Espace Louis Vuitton Singapore presents “The Art of Dress”, an exhibition of works by two contemporary Hong Kong Chinese artists.
Clothes are idiosyncratic and personal; what we wear sets us apart from others but it can also identify ourselves as part of a community or culture. Ideals about beauty and style change over time and some garments embody the major stylistic concepts of an age.
The exhibition “The Art of Dress” is not a fashion show. It is not concerned with fashion or glamour or the cut, colour, drape, fit, function or feel of any particular garment or any particular period, community or style. Rather, “The Art of Dress” aims to explore the essence of dress as an abstract concept, the idea of clothing as a metaphor for the body and the fact that we are all individually different but connected to each other through our humanity. It is a celebration of the things that make us different and those that bind us together.
I was privileged to sit down and talk with both artists at the preview on June 13.
Movana Chen is a Hong Kong based artist and curator. She studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion and received her Bachelor of Fine Art from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Hong Kong. In 2003, while working as an accountant in a shipping company, Chen first conceived of the idea to use magazines as the basis of her work. Her very first dress woven in September 2004 from 60 shredded pages from ID Magazine is on display here – “ID Magazine Dress” from Deconstructing (2004). The title itself hints at an interesting fact: Chen had to extract the fragment and reconstruct the dress from another piece that is on display – Deconstructing (2004-2008) that was her first solo project in 2008 where she reconstructed all 24 pieces of her wearable artwork into a single large object.
It is fascinating to listen to Chen describe her artistic process. How DOES one knit using paper? Chen first glues the pages of books together to make a very long sheet of paper that she then shreds into sheets and then knits together. She also explained that she used a number 4 knitting needle to achieve a tighter weave. Visitors will be able to view her knitting process from a video; “Travelling Dress” (2012) that documents the process by which she made the work “Travelling Dress” (2012) out of approximately 400 pages from 5 shredded Louis Vuitton catalogues as she travelled around Asia.
Chen’s art is not about recycling. She exasperatedly recounts how people have sent reams of magazines to her studio. “I want something meaningful […] something you think is important that you want to share with me, don’t give it to me just because you want to throw it away.”
One of Chen’s pet peeves is when people compliment her on her knitting skills, as they have not grasped the message behind her works. Chen literally weaves a dialogue through the knitting of these multi-languages hidden within the books and magazines. She particularly enjoys knitting with books as they hold deeper meanings for her; the richness of the imagined worlds within mingled with the personal histories of the people who gave these books to her. Thus Chen creates an alternative way of ‘reading’ and exploring art as a dialogue between visual language and the viewer. And in the light of our digitized society, to re-examine what human communication can be.
An integral member of Hong Kong’s contemporary arts scene, Man Fung Yi graduated from the Department of Fine Art at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 1990 and further obtained a Masters in Fine Art and Masters in Religious Studies (Daoism) at the CUHK in 1999 and 2008 respectively.
Man is recognised within Hong Kong’s contemporary art scene for her distinctly feminine sculptures that often exhibit the value she places on Chinese tradition as she strives to keep her heritage alive. Man is extremely passionate about her work and eagerly flips through her portfolio showing me photos of her works and her son who she credits as a major source of inspiration.
Man’s metal sculptures are derived from the form of actual garments worn by her and her family or garments that have particular significance for her. Her sculptures are not only dazzling, they are also intimate records of the lives and bodies of her and her family at a specific time and place, carriers of memories and the product of her every day sentiments. During the welding process, the original clothes are burnt away and spiritually transformed into another form of existence. They have been turned into a permanent record, giving solid form to intangible memories.
During her pregnancy, to help calm herself, she developed a method of burning holes in silk using an incense stick. As seen in Man’s Needlework (BS) (2010), this creative process is both organic and philosophical. The holes are born when the burning incense penetrates the silk and the size of the hole reaches its maximum as the expanding burning process dies out. The incense stick is simultaneously burning out its life as it creates a hole. Thus Man explores the concept of initiation and extinction, light and darkness, beginning and end, and hence life and death.
She tells me, “I like to touch the easel of life and death.” This fascination led her to pursue religious studies in Daoism as she sought to find out “the primal meaning of life and the cosmos”, because “to know more about death will allow me to understand more about life.”
The “Art of Dress” exhibition continues till September 2012.
Louis Vuitton and Art
A symbol of elegance and style throughout the world, Louis Vuitton has cultivated a close relationship with the world of art since its founding in 1854. Collaborations between Louis Vuitton and various artists have taken a variety of forms such as “Louis Vuitton Art Talks” organised worldwide, contemporary art exhibitions in cultural spaces named “Espace Louis Vuitton” in Paris, Tokyo and Singapore and commissions for site-specific installations in Louis Vuitton stores and windows.
For more information visit the Louis Vuitton website: www.louisvuitton.com
Espace Louis Vuitton Singapore, Louis Vuitton Island Maison
Marina Bay Sands
2 Bayfront Avenue, B2-36
Sunday to Thursday 10.00 – 23.00
Friday to Saturday 10.00 – 00.00
Photo credit: Courtesy the artists, Man Fung Yi and Movana Chen, and Clement Ledermann