[refer also to “Background to Inspire#5: Going Home (Calvin Pang)]In the artist’s own words:
“pang is an art practitioner based in Singapore whose works are made up of the ordinaries in life, solitary interludes and encounters with people. Along with his art practice, he documents his existence through photographs, drawings and writings.”
(This article’s mainly written in the first person, words mainly from the artist to allow that freedom of space on the intimate topic of loss).Through His Eyes…
“I believe my work can be seen as a documentation of my encounters with people and thoughts during my solitary interludes and narratives about the ordinary things I see around me. Basically to put it in simpler terms, it is like a diary about the world, from my point of view.
Yes, there is always meaning behind my work, even though I may not understand it fully sometimes… the work will reveal itself to me over time or at times through other audience who have encountered the work.”
A Natural Response to Creation…
“…I believe I am also a created being and to understand things around me, the natural response is to keep creating.”
A Sacred Place for Reflection…
“I see my preference to recharge away from people as a good time for reflection and reorganising my thoughts. It is like a sacred space where I subconsciously process things, because traces of encounters I had throughout the day will surface periodically and things will make sense thereafter. It is also an important period where I come in terms with my disappointments and think about how I can move forward. This applies both to the creative process of art making and to life… which led to how I see these two elements as a singular term in reality. That might explain why I would very often prefer to take the longer route.”
“…Life is impermanent, so is our encounter with the people we will meet and the moment which is happening right now as we speak. You can see it as being mindful or living-in-the-present… but I am taking my perspective where it is about finding the little ‘grace’ while being on the road. I believe a person will recognise the essence of ‘grace’ when one learns to be reflective of each moment in life.
I lost my mother to cancer in October 2014. Although we did not have the best mother-son relationship, her departure made me realise about the attachment I actually have towards her.
I initially turned to people around me. I looked around and see if they could help me understand my loss. They failed. I then turned to leaders from my faith group. They did not have the answers either, although they provided sufficient pastoral care. Feeling disappointed, I turned away from most and withdrew.
Looking into myself was an impossible task too because I felt a complex network of emotions which I do not understand what they are. It feels like a mix of grief, loneliness, sense of loss, relief, hatred, confusion and not being understood for how I am feeling. I have met sensitive people during this period but their comfort felt distant although I feel their sincerity. And then there was art.
I made an installation about my wound. I traced back mediums familiar to me during my childhood days (talcum powder). I started to inject my emotions and imagery of what is the final physical state of my mother (ashes), bearing in mind about making my work relevant through aesthetics and material choice. I thought about what will provoke a sense of loss in contemporary culture (time slipping away) and what elements the general public would be familiar with (clock). And the work came together. Though personal, the work felt distant at the beginning, until people started to talk to me about it. Some are in my shoes. Some felt my loss. The work gave them a space to release their emotions as it did for me when I was making it. There was empathy. Art restored a fragment of me and it did for strangers too. There was grace and a safe space.And then I started by writing about her. About her favourite food. About our apartment. About me thinking of her. About the chopstick I picked up – what that was left of her after cremation. About meeting her in the sky. And these are written in Chinese, a language she tutored me personally throughout my academic years. And these works are published. Though personal, the work also felt distant at the beginning, until people started to talk to me about it. Those who knew her personally felt her absence/presence in the writings. For those who did not, the writings slow them down. The writings encourage them to contemplate. The writings hit home.
With the process of making art, my wounds are not magically healed, but they are given the proper treatment. These wounds are given the ‘space’ to heal. And this, I believe, is how the role of ‘the wounded’ shifts into being ‘the healer’.”
*all emboldening by interviewer J.P. and not the artist’s own; and all photography of art exhibits taken from the artist’s website.
In Making Art…
“Take your time.”
The Earnest Humble Ideal…
“To keep making art and probably to finish the books that I have bought but have not had time to start reading.”
All The Way…
“I heard this somewhere… but I think it means something along this train of thought. ‘The difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional hasn’t gave up.’ ”
Keep on Keepin’ on…
Keep making mistakes, keep learning from your mistakes, keep moving forward. There is always enough grace to be encountered on the road. If there isn’t, then be the one who gives.”
Pang is currently doing a Postgraduate in Art Therapy in Lasalle College of the Arts.
Calvin Pang’s current exhibitions (Japan, Singapore):
Calvin Pang’s current exhibitions (Japan, Singapore):
2016 Summer Festival in the Owl’s Town, Toshima Performing Arts Center, Tokyo, Japan | 15 July – 30 August
Calvin Pang’s upcoming exhibitions:
2016 Vanitas, Intersections Art Gallery, Singapore | 19 October – 2 November
Pang’s debut book publication:
“‘Going Home’ is a compilation of Pang’s thoughts penned independently (about his late-mother, his partner and cities he love); and the featured photographs are a part of his collection of visual studies on the narratives within a city.” ‘Going Home‘, the original book series by Pang is available for purchase at these places:
Intersections Gallery E-Store
Calvin Pang’s Official Website:
If this has encouraged or inspired you in anyway, please share it with someone else coping with loss, or whom you think would also benefit from it. Follow FB/InspireIssue and IG@InspireIssue for the monthly Inspire# feature.