Published on February 7th, 2013 | by Elizabeth Coleman0
Interview with artist Sookoon Ang
Singaporean artist Sookoon Ang has a gift for shedding new light on the same old stories of the human condition. Her work addresses the physical and metaphysical aspects of common objects and occurrences, finding poetic and sublime qualities in our ordinary existence. Highly talented in several different mediums, she creates sculptural installations, paintings, drawings and animated video shorts, often flirting with darker emotions and themes to craft works of art that transcend their origin.
In Say Hi to Forever, Ang used familiar images of My Little Pony, a symbol of childhood idealism and optimism, and dropped them into sharp and angular landscapes. The landscapes are reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s drawings of infinitely trapped spaces, echoing the landscapes of depressed minds and evoking sentiments of adult disillusionment.
In her installation, Waves/Waifs, Ang created brooms made from blonde wigs. The result was surreal. Luxurious golden locks of hair lay on the dirty floor, raising questions about metaphysical duality and the intersection of beauty, indulgence and utility.
One of her most well-known series, Your Love is Like A Chunk of Gold, features decaying bread growing crystals from ammonium phosphate, like crystal mold. The bread is a familiar item: a comfort food. The crystal growth, however, makes it seem strange and treacherous. Ang gleaned inspiration from author Jeanette Winterson who wrote, “Nothing could be more familiar than love. Nothing else eludes us so completely.” Similar to the experience of love, Ang’s bread becomes an oxymoronic object of familiarity and strangeness, comfort and pain.
As Ang describes, “Making art is like telling a love story or composing a love song. There are endless love stories told and love songs sung. When I make art, I ask myself how I can tell the same old story of the human experience in a new way.”
Art Animal: Where do you get inspiration for your work?
Sookoon Ang: I used to get my inspiration mostly from literature because it conjures a lot of mental imagery. Now, I spend TONS of time looking at blogs & Tumblr.
I enjoy looking at images clipped from all sorts of sources. I enjoy them better than pictorial books where tastemakers carefully select what’s good and what’s not in their opinions.
AA: Describe your process when creating. Is it an emotional experience for you?
SA: I spend a lot of time thinking, pondering, looking and sleeping on ideas. So much so that sometimes I appear to be lazy and idling even to myself. It is an emotional process, though. I am paranoid about running out of ideas. I don’t have a nice filing cabinet full of ideas A-Z to use at my fancy. When I have one, I play out the idea in my mind. I tend to it gently and dislike discussing the work before it is realized because any sort of negative remark may cause me to lose love or enthusiasm for it. It’s that sensitive.
AA: It seems like you tend to juxtapose opposites in your work.
SA: There is no one way of seeing things. It’s important to try to see as much facets as possible to get a better picture.
AA: Your work seems disarmingly honest in many ways, especially your portrayals of human emotions and reactions. Are you trying to shock people with your work?
SA: Honesty is probably more explicit than violence or pornography these days.
AA: What is your personal philosophy?
SA: No guts, no glory. You need guts — courage to face critiques, rejections and failures — to make art.
AA: How has your art progressed over time? Have you had any major realizations or breakthroughs?
SA: I think it used to be more self-indulgent. I’m not saying that self-indulgent works are bad, though. Henry Darger’s In the Realms of the Unreal is superbly self-indulgent, yet fascinating at the same time. Now, I’m interested in all sorts of subject matters, and when I find one that catches my interest, I’ll think about how to incorporate it into my work. Major breakthroughs like Pollack taking on action painting? I think even that was a slow and painful process of unearthing rather than breaking through. Breakthroughs probably happen when people rub their eyes and suddenly see value in your work that was previously disregarded. You can’t just jump from nothing to something unless it is divine intervention.
AA: I read somewhere you had delusions of grandeur growing up. What has art taught you about that?
SA: Never trade magic for fact. There are no trade-backs.
AA: What do you think is the biggest challenge for humanity in the coming future?
SA: Being conscious. We can’t be trapped mindlessly as workers and consumers, yet our education is rigged that way.
For more information about Sookoon Ang and her work, visit her website at www.sookoonang.com.