Prestige (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

One is a Hol­ly­wood star whom Asia will now dis­cover is a pro­lific visual artist. The other is a lawyer who’s bring­ing art ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the masses. Me­lainne Chiew speaks to LUCY LIU and RYAN SU ahead of Un­home­d­be­long­ings, which head­lines this month’s art cal­en­dar

You may know her bet­ter as one of Char­lie’s An­gels or that yukata-clad, katana-sling­ing vil­lain in Kill Bill: Vol­ume 1, but off-screen, Hol­ly­wood star and on-screen femme fa­tale Lucy Liu wields a mean paint­brush (and cam­era, nee­dle and glue gun). A tal­ented ab­stract artist, the New Yorker will be in Sin­ga­pore for the first time this month to com­mem­o­rate the open­ing of an ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing a se­lec­tion of her works, along­side those of Sin­ga­porean artist and apb Foun­da­tion Sig­na­ture Art Prize 2018 Ju­rors’ Choice Award re­cip­i­ent Shu­bigi Rao, whom she has never met, at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Sin­ga­pore. Lucy Liu and Shu­bigi Rao: Un­homed Be­long­ings, which runs from Jan­uary 12 to Fe­bru­ary 24, bridges the worlds and works of both artists, cast­ing a spot­light on the as­tound­ing par­al­lels in two strangers’ art. Themes of cul­ture, his­tory, iden­tity and re­la­tion­ships are ex­plored and ex­am­ined; in­ci­den­tally, both Lucy and Shu­bigi are drawn to re­con­tex­tu­al­is­ing found ob­jects into new visual nar­ra­tives. Hav­ing dis­cov­ered in­tel­lec­tual chem­istry as they cor­re­sponded, the two will fi­nally meet in the flesh at this ex­hi­bi­tion – even as works from Lucy’s Lost and Found and Shu­bigi’s Stab­bing at Im­mor­tal­ity:

Build­ing a Bet­ter Jel­ly­fish meet in a cu­ra­to­rial dia­logue. Or­gan­ised in part­ner­ship with pri­vate non-profit arts or­gan­i­sa­tion The Ryan Foun­da­tion, Un­homed Be­long­ings is free to the pub­lic – ac­ces­si­bil­ity be­ing a corner­stone to pro­mot­ing art aware­ness in Sin­ga­pore and around the world. Ryan Su, the foun­da­tion’s name­sake found­ing di­rec­tor and a colour­ful reg­u­lar on the arts cir­cuit, says Sin­ga­pore’s de­vel­op­ing art scene is ripe for show­ing “two artists who hap­pen to be strong women as they nav­i­gate themes of iden­tity and growth with such hon­esty and strength”.

Lucy’s art is highly vis­ceral, of­ten con­tem­plat­ing the idea of hu­man­ness, whether it is the con­cept of sal­va­tion or the way per­sonal re­la­tion­ships trans­form us. The chaos

in her work is raw – there’s an al­most an­i­mal dy­namism claw­ing through blended mediums such as paint­ing, sculp­ture, col­lage and silk screen.

Like­wise, in Stab­bing at Im­mor­tal­ity: Build­ing a Bet­ter Jel­ly­fish, Shu­bigi ques­tions hu­man­ity’s un­end­ing quest for im­mor­tal­ity and con­sid­ers the bi­o­log­i­cally im­mor­tal jel­ly­fish, Tur­ri­top­sis nu­tric­ula. Hu­man or an­i­mal, ver­te­brate or in­ver­te­brate, the essence of life is dis­sected and ex­am­ined, and a big­ger ques­tion is asked: How does life trans­form us? Whether through an un­end­ing stretch of life, a cy­cle of re­births or the lengths of gen­er­a­tions suc­ceed­ing us, is there a way to live for­ever?


