Can you talk a bit about your use of materials and your work process?
My methodology is assemblage-based, and I use a jumble of materials to achieve visual and textural juxtapositions. For White Knuckles, I wanted to focus on the rough surface and deckle edge of handmade paper and the versatility of terracotta. I started making and learning more about the materials and methods through trial and error. Once I had the physical objects to work with – sheets of paper, pieces of terracotta – I made decisions on how they could work together. I went into Mailbox with a few ideas of how to present the different elements, but ultimately it came down to configurations that worked in the moment and on-site.
Looking on your website I found out that you were born in Singapore- something I was not aware of. Did you grow up there and do you think this has informed your practice?
Yes, I was born in Singapore and lived there until my family moved to Australia when I was eleven. I spent some of my formative years in Singapore’s unforgiving school system. My experience was that pragmatism and competitiveness were rewarded above all. There was a distinct culture of fear. Concepts like ‘kiasu’ - fear of losing out - and ‘kiasi’ - fear of death are ever present in Singapore. These attitudes have definitely affected my choices and my work. I think the playfulness and haptic sensibility of my practice is a response, and counter, to my Singaporean upbringing.
I know you studied painting at VCA do you see your self as a painter? I would say your works are very painterly though are not painting in the traditional sense.
It’s funny you mentioned that, because every once in a while I think to myself ‘I wish I was a painter’. Even though I studied painting, I stopped painting (in a canvas and brush sense) soon after starting art school. Painters are untouchable to me...Having said that, I can definitely see what you mean. I admire the dynamism paint can offer an image, and I try to emulate that in my work. So no and yes - I’ve always seen myself as a person who used paint, not a painter, but this may change now that you mention it.
You also work with installation particularly with light- I can see how this has translated in these works. Do you see this exhibition relating to your installation practice?
When I moved out of my studio at the end of last year I had to downsize my practice dramatically. Now I’m working out of my small one bedroom apartment that I share with another artist (and her materials and work), and our living room doubles as a studio for both of us. This can be chaotic, so I’ve become super keen on making work and using materials that can be stored easily, like under the bed or on a shelf. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with my previous work, but I tended to think big (literally) which meant I owned many bags of sand, salt, and other impractically large and heavy things. For me, downsizing means working less with installation, so when I started making work for Mailbox, I thought of it as an exercise in restraint and to treat the boxes as frames, rather than 3D spaces.
When I started to install, however, it became clear that the space is meant for installation work, and I felt it would be foolish not to take advantage of the mailboxes in this way. So yes, I do see this work as part of my installation practice.
How did you find working on a small scale?
White Knuckles was my first real attempt at working smaller. It was challenging not because of the scale, but the dimensions. I often re-purpose existing artworks and materials into new pieces. My installations have always been a continuation of previous work, where I rework spatial ideas and materials and refine them through each exhibition. So while making the work for Mailbox, I thought about how the work could exist after the show, which was made more challenging because of the unusual dimensions of the mailboxes.
You have also been involved with and still are involved with ARIs can you talk a bit about this?
Yes I’ve help run Knight St Projects, previously Knight St Art Space, since late 2012. We ran out of the vacant shopfront of a sharehouse in Footscray until the end of our lease in December 2014. While in Footscray, we supported emerging artists by providing an accessible gallery through which new and experiment work was realised. As Knight St Projects, we are expanding on this by working towards encouraging expansive, cross-disciplinary discussion. We have a few projects under works - publications, pop up shops, accumulative projects - that we hope will make the most of our current ‘satellite’ state. Stay tuned!
Any artists or works in particular that influenced this show or your practice in general?
I’m constantly collecting images and I think this habit influences my practice. I’m particularly drawn to art and images that highlight the possibility of abstraction in everyday scenes, if that makes sense. Geometric abstraction, art brut, japanese woodblock print, the memphis group and contemporary re-interpretations of this imagery make up the majority of my collection. I’ve started using Tumblr as a way to do this - http://cheralynlim.tumblr.com/.
Any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
I’ve got a few small projects going on this year. I’m developing my paper and book works for an upcoming exhibition with Bus Projects in July/August. I also have a collaborative project and residency with artist Jaime Powell at the Footscray Community Arts Centre in August/September. As part of the Knight St team, I’m putting together a compilation of texts and images that records Knight St history thus far.
You can see more of Cheralyn Lims' work here: