Art All Magazine, Issue 112, Spring 2013
Swapping seaside living in Ruby Bay for the escalators, subway systems and high-rise buildings of Singapore was an exciting change for artist Lisa Chandler when she took up an artist residency at INSTINC Gallery during May and June this year. Supported by the Asia New Zealand Foundation, the residency provided accommodation, studio space, curatorial support, an exhibition and introductions to the local arts scene.
“The first thing that stuck me during my first few days out and about in the city, was the verticality and scale of the public spaces” says Lisa. Due to a lack of land (Singapore is approximately the size of Lake Taupo with a population of over five million) urban development has gone both underground and into the sky. Most shopping malls have four or five basement levels and the deepest train station is the equivalent of 15 stories underground. In the atrium spaces of these buildings, looking up or looking down you can view many levels at once. The number and length of the escalators to navigate all these levels and the way the crossover each other creates some amazingly dynamic spaces. ‘Slicing’ these spaces became the subject of the exhibition that Lisa held at the end of the residency and her eight acrylic paintings interpreted people moving through these multi-layered spaces.
The rhythm of Singapore life is to start late and finish late, and most shops don’t open till 11am and the shopping malls are humming well past 9pm. Lisa found the malls and metros to be a source of inspiration, and depending when you went out, these vast spaces were either chaotically noisy and crammed full of people, or eerily quiet, like the end of the world.
It wasn’t all work however, while in Singapore Lisa attended a ballet performance by the Singapore Ballet company and she fell in love with Hainanese Chicken Rice, one of the many wonderful food dishes available at the hawker centres around the city.
As well as researching and preparing her exhibition Lisa immersed herself as much as possible in the local art scene. This was a two-way exchange, with Lisa and local painters sharing techniques and research information. While in Singapore Lisa gave several artist talks, explaining the ideas behind her art practice and process. Views were exchanged on urban planning in Singapore and ways of exploring cities on foot, both central concepts in Lisa’s art practice.
“The art scene in Singapore is developing quite rapidly” Lisa commented, with the Singapore Government providing an increasing amount of assistance for art, including more funding for art education, development of the Gillman Art Barracks (a hub of 13 art galleries in converted army barracks), and an amazing new National Art Gallery due to open in 2015. “It will be exciting to follow the development of Singaporean art as the benefits of this support comes to fruition”, says Lisa.
Although based in New Zealand, Lisa is increasingly a global nomad, with travels for research in Malaysia and England in 2013, a return visit to Singapore in November this year, and an invitation to undertake an artist residency at the Red Gate Gallery in Beijing in 2014.