Un­homed Be­long­ings will be Lucy’s first ex­hi­bi­tion in a mu­seum, although she has shown in var­i­ous gal­leries and art fairs around the world as early as 1993, un­der the name Yu Ling. “I wanted peo­ple to come in with an open mind – with­out hav­ing an ini­tial idea of who I was – so that they would see the works with­out la­belling me along­side them,” she tells us. “My Chi­nese name is Yu Ling, so it was still me; it was just not the name by which peo­ple would recog­nise me. Many peo­ple know me as an ac­tress, but visual art has al­ways been an equally im­por­tant part of my life.”

This time, Ryan is count­ing on her celebrity to draw crowds. Per­sonal friends with Lucy and hav­ing vis­ited her New York art stu­dio, he was moved by the beauty, strength and ex­tent of her work, and re­solved to bring her art to a wider au­di­ence. “Apart from be­ing a se­ri­ous artist, Lucy’s celebrity will cer­tainly ap­peal to a large seg­ment, es­pe­cially vis­i­tors who have grown up watch­ing Ally Mcbeal, Char­lie’s An­gels and even Kill Bill. We want these peo­ple to come out of their homes and see con­tem­po­rary art,” he says.

Ryan, a re­cip­i­ent of the Pa­tron Of The Arts Award by the Na­tional Arts Coun­cil, views this col­lab­o­ra­tion as a way to raise the pro­file of con­tem­po­rary art in Sin­ga­pore and Asia. “What The Ryan Foun­da­tion hopes to achieve is re­ally sim­ple: We want more peo­ple to be­come in­ter­ested in art. By pro­vid­ing an en­try point for peo­ple to get to know con­tem­po­rary art, we grow the pie and sow the seeds of art ap­pre­ci­a­tion.”

Echo­ing his en­thu­si­asm, Lucy says: “I know this ex­hi­bi­tion will have a last­ing im­pact, and I hope to bring ex­cite­ment and a sense of in­volve­ment to oth­ers who have thought about cre­at­ing art, but just didn’t feel they had the in­stinct or abil­ity.”

The two art lovers are multi-hy­phen­ates who split their time among many roles and causes. Lucy is a mother, Unicef am­bas­sador, pro­ducer, di­rec­tor and work­ing ac­tress, hav­ing just wrapped film­ing for the cbs drama se­ries Ele­men­tary; Ryan ac­tively jug­gles the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of The Ryan Foun­da­tion, fre­quent art ex­cur­sions abroad and his le­gal prac­tice.

Ex­actly two months af­ter we be­gan dis­cus­sions, Pres­tige is fi­nally in New York with both of them for an ex­clu­sive photo shoot. Lucy is ever the pro in front of the cam­era and re­as­sur­ingly reaches out to Ryan when pos­ing to­gether; very quickly, their ca­ma­raderie trans­lates onto the pho­tos. Shar­ing their love of art came just as nat­u­rally.

How did the Un­homed Be­long­ings ex­hi­bi­tion come about? Lucy Liu (LL): We have a mu­tual friend Daniel, the di­rec­tor of an art gallery in New York who man­ages some of my art-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties. Dan has known Ryan for years and had in­tro­duced my art­work to him some time ago.

Ryan Su (RS): He fi­nally in­tro­duced us over din­ner one night in New York when we were both in town for some art ex­hi­bi­tions. He had been telling us about Lucy and her art for years, and I’m sure that he had been talk­ing to her about us too – that’s why we hit it off im­me­di­ately. It felt as if we had known each other for years! But Lucy is a very pri­vate per­son and her work is ex­tremely per­sonal, which was why our visit to her stu­dio only took place later. That’s also why she wanted to be there to per­son­ally show us around and to tell us about her artis­tic prac­tice. I could see her ded­i­ca­tion just by look­ing at her art­works, that the time and ef­fort spent cre­at­ing them was sub­stan­tial.

LL: We started dis­cussing the idea of a pos­si­ble pro­ject in Sin­ga­pore about a year ago...

RS: We wanted to work with Lucy pri­mar­ily be­cause her work is ex­cel­lent. She’s also very se­ri­ous about it – she had even en­rolled her­self in art school [the New York Stu­dio School] to learn about art­mak­ing and to work with other artists.

