FOST Galley in Singapore presents “A Common Thread: Archiving A Practice”, a solo show by Malaysian artist Grace Tan.

Examining her practice over the last 15 years, the show is Grace Tan’s third with the gallery. Art Radar looks at the exhibition and the artist’s work.

Grace Tan, "A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice," installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan, “A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice,” installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan is a multidisciplinary artist specialising in the area of wearable and spatial structures. Tan’s experiments often blur the lines between design, art and mathematics. In recent years, her work has evolved beyond wearable fabric pieces into complex site-specific installations and spatial constructions while retaining a core method-based working process.

Born in 1979 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, Tan completed an MA in Fine Arts in 2016 at the LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore and Goldsmiths College, University of London, and also holds a Diploma with Merit in Apparel Design and Merchandising from Temasek from Polytechnic Design School, Malaysia (1999). She currently lives and works in Singapore.

Grace Tan, "A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice," installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan, “A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice,” installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Working on large-scale projects, Tan has been commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum, The Esplanade and the Land Transport Authority of Singapore. She has represented Singapore at the Singapore Biennale in 2013, the Fukutake House/Setouchi Triennale in 2013 (in collaboration with The Substation), the Aichi World Expo in 2005, the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008, London Design Week in 2006 and State of Design Melbourne 2008-2010. In 2012, Tan was awarded the distinguished President’s Design Award for Building as a Body, a collaboration with the architect Randy Chan, and in 2013 she won the Singapore Young Artist Award and was nominated for the President’s Young Talents Award.

Grace Tan, "A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice," installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan, “A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice,” installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Formally trained in fashion design, Tan founded her art and design practice in 2003, under the name of Kwodrent Studio. Through Kwodrent, Tan presents series of works that are based on the study of compositions, construction methods and materials. Tan’s primary interest lies in the exploration of relationships between the objects that surround and envelop the human body.

Each series of works is defined and shaped by an intuitive and expressive working process that records the progression of a work from start to finish. Each stage of the work is numbered and dated to form a chronological record of the series’ development. This methodological approach forms the basis of Tan’s archive, which in turn forms the subject of the show at FOST Gallery, entitled “A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice”.

Grace Tan, "A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice," installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan, “A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice,” installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

The exhibited artworks span a body of work produced over a period of fifteen years, from 2003 up to the present. All taken from works produced by Tan under the Kwodrent moniker, the show displays all stages of her creative process, from initial designs and investigations with materials, to final sculptures – and in doing so charts her progression from designer to artist.

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Grace Tan. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Speaking to Art Radar about the conceptual drive behind the exhibition, Tan explained:

I thought it was an opportune time to trace my practice for the past 15 years. The two catalysts were a recent exhibition in Japan where I had my early works on display; and the successful completion of a monumental installation. […] I realised that it was an important exercise for both myself, as the artist, and my audience to fully comprehend the transition from fashion designer to sculptor.

Grace Tan, "A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice," installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan, “A Common Thread: Archiving a Practice,” installation view, FOST Gallery, 2018. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Reflecting the processes that shape the outcome of a final work, “A Common Thread: Archiving a Common Practice” presents Tan’s archive with a sense of its evidential value. Removed from the original context of production, the show produces connections between Tan’s work in both art and design. As Stephanie Fong, owner of FOST Gallery, who has been working with Tan for over ten years, told Art Radar,

I first encountered [Grace’s] pieces when she was still working in fabric and I always felt that her fashion accessories were wearable pieces of sculpture. It therefore comes as no surprise that she is now a fully-fledged artist, and recently completed an installation of her metal sculptures in new property developments in Singapore.

Grace Tan, 'in the stillness... a still small voice' (2014). Old wooden bench, polypropylene loop pins and nylon, 66 cable ties, 185 x 60 x 55cm. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan, ‘in the stillness… a still small voice’, 2014, old wooden bench, polypropylene loop pins and nylon, 66 cable ties, 185 x 60 x 55 cm. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

The collection is comprised of commissioned works, personal projects and objects made during residencies. Tan’s archive, originally conceived behind closed doors, is normally in a state of inactivity – hidden from view and housed in rows of boxes. For the very first time in her practice, Tan has unlocked this archival stasis by inverting the intimate processes of her work and opening up her methodology to public viewing in a gallery. She notes:

In the exhibition, I laid bare my entire practice, showing completed works, works-in-progress, parts of works, study, models and maquettes, in an archival setting. I juxtaposed my early fabric works with the maquettes for metal sculptures, and while I did not imagine at that time I would be a full-time artist one day, the connection between these two works transcends both space and time.

Grace Tan, 'n. 309' (2011). Paper, chinese ink and cotton thread, dimensions variable. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Grace Tan, ‘n. 309’, 2011, paper, chinese ink and cotton thread, dimensions variable. Image courtesy FOST Gallery.

Where once the pieces belonged to the private and chronological memories of an individual, they have now been re-presented to create new resonances in the present. Instead of solely existing as recorded or preserved works, Tan’s creative development has been offered up to the gallery visitor to reflect upon her individual practice beyond the usual cycle of creation and production.

The exhibition’s “common threads” are the ways in which the display invites us to respond to the show as a site of construction, and to consider the role of the artist, the space itself and its host – the gallery. Although it contains both documentation and personal historiography, it is also a space for exploration as the possible meanings and implications of Tan’s works blur the potential readings of reenactment, curation and the consumption of archives.

Jessica Clifford

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“A Common Thread: Archiving A Common Practice” by Grace Tan is on view from 14 April to 27 May 2018 at FOST Gallery, 1 Lock Road, #01-02 Gillman Barracks, Singapore 108932

Related topics: Art and architecturegallery showsInstallationevents in SingaporeThreadMalaysian artists

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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