Perfect Stranger

S+S Sydney
24 Nov–22 Dec 2018
Opening Saturday 24 Nov, 3–5pm

“It often strikes me” says Ng “that when someone says they miss something, they ordinarily allude to a person, time or place; when what they truly miss is a version of themselves, which they can never get back to again. After all, what is each of us, but a vessel of vanishing selves?” 

Sullivan+Strumpf is delighted to present an exhibition by Singapore-based Dawn Ng. A collection of 26 texts distilled from of a year-long Q&A project between Ng and a correspondent previously unknown to her, Perfect Stranger draws from their daily ritual as well as Ng’s ongoing study of colour, emotion, nostalgia and time, to form an autobiographic aide-memoir.

Perfect Stranger is a collection text-images which form part of a year-long narrative portrait that began on 1.6.16. Each sheet emits a phosphorescence arising from a synthesis of shades that is unique to, and reflective of, its story. It is a fossilized, fleeting exchange shared by two women from different pasts, presents and futures. Over time, this process of inquisition and disclosure unveils an intimate tapestry of fact and fiction, spanning recollections, observations, questions, lists, stories, poems, confessions and jokes. Perfect Stranger is an experiment in freezing moments of oneself over time. 

Dawn Ng works across a diverse range of mediums, motives and scale, ranging from text, illustration, collage, light, sculpture and large-scale installations. Her work primarily deals with time, memory, identity and space. Solo exhibitions include Sixteen, Art Basel Hong Kong 2015; A Thing of Beauty, Art Paris Art Fair, Grand Palais, Paris, 2015; How to Disappear into a Rainbow, Fondation d’enterprise Hermes, Singapore, 2016; and Jeju Biennale, Korea, 2017.


‘Perfect Stranger’ - Tapestry of inner truth
By Zehavit Efrati
24 September 2018

‘The artist is the one able to digest facts, sensory inputs and then to present the digested facts... this is how the artist helps the non-artist to digest...’

(Wilfred R. Bion, in ‘Cogitations’)

The first time I heard Dawn present her work 4 years ago was a unique moment- as it reminded me an interpretation by an art school faculty member in the US - “good art is one that moves something in the inner world of the audience”. Dawn was speaking of nostalgia and longings, to an international audience training as docents at the Singapore Art Museum. I listened and felt tears form in my eyes. I was not the only one in the room. Dawn, by talking about her home, reminded me of mine. The way she understood emotions and thoughts was unusual. She reminded me of the theory and concepts of Wilfred R. Bion, a British psychoanalyst who explored emotional growth and the ability to think. To him, emotional growth requires meeting one’s own feelings, good and difficult experiences, and giving them purpose.

Bion thought that the artist, in the act of making art, digests the elements that are not accessible for us, and turns them into elements we can think about and feel. Dawn was talking about her experiences, and by giving them words and purpose she made them familiar and digestible for us. I was interested in learning more about both the aesthetic and the psychological aspects of her work.

Two years later, we started a project together, where Dawn suggested the Q&A model. My questions did not have importance of their own, only to the extent to which they offered a path for her inner world to emerge. Being intuitive and staying close to her experiences were the basic elements of my approach. Her movement between the different depths of her emotional life was one of the beautiful cores of this work.

I have learned that Dawn lives very close to her inner truth. Bion called it ‘O’, “The absolute truth, the thing itself”. He assumed that there is an emotional reality inside us, which is mysterious and unknown. Nevertheless, there are moments when we are in a certain emotional state, that we can reveal something new about ourselves. Whenever we try to forget our theories and desires to achieve something and just being present, there is a chance for new elements to emerge. I believe that her natural ability to live close to her truth is the reason the audience feel understood and have free associations while in contact with her work.

The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, wrote about art as an act of truth. That the power of art is in the truth that it reveals, and that this truth can be perceived only through art. Dawn is a voice of a generation of international citizens who are longing for a former version of themselves and their homes. By threading an inner dialogue about her context, she weaves a larger emotional tapestry about the gentle strings of longings, dislocation, time and memory. In this tapestry, we meet our emotions and thoughts, we can get closer to our ‘O’ and perhaps become less of a stranger to ourselves and to others.

 Zehavit Efrati , M.A. , is a Clinical Psychologist from Israel, living in Singapore 

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