LL: I love learn­ing new things and be­ing in a group en­vi­ron­ment. Sign­ing up for art school was some­thing I didn’t have to think twice about.

Was there a par­tic­u­lar point that you re­alised, “I’m an artist”?

LL: I re­alised it’s not about be­ing some­thing, it’s about the be­ing of some­thing. Un­der­stand­ing that ex­pres­sion is part of life is what al­lows us to share and con­nect with our­selves and other peo­ple. It’s the process of growth and that is a re­ac­tion to what hap­pens in the en­vi­ron­ment around you also.

So, what can we ex­pect with this ex­hi­bi­tion?

LL: I’m ex­cited that it’s go­ing to hap­pen in the for­mat of an artist dia­logue with Shu­bigi Rao at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Sin­ga­pore. Un­homed Be­long­ings is a com­pi­la­tion of sim­i­larly themed works by me and Shu­bigi, spe­cially cu­rated by the mu­seum. There is a con­ver­sa­tion that is il­lu­mi­nated be­tween us, in our works, even though we’ve never met – a dia­logue about be­long­ing in the body and in the world that we were ex­plor­ing in­di­vid­u­ally. This also con­nects our works.

RS: You will see Lucy’s mas­tery of tech­niques, as a mixedmedium artist, through­out her oeu­vre in Un­homed Be­long­ings.

Some of her works in­volve com­pli­cated tech­niques, such as weav­ing work at the back of the two-sided work, Ve­loc­ity, and the in­tri­cate and del­i­cate weav­ing on World In­side Rain­bow.

I also love the de­lib­er­ate, del­i­cate cal­li­graphic work 72.

Is there any­thing you wish you were show­ing in Sin­ga­pore, but isn’t trav­el­ling over?

LL: I painted a new se­ries of works, work­ing off per­sonal pho­tos. It was some­thing I never ex­plored be­fore, and it was very eye-open­ing. One of the works I love most is a large fam­ily por­trait. The new paint­ings I have are some of my favourites and I wish I could share them with every­one there, but the works are large, so it will have to be an­other time! This is The Ryan Foun­da­tion’s third ex­hi­bi­tion... RS: Yes, we’ve done an­nual ex­hi­bi­tions since our first, Andy

Warhol: So­cial Cir­cus, in 2016, fea­tur­ing the Po­laroid pho­tos by pop artist Andy Warhol. It at­tracted thou­sands of peo­ple on open­ing night, caus­ing a traf­fic jam at Gill­man Bar­racks af­ter hours on a week­night, which has never hap­pened be­fore! In 2017, we pre­sented a vir­tual-re­al­ity work by New York­based artist Ry­der Ripps in Venice, which was at the time at the cut­ting edge of con­tem­po­rary art. We brought the ex­hi­bi­tion back to Sin­ga­pore and it proved very pop­u­lar with au­di­ences here, who were game to put on the vir­tual-re­al­ity head­sets and par­tic­i­pate in con­tem­po­rary art. Some peo­ple may crit­i­cise this cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tion as be­ing about celebrity, but they’re miss­ing the point en­tirely. The Ryan Foun­da­tion’s goals are de­vel­op­men­tal in na­ture: Arts aware­ness needs to be de­vel­oped and if it takes a novel ap­proach to get peo­ple to see art, we’re will­ing to take the risk. We need to break down bar­ri­ers and make art less in­tim­i­dat­ing.


Lucy Liu’s Lost and Found se­ries fea­tures dis­carded ob­jects she picked up dur­ing her daily life or on her trav­els, hid­den within hand-carved niches in 181 books – them­selves beau­ti­ful and pris­tine when she found them, dis­carded by a print­ing house in Italy. Cre­ated over al­most eight years, these cu­riosi­ties are free to be picked up, viewed and won­dered over, and placed back any­where else within the in­stal­la­tion. Through this con­stant reshuf­fling, vis­i­tors them­selves un­wit­tingly be­come part of a nar­ra­tive

Dress, Zac Posen; ear­rings, Ver­dura, ring, Belper­ron

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