickinson: “She who contains the universe does not need the world”. Jeanette Winterson, another of my favourite writer wrote, “Against daily insignificance art recalls to us possible sublimity. It cannot do this if it is merely a reflection of actual life. Our real lives are elsewhere. Art finds them.” The motivation of my work in general and the purpose of this exhibition are about finding the sublimity in our unstable state of existence and the exploration of interior landscapes.
The concept of monumental that June refers to is not about actual scale but more in terms of the grandiose of mind and spirit. And if there is any limitation, it’d be the limits of my skills and the limits of inherited thoughts, certainly not the limitation of mediums.
"EVEREST" by Ang SooKoon in collaboration with Sorcha O'Raghallaigh
Silk, Tulle, Plexiglass, Metal, Plexiglass, Lights / 2016 / 3 x 1.5 x 1.5m / 118.1" x 59" x 59" / 1st Edition / Price on Request
The highlight of this exhibition is the fabric construction that you and Sorcha O’Raghallaigh worked on. Tell us more about how this collaboration came about and why you chose the medium of fabric of express this piece.
I’m an avid Tumblr reader and I came upon an image from a random Tumblr of Sorcha’s dress from her Central St. Martin graduation show a few years ago. I save that Tumblr photo because the dress was beautiful is an ethereal way. In late 2014, early 2015, I started to push for the realisation of EVEREST, an installation I had first developed during my residency at the Rijkaakademie almost 10 years ago. And about the same time, I was offered a solo show by Objectifs who with good faith gave me carte blanche and let me do what I want for the show. I love them for this, for allowing me to realise this work that’s dormant for 10 years. I initially reached out to local bridal and gown designers but to no avail. So I thought I’ll do a cold call to Sorcha to see if she is interested. Even though, she was my last call, she is definitely my first choice. I just wasn’t sure if I am able to get her to come to Singapore. The romantic and grandeur sensibility of her work fits perfectly to this installation. Wonderfully, Sorcha was interested. Her practice is not commercially driven ready-to-wears and are not steered by the fashion trends. Her clothing are often labour intensive, one-off pieces that true to her visions. I believe it’s the nature of her practice that very easily made her interested in a fine art collaboration.
Using fabric to convey the form of mountain, Everest references to stereotypical representation of ghost; it is a white hoovering apparition that is both fragile and bold. The fabric part of the installation needs to be beautifully made to be awe-inspiring. It can’t be the raggedy thing I made in Amsterdam. I am thrilled to bring Sorcha’s dress to my snow mountain form.
"Real Emotions" by Ang SooKoon
Inkjet Print on Aluminium / 2014 / 80 x 8 x 170 cm / 39.8″ x 22.8″ x 3.1″ / Edition of 3 + AP / USD $5,720
Although you do not have a specific focus in your general body of work, you seem to have interest in natural forms such as in the Your Love is Like a Chunk of Gold series and Higher Love (2014). Again in EVEREST, natural landforms are central to your show – is there a reason that you seem to gravitate towards these visual structures?
I’m glad you point this out. Although my work do not have an apparent visual resemblance to one another, it focuses on evocative reconsiderations of the everyday. I address the unstable dimension of existence through presenting variable perceptions of reality as well as suggesting or creating alternative universes. Underpinning my work is existential anxiety and the desire to represent the fragile and ephemeral. Hence my work is produced in response to the transient and imperfect nature of things, emotions and ideas. Via multiple mediums, I stage nonlinear narratives that engage in layers of perceptions and plasticity of interpretations. Artwork is not a branding and artists are not obliged to be fixed to a certain style for quick references and fast consumerism.
I want to make sculptural forms that are uncontrived, forms that are organic and have their say in how they would exist outside of my popular-culture-corrupted mind. I have to look hard and sharp to find them but they would only come unexpectedly. I apply the philosophy of Wabi Sabi to my work: nothing is complete, nothing is perfect, nothing lasts forever.
"Walk" by Ang SooKoon
Pencil and Pen on Paper / 2015 / 35 x 27 cm / 10.6″ x 13.8″ / Unique / USD $1,600
Finally, what is the one thing that you hope viewers will take away from their experience of Everest?
Viewers are asked to traverse the boundary between physical phenomena and metaphysical projections. Everest is the experience of the ordinary with the sublime that is inextricably entwined.
Discover more works by Ang SooKoon here.
'EVEREST' a solo exhibition by Ang SooKoon is on show at Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film from 20 January till 21 February 2016, 155 Middle Road, Singapore 188977. Opening hours are Tue - Sat 12-7pm; Sun 12-4pm. There will also be a talk by the artist on 30 January at 2pm.
The Artling is the official Online Partner for EVEREST by Ang SooKoon.