Preparing for 2 art exhibits : A retrospective

Since my last post all the way back in January, I feel like I've really gone through a lot of changes..personally and also in my art. I think the catalyst for this has been my involvement in two group exhibits this May. Funnily, I started writing this in early April but preparations suddenly became quite intense so now I'm finishing this article at the tail end of May, after both shows have wrapped up. Consequently, I'm sorry if my tenses are all over the place lol 

Speaking of which, one show's theme is about change and is titled "Passage", while the other is "Artist's Anonymous: Creative Self Help". These two shows will be my first formal art show with a small group of artists here in Singapore. It's quite an experience to be part of an organizing committee and building everything up from scratch. I've had numerous meetings now for both shows, usually after work hours in cafes located across town..and we've pieced together the theme,  our concepts, the venue...even done lots of soul searching. But in the end, we take what we've absorbed and go home to our studios to work on our own pieces. And this, I think is where I've felt a lot of growth happen. 

I've felt such a boost in motivation and imagination speaking to other artists who have willingly stepped into the same boat as me. Seeing their unfiltered rough ideas on paper is fascinating and listening to their own abstractions on why they want to explore a particular idea is comforting. It really helped me understand that I share something in common with others and at the same time that the creative process can be as unique as you want it to be. With this in mind, I've been able to step out of whatever comfort zone I've had and try new styles..new ideas and really tap into my imagination. 

The happy artists of "Artists Anonymous: Creative Self-Help"

The happy artists of "Artists Anonymous: Creative Self-Help"

More happy artists and volunteers from the exhibit,"Passage". 

More happy artists and volunteers from the exhibit,"Passage". 

Because both exhibits asked of their artists to reflect on quite abstract themes, I thought it would be a great chance to centre my art on the human body. It's always been something I've wanted to paint and I wanted to really challenge myself to make sure I could depict something emotional and grounded. At the same time I also thought that THAT was all I wanted to focus on..the emotion of what I was trying to convey. I knew I didn't want to work on a big piece with lots of background, or multiple figures....or even faces. When I really thought it through, I realised that I just wanted a specific and isolated part of the human body to be able to say everything. In my mind, I thought that was the most direct way of communicating my ideas without any distraction. In the end, after remembering the sketches I saw of the old masters', I knew I wanted to do the same and paint expressive hands that could tell a story. 

Hand Sketches from Leonardo Da Vinci

Hand Sketches from Leonardo Da Vinci

And so off I went on a hand sketching binge for a good two months or more...Folks on my social media must have been quite perplexed as to why the mood and subject of my pieces suddenly shifted so much. It may even have looked like someone else had taken over my accounts. 

"Vespa Walrus". The type of whimsical stuff I was painting before the art exhibits happened lol 

"Vespa Walrus". The type of whimsical stuff I was painting before the art exhibits happened lol 

 

It probably didn't even help that I also chose to use a colour palette that had a lot of blues. My initial pieces were very subdued and even sad. I started using a blue pencil for my outlines and made all my shadows different shades of indigo or ultramarine. It was not the usual bright or whimsical pieces I would do..and I really really enjoyed it. 

Initial stage of one of my paintings: "Anxiety", "Passage" @SPRMRKT 2016

Initial stage of one of my paintings: "Anxiety", "Passage" @SPRMRKT 2016

"Hello and Goodbye", "Passage" @ SPRMRKT 2016

"Hello and Goodbye", "Passage" @ SPRMRKT 2016

Sometimes I'd make my hands quite close to realistic..other times I'd play around with colours and push myself to paint as differently as I could. 

"The Struggle", "Artists Anonymous" @ That Spare Room 2016

"The Struggle", "Artists Anonymous" @ That Spare Room 2016

"Reaching Out", "Artists Anonymous" @That Spare Room 2016

"Reaching Out", "Artists Anonymous" @That Spare Room 2016

I was having so much fun, I started adding fantasy elements into my hand paintings..

"Crystals" available as prints in my store. 

"Crystals" available as prints in my store. 

When I started adding elements that I was unfamiliar with, but yet be playful with and have fun with all the possibilities and combinations...that's when it really hit home that I was growing as an artist. That was my big eureka moment. At that moment, I felt really happy that I raised my hand to be a part of these two art exhibits. I guess, sometimes, you commit to things thinking you'll reap benefits A, B and C, but along the way you realise you've actually gained so much more. 

It feels odd to sum up the two exhibits I worked so hard on in a paragraph, but suffice to say that it was a big success. A lot of people came and I spoke to a lot of lovely people who asked me about my art and the reasoning behind it. Thank you. It was humbling to be able to share my ideas with you all and to see you all turn out to support us. I gallery sat.. and I also conducted workshops to get the public interested in art...and all the while, I continued to make new art I wouldn't have even imagined of just a few months ago. As for the actual pieces I had on show, I'll probably write another post on them as they deserve their own separate entry. If you're interested, you can see our opening night photos on Facebook here and here

Before I sign off on this post and finally (woohoo!) publish it - I just wanted to share my top 3 takeaway from this whole experience. It's a reminder for me and perhaps it might help anyone else who reads this.  In no order: 

  1. Nothing is wasted. That crappy doodle I did yesterday..is a stepping stone towards this awesome painting I'm really happy with right now. 
  2. Once you put your art out there for the public to see, they'll interpret it in their own way. That's okay and some very surprising insights can come out of it. 
  3. Step back when you can and get some perspective. It's okay to take it easy and not be so hard on yourself. 

So there it is! Of course, I've learnt much more than just 3 bullet points..lol But these 3 things were what I constantly had to remind myself of during this entire process. I'm quite sure I'll be repeating these to myself for a long time to come :)

A big thank you to my fellow artists and everyone who stepped in to make our art exhibit happen. You guys are awesome.