Art Experienced Through Claire Deniau’s Senses and Lenses

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” – C.S. Lewis

There’s this famous French song by Édith Piaf titled “La Vie en Rose”, which translates to “life through rose-tinted glasses”. The singer croons about how falling in love has made everything around her seem beautiful.

Singapore-based French artist Claire Deniau’s new exhibited work, Senses and Lenses, is poetically entwined with the plight of the modern painter. She has incorporated flawless mineral glass pieces that act as lenses in her paintings: looking through the lenses from far, up close, or not looking through them at all gives patrons of the exhibit a different experience each time. It inspires the kind of playful interactivity she wishes for her pieces to offer.

Her work offers a cheeky perspective on the way we have begun to appreciate art: through lenses of our own creation – we take away all the feelings and stories an artist tries to convey through the piece, and replace it with our own filters. Up until the digital age, lenses in front of people’s eyes were mostly sentimental; what they saw was a result of their feelings.

Today, there is no novelty in citing the ways that smartphones and social media are impacting the way we experience. Though I will admit that the effect on Yayoi Kusama’s ‘insta-worthy’ dotty exhibition Life is the Heart of a Rainbow had proven new media’s impact on the way we experience something. The 2017 exhibition held at the National Arts Gallery was the most popular selfie background last year, and attracted droves of patrons looking to add some colour to their Instagram feeds.

Although it generated eye-popping publicity for the exhibition, it is understandable how the phenomenon could also discredit an artists’ work. The creators of such intricate yet extravagant work do it to give their patrons a unique experience; an event that takes place in real life and time: one that makes us forget where we are, yet taking us somewhere we always wanted to go all at the same time.

Claire Deniau does not mind that most of the comments on your photo taken at the art gallery are only of you, with no love spared toward the artworks. What she does feel disturbed by, though, is the fact that artists’ endeavours are being wasted. She feels that the masses are not pleased by an art piece they do not wish to interact with on a personal level.

The Singaporean-based French artist spent her early days as a painter in the Botanic Gardens, where she also made her first oil painting. Singapore has a deep sentimental value to her, and she believes that she can continue to contribute actively to the arts scene here.

Claire also shared that the average time spent looking at paintings today is a mere five seconds. I asked her how long it would take to really get an experience, and she laughed, saying that it varies from person to person. Her curator, Marie, added that she herself spends hours gazing at Claire’s paintings, in preparation for an exhibition opening. However, at the close of the exhibit, Marie always ends up learning more about herself.

How do I know that the blue I see is the same blue as yours?” a child asks his mother, staring up at her with huge, eager eyes. His mother replies that she does not know, her gaze still fixed on the horizon, staring at something non-existent.

It’s a question as old as time, one that we may never get an answer to. What we do know for sure though, is that our innate perspective directly influences the way we view the world around us.

Intersections Gallery
34 Kandahar Street, Singapore

Senses and Lenses is open from 12 April to 27 May and is part of the Voilah! French Festival Singapore 2018, which showcases the best of France-Singapore partnerships and innovation in the arts, culture, and science.

For more information, check out the festival’s bespoke line-up of programmes at:

Photos courtesy of Intersections Gallery.

Jeevan Vishnu

I'm 6'5, 220 - and there's two of me.

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