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Interview with Ian Woo


Interview with Ian Woo
Photo courtesy of  Milenko Prvacki


Please tell us more about this body of work, is this your first time showing your drawings?

My practice involves both drawing and painting. Since my first solo exhibition in 2000 I have shown drawings in graphite.  I did an all watercolours show in 2003 at the Plastique Kinetic Worms, then there was ‘Aversion’, a publication by curator Guo-Liang Tan which had an accompanied exhibition that featured a series of large graphite on paper works ‘Lot Sees Salt’. It now sits in the collection of Singapore Art Museum.  Last year I had a works on paper group exhibition called ‘Side Glance’ curated by Charles Merewether, featuring Genevieve Chua, Jeremy Sharma and myself.

Some people may prefer to buy or invest in paintings over drawings, what are your thoughts on this.

I think they are concerned about the fragility and bulking of paper, whether it will last. Well, I think these are the exact properties, which make drawings attractive. In terms of how long it will last, we still get to see Picasso’s drawings and Da Vinci’s drawings today, so it a matter of looking after the art as you would with any art piece.  

Do you prefer to draw or paint? Do you employ the same artistic; philosophical approach to different materials and medium, in this instance pencil on paper vs acrylic on canvas?

I employ the same ideas for both mediums. The look turns out different because it is rather extreme the way the materials do things to my senses. I need both because the paper works feed the paintings in terms of finding new ways to locate forms in space.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this show?

Slow reading. I hope everyone will spend a longer time looking the works. They do require attention because of the ‘faint’ details and forms. More than 3 minutes, thank you!

What can we expect to see from you in the near future OR Any new projects on the horizon?

I will be having my first solo exhibition in Tokyo this September at Tomio Koyama Gallery. I am currently reworking on some paintings that I am not satisfied with; it’s a constant cycle. I am not good with doing thematic exhibitions, so people who ask me to do exhibitions have to like what I do. I do not like the word ‘projects’. It sounds like homework or something, which is disconnected to my practice. I believe I only have one idea and only make one work all my life.



Rapid Fire!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?


What is your favourite place to see art?

For Internet I like Painters Table, a wonderful painting site that features up to date reviews of contemporary painters. In Singapore I like to visit Artspace at Tanjong Pagar and Gillman Barracks. For history, it’s NUS Museum. I know the folks at the conservation centre, so I sometimes drop by and see old paintings being restored- from kitschy stuff to nostalgic gems. For overseas, I love the Prado, National Gallery in London, Wallace Collection and Tate Modern. Actually, when I am bored in Singapore, I begin to ‘notice art’ everywhere around me. Life can be so strange if you take time to look at your surroundings. Boredom is the beginning of art. 

Do you have a museum- or gallery-going routine?


What’s your favourite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

I eat at home. Really.

Do you collect anything?

I gave up collecting art and bass guitars. It’s very distracting for me. This happened like 4 years ago.

What’s the last artwork you purchased?

It was a painting of a young girl by Sia Joo Hiang at Night and Day some 5 years ago.

What work of art do you wish you owned?

A Vermeer or a Georgette Chen.

What would you do to get it?

You mean to steal? Perhaps because it’s unattainable that makes it so magical.

What’s your art world pet peeve?

Is painting dead?

What international art destination do you most want to visit?

North Korea.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

The Welsh Painter Merlin James. Restraint. Pure Restraint. Also Japanese Pop Surrealist painter Hiroshi Sugito, he did a beautiful show of paintings of houses at the JCC at Orchard Road. The turn out at the opening surprisingly small. I recently saw some curious and wonderful paintings by young Chinese artists at a gallery called Platform China at Art Basel HK.

Who is your favourite living artist?

Unfair question. I was thinking of On Kawara, but I think he just passed away in June. So I have to say Keith Jarrett. He is a jazz musician, but I consider him an artist.

What is the last great book you read?

Inspector Imanishi Investigates- it’s a detective novel and it has some information, which relates to my interest in sound art and music. That is all I will say, fascinating.

A Drawing Show, featuring work by Ian Woo, Wong Lip Chin, Boedi Widjaja and Jaitip Jaidee, is open from 2nd August – 14th September 2014.

Artists talk: Drawing in Contemporary Singapore, Yeo Workshop @ Gillman Barracks, Saturday 23rd August 2014 from 4pm.

Yeo Workshop is at Gillman Barracks, Blk 1 Lock Road, #01-01, Singapore 108937


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