How did you find your voice as an artist?
Ironically, it was when I was doing my first degree and I was struggling with ideas for a project. I decided to illustrate, in a very literal way, my empty head being devoid of ideas. This led to the first in a long series of etchings that all featured heads with holes in them. I realised then that creating art from my own experiences could be a powerful way to relate to other people, because we bond through shared experiences or at least find connections in experiences that are similar.
You combine different techniques (painting, print, sculpture) – how did you develop your style and which techniques would you like to experiment with sometime?
Combining different techniques was a natural progression from printmaking, which laid the foundation for me in terms of texture and layering. In wanting to create work that has a sense of dimensionality, I felt I needed to move on from the traditional print surface to something less flat. But as I still love printmaking, the challenge was figuring out how to incorporate it into three-dimensional work. The questions I asked myself were “when is a print not a print?” and “how can I make a sculpture with printmaking?”. I also incorporated photography.
Next on my list would be working with clear resin to create solid sculptures that still incorporate print.
What have been the highlights of your artistic career?
Being awarded the only International Print Artist-In-Residence by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2009 is definitely a highlight, especially given the fact that my proposal was highly unconventional.
Aside from being shortlisted for prizes and awards and invited to exhibitions, other highlights include rewarding collaborations with a London-based Singaporean fashion designer, and a computational arts graduate who is also based in London. On both occasions I learned a lot from them and enjoyed very much the interaction and engagement, and I would like to collaborate again.
Can you tell us something about your series “The Physics of Life”?
In pursuing ideas around higher spatial dimensions, I wanted to play with and disrupt people’s perception of space. At the same time, I was figuring out how I could ‘extrude’ a flat, two-dimensional drawing or print into three dimensions. I was also doing much research on the fourth spatial dimension and discovered artists who had a great interest, as well as taking on the challenge of tackling this subject in their work, such as the Cubists.
The key was in using transparent materials, and so I decided to screen-print a simple line drawing of human figures onto sheets of clear plastic, which were then bent, twisted and manipulated into three dimensional forms. This technique gave the line drawing extra form. We know the drawing sits on the flat surface of the plastic, but at the same time it is occupying more than just a flat surface in space. It is a drawing that exists in three-dimensional space. Moreover, the transparent nature of the plastic meant that I could experiment with light. The drawing itself creates an infinite number of shadow-drawings once the correct lighting is applied. Here was yet another dimension to the original screen-print.
How would you describe the recent artistic scene in Singapore?
Like a person, Singapore has developed rapidly in certain areas and not so rapidly in others. It is first and foremost a commercial and financial hub, given that it is a thriving port. So to understand the art scene here requires context.
I think there is a lot of local talent, some undiscovered and others who struggle to make a career as an artist. But the reason for the struggle is somewhat different to other affluent, developed nations. By and large, the challenge to being an artist in Singapore comes from cultural and societal pressures and less about making ends meet. The majority of parents here have a big say in their children’s career paths, largely because they fund their children’s education for as long as it takes. Choosing art therefore, in particular the fine arts, would not be encouraged by most parents for any number of reasons ranging from status in society (they want their children to be career lawyers, doctors, bankers etc) to jobs that bring regular income.
There is also a strong emphasis on academic achievement as opposed to cultivating lifelong creativity.
The result: the art scene here is very much led by the government and corporate sector – it is top-down. There is little activity from the ground up. Rents are astronomical, space is a luxury, and the understanding and appreciation of art is driven by the galleries or auction houses. However, I believe that perceptions are shifting and with each generation comes progression, so time will tell.
Mona Choo on Singulart: https://www.singulart.com/en/artist/mona-choo-30
The website of the artist: http://www.monachoo.com/Home.html