INTO AIR Singapore
Into Air (2018-present) is a growing body of work rooted in developing an alternate understanding and expression of time.
What started out as a benign curiosity about holding 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. Ice is a perfect material because it cannot last. Its metamorphoses from solid, liquid to air, reflects both the arresting presence and passage of cyclical time. This journey of chasing time from one state to the next, crystallises in a large body of work that can be broken down into 3 parts: a series of photographs, ‘Clocks’; a series of films, ‘Time Lost Falling in Love’; and a series of residue paintings, ‘Ash’.
The works are all traces and residues of each block’s existence as it memorialises its states from solid to liquid, and eventually to air. This passage from monumentality to nothingness is a work of remembrance 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.
Part of the series Into Air, ‘Clocks’ are large photo portraits of ice pigment blocks at various stages of disintegration. These massive meteorites of colour captured stand as an arresting visual solidification of time. Each block, created by building unique pigment shapes and layers over weeks to form a 60kg mass, is meticulously framed and shot at 10 specific angles every 4 hours till it disappears completely. The particular architecture of different pigments in every block, gives each one a distinct orchestra of hues, forms, textures and melt unique to its own disintegration.
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 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
Part of the series Into Air, ‘Time Lost Falling in Love’ is a series of time-lapse video portraits, documenting the meditative collapse of large blocks of frozen pigment. Upon building a custom pool set that is able to hold the total liquid volume of a melted block, its start-to-end disintegration is labouriously filmed over the course of 15-20 hours. Post production, the recordings are meticulously edited and compressed. Although time is technologically sped up, the intended resultant languid collapse of rich pigments in the film mirrors the cathartic release of a waterfall in slow motion, suspending time between oneself and a moving image. Meant for a big screen, the singular erosion of these coloured glaciers floods the mind with a sense of beauty and destruction, embodying the full emotional tenor of time which will not last.
‘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