Interview: Pauline Phoon

Interview: Pauline Phoon

Interviews | January 27, 2024 |

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Image courtesy of Pauline Phoon

Interview: Pauline Phoon
Luca Curci
talks with Pauline Phoon during the 13th edition of CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2023, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.

Pauline Phoon, aka Phoonies, is a Singaporean artist who studied art in school and has revived her love for drawing since 2021. Currently, a social entrepreneur working with youths, sketching is a quiet space for her to reflect and process personal stillness. She is drawn to the simplicity of lines with minimal colours, a contrast to our complex world. Besides ink, she also uses pencil and acrylic while experimenting with other mediums. Largely monochromatic, these sketches evoke a sense of nostalgia, reminding Singaporeans of how far the nation has come. Pauline also works with ink on dark paper to capture the beauty of light in darkness

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Image courtesy of Pauline Phoon

Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Pauline Phoon –
My drawings and art have always been a private activity which I hardly share with anyone. I did study art and the only people who saw them were my teachers and art classmates. It was only two years ago after an open surgery that my spiritual father encouraged me to sell my art after seeing my sketch of his pet chickens laying eggs. Since I was on medical leave to recuperate, I decided to start sharing my sketches on Instagram and also set up a simple online shop. If it did not gain traction, I was prepared to stop eventually. Little did I expect the opposite. People appreciate my art. Requests for commission drawings started to come in. Opportunities started opening up when I least expected them. I am still in the beginning stage with a steep learning curve ahead of me as an artist.

LC – How much has the city/country in which you grew up/born affected your work as an artist?
PP –
I draw mostly of Singapore, the nation which I was born and grew up in. Each time I embark on drawing a building or landscape, I take time to read up on its history to uncover the richness of the space in time. It is fascinating that a physical space can hold so many stories, witness so many significant events, and be in many people’s memories. Even though Singapore’s history is short compared to many civilisations, there is still much to uncover about this small nation.

LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
PP –
I find inspiration from what I see around me. It can be places that I visit or places that I see online. Besides the beauty of the architecture and landscaping, I want to feel the space. What emotions does the space evoke? What kind of memories does the space hold for people? Stories around the space become very important sources for me. All these brews within me and eventually I form a visual picture of drawing that I can start working on.

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Image courtesy of Pauline Phoon

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
PP –
Translating the visual in my mind into actual artwork is a process that can fall apart so easily, but it is very satisfying when it all works out. Even though my primary medium is pen and ink, I often have to experiment with different techniques to create the effect that best represents what is in my head. For example, I was doing a small postcard-size drawing of a dandelion on a dark blue paper; and I needed a way to create very thin and light lines to portray the fluff blown by the wind, but white pens did not come in very fine tips. So I ended up using a pen on my right and a fine tip stick on my left hand working in swift motion. This took quite a bit of practice before I could actually start on the actual drawing. I also incorporated other mediums like pencil, charcoal, sumi-e and others to best depict the feel of the piece.

LC – How is your creative process?
PP –
The process starts with research. I will be looking up visual references, history and stories, checking out available mediums that may be suitable, and a whole range of things to build the visual image in my mind. Sometimes it can be long, and other times really quick for the visual image to form. My most conducive workspace will be my work table, especially if I am trying something different. Perhaps art has always been a very personal activity, thus sketching onsite does not have much appeal to me. I do go onsite to take photos and feel the space if this option is available. I work only on one artwork at a time. Art is possibly the only thing that I do not multitask. As I am also running a social enterprise, I usually have 2-3 hours blocks at one time to work on a piece. Perhaps one day I will have the privilege of committing more time to art.

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Image courtesy of Pauline Phoon

LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
PP –
I love that there are many artists from different countries of different mediums, going beyond visual arts of the usual paintings to photography and film, and to include performing arts like dance. I appreciate all these forms of the art and to have them in the same exhibition can stimulate all senses of a person, except perhaps taste. The only downside is that I am not present in person to experience all these.

LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
PP –
Rivers were the source of life and where communities formed before the advancement of technology. Singapore River was where the communities of early migrants to Singapore till the 1970s, gathered, worked and even lived. So you could say it was the birthplace of modern Singapore. The sketch of the Old Singapore River attempts to capture what is not visible now, a bustling trading area where boats came in to load and unload their goods. Even though the buildings around the river have changed significantly after the cleaning up of the Singapore River in 1977 – 1987, the river remains the same as a constant to this day. The Marina Bay of Singapore is an iconic area known to many globally. It is one of my favorite areas in Singapore with beautifully designed buildings around the body of water. This area looks completely different at night when the lights come on. During Christmas, Singapore buildings are adorned with lights. This drawing is a convergence of my faith and my home, crossing centuries of time and cultural space to culminate in my present space in Singapore.

LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
PP –
I just looked through the photos of CONTEMPORARY VENICE 13th Edition. I see people of different ethnicities and colours that I would not usually see in my home country. This is the first time my art has travelled out of Singapore to be exhibited. Taking a leap of faith to send two of my babies from Singapore to Venice to be in the care of people whom I do not know can be quite overwhelming. I am thankful that I did.

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Image courtesy of Pauline Phoon

LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
PP –
Seher has been very helpful and easing my concerns every step of the way. At the back of my mind, I am constantly evaluating if this is a scam, since such occurrences have exponentially increased in the past years. I was ready to drop this should there be any red flags. I am happy to share that the team at ITSLIQUID is professional and helpful to a newbie like me.

LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
PP –
I am very new to ITSLIQUID. In fact I only started knowing a little more after the invitation to be part of CONTEMPORARY VENICE 13th Edition was received. It is exciting to see different forms of art coming together in different cities in the world. I love how proactive the team is in supporting emerging artists like myself, providing a platform for exposure and to be a part of a larger community of global artists. I hope to know ITSLIQUID more over time.

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Image courtesy of Pauline Phoon

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