INTO AIR is a body of work that primarily deals with time. I say primarily, because it also deals with death. Without death, there is no time. Time only possesses great beauty and worth in the absence of eternity — that is why much of my practice deals with “holding on” to certain moments, because they exist and then are no more.
In 2017, what started out as a benign curiosity about this holding of time in an ephemeral object like ice, grew into a full-blown obsession with creating and documenting the disintegration of large sculptural blocks of frozen pigment, over the next 3 years. Ice is a perfect material because it cannot last. Its metamorphosis from solid, liquid to air, reflects both the arresting presence and passage of cyclical time. My journey of chasing time from one state to the next, crystallizes in a series of photographs CLOCKS, films TIME LOST FALLING IN LOVE, and residue paintings ASH.
INTO AIR is a work of remembrance; an acceptance of transience; and an ode to the truth that the most beautiful things in this world are the ones we cannot hold on to no matter how we try.
CLOCKS are monumental photo portraits of ice pigment blocks at various stages of disintegration. Once hauled from the freezer, each block is meticulously framed and shot at 10 specific angles. This process is repeated at intervals of 4 hours until the block erodes entirely. Each colour glacier block weighs approximately 60 kg, and undergoes a 3 week freezing process of building unique pigment shapes and layers into its final form, inside a minus 18 degree industrial freezer. 3 main types of pigments are used in the architecture of each block: Acrylic, Dyes and Inks.
INTO AIR is precisely a record and remnant of vessels (of time and colour) as they vanish ‘into air’. Created over a span of three years, the body of work in INTO AIR continues Ng’s preoccupation with time and her attempts to capture and convey its emotional tenor and elasticity, as opposed to the cold and factual progression of numerals commonly used to tell and record time.
– Tan Siuli, Curator
Through this series, I sought to capture time in a re-imagined form. I have always felt that the way in which we process or measure time, via a cold series of numbers — years, days, hours, minutes and seconds — is antithetical to the true nature of time, which is emotional and elastic. Time speeds up when we have fun; slows down while we wait; and stands still when we fall in love. Usurping the sterile face of a clock, each portrait is a massive lodestone of colour, shapes and textures — expressing what time inhabits as a visceral form.
- Dawn Ng
TIME LOST FALLING IN LOVE is a series of time-lapse films, which document the complete erosion of select pigment blocks. Upon building a custom pool set that is able to contain the total liquid volume per melted block, the start-to-end disintegration of a single block is filmed by a rotating team in the studio over the course of 15-20 hours. Post production, the recordings are meticulously edited and compressed into 20 minute films. While CLOCKS is a process of stopping and holding time, TIME LOST FALLING IN LOVE grew as an endeavour to bend time. Although time is technologically sped up, the resultant languid collapse of pigments in the films mirrors the cathartic release of a waterfall in slow motion, suspending time between oneself and a moving image.
Ash, the final body of work in Into Air, is a series of what the artist terms ‘residue paintings’, created by blanketing the liquid remains of each melted coloured block with large sheets of paper. Left to rest in a vat over weeks until all the liquid has evaporated, the sheets are slowly stained and marbled with tributaries and pools of pigment, a process that Ng has likened to ‘sieving time’.
– Tan Siuli, Curator
Cavan Road was the perfect exhibition venue for this body of work, the space itself a time capsule, suspended between its former life as a ship repair workshop and residence, and its future incarnation as a boutique development. Its walls, washed with the patina of time, are a poetic backdrop for the fluid scapes of Ng’s Ash paintings, while the dated domestic interiors of the residences upstairs lend a poignancy to the idea of lives lived and the accumulation of time.
Tan Siuli, Curator
Into Air is a complete ‘cycle’, charting the lifespan of a block of frozen pigment as it is exposed to the elements, melts, and then returns to air. The works are all traces and residues of each block’s existence, and record the movement of its states from solid to liquid, and eventually to air: from weight to lightness, monumentality to nothingness. If some of Ng’s works suggest a progressive desire to memorialise, to pin down the abstract or evanescent in a more durable or lasting form, then this body of work cycles in reverse, surrendering to the inevitable dissolution of matter and form.
– Tan Siuli, Curator