Suzann Victor

As celebrations abound for Singapore’s 50th jubilee, STPI kick starts the year with “Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor”—a bountiful showcase of the artist’s profound creations in print methods and materials that differ from her customary use of theatrical devices, kinetic mechanisms, performance installations and object experimentations with the body, chandeliers and light.

Her residency at STPI evolved into a unique spectrum of over 60 carefully considered works that challenged and exceeded the boundaries of print and paper. As rare additions to her oeuvre and a testament to STPI’s dynamic collaborative space for building and harnessing artistic developments in Singapore and beyond—these delicate and honest works are multiple ‘firsts’ for Victor as well as STPI.

With her abstract, performative approach to etchings or ‘paintings with acid’, she has created the largest spit-bite aquatints to be made at STPI, while the décollages capture her gestures and body movement atop large bodies of paper pulp that she gradually tore away. “You feel so many sensations, the slipperiness of the pigment, the water squished underneath you. It is quite an adventure on the surface itself, to be immersed or be impressing upon the surface, and the paper pulp has become both surface and material. In works like We Cloud and Water Symphony in Blue Droplets for example, the paper pulp is the pigment with which to paint rather than a mere receiving surface,” says Victor. The artist has not dealt with paper so extensively and intimately in her practice before.

These works will be shown concurrently at STPI’s booth D13 at Art Stage where her presence proves strong. The etchings have already graced the prominent fairgrounds of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2014.

“Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor” will definitely be one to highlight as Singapore reflects on its contributions and developments in the art world with Art Week 2015.

EXHIBITION PRÉCIS – “Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor” (18 January – 21 February 2015)

STPI is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of homegrown artist Suzann Victor, the only female artist to represent Singapore at the national pavilion since its inaugural participation in the Venice Biennale (2001). Known for her conceptual prowess and ability to articulate complex ideas in technically challenging forms, Victor is one of Singapore’s most pronounced artists to date; her calibre and long-standing commitment positions her as an exemplary and important figure in our arts landscape—one to highlight as Singapore reflects on its contributions and developments in the art world with Art Week 2015.

As the title suggests, “Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor” not only refers to the residual trace of the artist’s hand and the characteristics of this body of work but it also references her residency experience and the impression she hopes to leave on viewers. Responding to the nature of the project and space at STPI, Victor skillfully weaved in aspects of herself as an abstract painter, performance and installation artist into print and paper explorations, combining favourite visual devices like the use of light and transparency in works such as We Cloud and the Immaculate Conception of a Cloud series, whereas circular Fresnel lenses were included in works such as the 8m-long I was like that myself… we all held each other’s hands, echoing a recurring motif of concentric circles and arcs.

Collectively, they demonstrate sheer critical thought and her proficiency in utilising materiality to draw out metaphorical and literal opacities—leaving much room for varied interpretation. She explores relations between spaces, objects and ideas while engaging the viewer as an active participant. “The acrylic paper pulp pieces, like We Cloud and Water Symphony in Blue Droplets for example, are assembled in the most architectural, sculptural way, offering viewers multiple viewing experiences from afar and up close, as if one were amongst the clouds in a way, due to the varying height levels of the assemblage. Most of my works in this exhibition have no fixed orientation. The acrylic paper pulp works are to me quite memorable as they are unique in its references and asks questions about the process or definition of painting – what it is or how it can be made,” says Victor.

Sydney-based Victor has garnered much attention in recent years particularly amongst local art institutions and identifies herself as a Singapore artist who sees her time away as a boon, giving her “the ability to choose and be discerning about the values one embraces to form one’s identity”, a notion she believes to be “less about purity and more about complexity and diversity”, for “we learn so much from the ‘other’”. And she does not forget her roots. In the series I was like that myself… we all held each other’s hands, Victor reflects on the ever-changing cultural landscape of Singapore, pondering the loss of what was once familiar and coherent to her such as the local vernacular. The work holds much nostalgia for the artist and induces viewers to ponder our own experience of the transforming nation, where primary markers of “Singaporeanness” are dissipating. Fresnel lenses affixed on top of black and white photographic images from coolie days at once display a sense of dislocation in its fragmented composition.

“Though there were many challenges in the way she’s pushed us technically, the process with Suzann has brought much growth to the STPI team. She has a painter’s mind through and through, and she applied that approach in printing processes here, no matter how different the medium is from painting. That posed challenges initially because the process has its restrictions and protocol, but that just gave us opportunities to overcome obstacles by changing our approaches and ways of thinking. And when we change our way of thinking, we are more likely to arrive at new places or stages where we’ve never been before. The works you see are the result of innovative steps we’ve taken. It’s actually a nice surprise to see how it all comes together at the end of the day.” – Eitaro Ogawa, Chief Printer & Project Leader, STPI

Victor acknowledges that it would be virtually impossible to duplicate the experience, yet alone the works—although “if it manifests, if the series from here develops, which I’m sure it will… this series (of square aquatints) will be developed on a very large scale, and this assemblage of circles, of different shapes, of very architectural forms at STPI will definitely be developed in the future.”

“… Victor demonstrates the responsibility of art to fathom the depths of human experience through image and material; her works reinvigorate and re-enchant the aesthetic experience. Victor shows that the power of beauty is an intellectual instrument. She reclaims the universal realm of the artistic imagination whilst wielding the critical instrumentality of a socio-politically sensitized, theoretical approach, examining questions of the body in relation to power, the role of architecture, and the ontological status of art itself.” –Susie Lingham, Director, Singapore Art Museum

From her early practice in the late 1980s as an award-winning abstract painter in Singapore to participating in the broader international circuit with major shows including the 6th Havana Biennale, 2nd Asia-Pacific Triennial at Queensland Art Gallery, the 5th Seoul International Media Art Biennale and the 49th Venice Biennale where she became Singapore’s first female representative – Suzann Victor’s prolific journey spans across 22 years. Sydney-based Victor continues to be a formidable force in the region, having recently participated in the 2013 Singapore Biennale with artwork Rainbow Circle installed in the rotunda of the National Museum of Singapore. Before pursuing her Bachelors, Masters and PhD in Visual Arts on a research scholarship at the University of Western Sydney, she earned a Diploma in Fine Arts from LASALLE College of the Arts and was a founder and artistic director of 5th Passage, which sought to provide a community-based platform for art students and emerging artists in Singapore. Notable installations and public art works include the swinging chandeliers Contours of a Rich Manoeuvre (2006) installed above the bridge linking the old colonial building and the modern addition at the National Museum of Singapore; Dusted by Rich Manoeuvre 2001 at Schola di Santa Apollonia, Venice; Third World Extra Virgin Dreams (1997) at the 6th Havana Biennale; the light-responsive stainless steel public sculpture Skin to Skin (2005) on display at World Square, Sydney; the seven foot-long Panoramic Matrix on display in the lobby of Meritus Mandarin, Singapore and His Mother is a Theatre (1994) installed at 5th Passage, Pacific Plaza. Her works are part of corporate and public collections including Gallery Hyundai, Seoul; National Museum of Singapore; Singapore Art Museum; Australian High Commission, Singapore and Ernst & Young, Singapore. In addition to this solo exhibition at STPI, the artist also has a number of public commissions as well as an upcoming retrospective at the Singapore Art Museum under her belt.