“I think I am always trying to locate the sharpest, swiftest path from my core to another person’s. If that’s your goal, you don’t have time or patience for bulls**t”, says 35-year-old multi-disciplinary artist Dawn Ng.
Her blunt response to what informs her art comes as a surprise. This is the woman behind Walter (2010), an installation that saw her displaying a giant inflatable rabbit balloon guerrilla-style all over Singapore. The same name behind How To Disappear Into A Rainbow, another installation – this time of mirrors and blocks in pastel colours (another personal favourite) – launched as part of the reopening of Hermes’ Liat Towers flagship last year.
For all her preoccupation with “the ephemeral and transient”, Ng’s works often possess a childlike joy and simplistic beauty that easily appeals even to the non-art crowd. It’s no different with her next project, Perfect Stranger, which will run at Chan + Hori Contemporary at Gillman Barracks from Jan 17 to Feb 22 – her first since becoming a mother last year.
The gallery will be overtaken by 48 large ombre-hued giclee prints (FYI: what you see on these pages are just scaled-down prototypes) that are printed with observations, questions, lists, stories, poems, confessions and jokes. Beyond its deceptively simple format – catchy quips in pastels, decipherable by the Everyman – the series has a depth of resonance, borne out of a daily conversation with an Israeli child psychologist whom she befriended in 2013.
“Every single day, she would write me a question, and I would respond. I still recall writing from my hospital bed after I gave birth to my first child, one of many pivotal events that took place during the sustained course of this project,” she says.
You could say Perfect Stranger is Ng’s take on a time capsule of memories, one she never thought would see light of day. “This was never meant to be a show… I was going to do it just to bury its contents and, perhaps, retrieve it in the distance future, or forget about it.”
On how her advertising background shape her work
“Advertising taught me the power of universal truths — that great work stems from its capacity to be big, simple and true. I’ve always been fixated on the transient and ephemeral. I think these elements are exacerbated by the way we live our lives today.”
On her art and the audience’s reaction
“I never think about this. I think good work is driven out of compulsion, and not led by a particular patron or audience.”
On the inspiration behind Perfect Strangers
“I’ve always been fixated on the transient and ephemeral… and Perfect Strangers is that fossilised, fleeting exchange between two women from completely different pasts, presents and futures.”
On working with everyday items
“There’s infinite beauty to be found in the most common things. We instinctively understand that when we are young, but it gets harder to hold on to that purity and innocence as you get older – the things that we become conditioned to see as beautiful become more elaborate, ornate, or pegged to its value. I am constantly amused that even the most everyday and ordinary objects or spaces can be pregnant with meaning, and therefore precious.”
Here, as she puts the finishing touches on her show, she breaks down her creative process, and how it allows her to connect to the everyday.
Photography Vee Chin Art Direction Jonathan Chia Styling Imran Jalal
This story first appeared in Female’s January issue.