Personal and endearing, IN FLUX is an artistic endeavour by New York-based Singaporean artist, Dr Wee Hong Ling. A parallel to her constant position of flux, the collection echoes her experiences of uncertainty as she navigates the physical, metaphysical, and humanistic worlds.
The project is done in commemoration of International Women’s Day – where Dr Wee expresses her sentiments of the immense gender gap in the field of ceramic production. Less than 10% of the world’s collected works are from women, and Dr Wee saw this as an opportunity to challenge the stereotype.
“Perhaps because I am a product of an all-girls school through age 16, and I grew up with two older brothers who never taught me how to be “lady-like”, I have always adopted a gender-neutral approach to life,” she explains. “I created these large ceramic vessels and steel works which would typically be considered “men’s work” because the processes are too gruelling for women.”
The project is a motley composite of three distinct series of ceramic works – Brooklyn, Moxie, and My Family Portrait – each telling their own story through Dr Wee’s perspective, but also collectively coming together to stand testament to the ruthlessness of time and space.
The stories of Dr Wee’s vacillation – perhaps through a paradoxical mix of both circumstance and choice – takes us between the two extremes of arts and science, east and west, and work and family. Dr Wee relentlessly intermingles between the duality of her situation, holding on to unfaltering ideals.
In her pieces, Dr Wee’s aesthetic preference of a strong profile shows – akin to her unbeaten tenacity and fortitude. Followers of her work will also notice that the pieces carry her signature silhouette.
Brooklyn references Dr Wee’s meditation between the continents and acknowledges both Singapore and New York as her homes. The series of bowls have symmetrical forms with cantilevered rims that subtly roll inwards, and where need by, securely hold the bowls’ contents – suggesting a sense of protective comfort as an extension of containment, akin to the way both houses and protects its occupants.
Moxie encapsulates the qualities of fortitude and persistence, both as requisites but also results of her art – not just in her mental tenacity, but also in the deliberate act of choosing a medium that presents a physical challenge. The pieces do this with colourful, pursed edges that deny access to their insides, forcing viewers to imagine their internal form – almost as if putting up a display of internal strength.
My Family Portrait presents her interpretations of her family through emblems of clay and steel – likely a representation of the foundation and support that has moulded her over the years. The series comprises two pieces, and are separated by a long gap of 15 years. Both are variants in the same theme, taking a common point of departure expressed in different materials – just as how members of a family are base themselves on the same fundamentals.
In an exclusive interview with DANAMIC.ORG, Dr Wee shares that part of the exhibition’s logo is in fact done up by her father. “The calligraphy of the Chinese title (之间) is by my late father who passed away over 20 years ago,” she explains. She has memories of her father practising calligraphy as a hobby, and one of her most treasured possessions is a stack of his writing – where she extracted the two characters.
Dr Wee is grateful for the opportunity to pursue her passion in the arts, and mentions that while her father did not witness her transition from the sciences to the arts, she believes that he would have been proud of her courage and tenacity nonetheless. She also thanks her two elder brothers for taking good care of her mother, giving her the freedom to choose her own path without guilt.
Photos by Nigel Noah Chan of the DANAMIC Team.