Curator of Depot Artspace's upcoming collaborative project x>1 Richard Penn was recently interviewed by the Creative Matters Podcast.
1. What was the inspiration/art making process for this exhibition?
We have started 6. (THE SKY THAT LIGHTS UPON US) since COVID-19 hit us. Many of us reconsidered our lifestyles during managed isolation periods all around the world. We seem to continue reviewing and adjusting ourselves to the new era. Adding on to that, we still have racial movements, pro-democracy protests, and climate warming on a global scale.
Our hearts are frequently disturbed by uncomfortable news. Sometimes, we need to be away from a restless world. We consider 6. (THE SKY THAT LIGHTS UPON US) to be like a good luck charm / amulet that we can rest our hearts on.
2. Can you share 1 or 2 significant stories tying in with this exhibition that may be of interests to viewers?
We used Kanazawa gold leaf mainly because as a material, it does not rust. It is the most stable of metals and is believed to ward off evil forces.
Gold has a lot of the other meanings. It has the effect of recovering energy; gold was called a great remedy for thousands of years, as it has the ability to restore corrupted physical or mental states. After this repair, it also has the power to prevent it from breaking again. Gold also represents God and spirits – symbols of another world. These are only a few associations that gold is imbued with.
The materiality of gold is thus a conduit for reflections on modern society. We are human, not God or spirits. Our abilities are limited, but gold at least has the power to give us a positive feeling. All of the artworks have been blessed. A monk remotely prayed for this exhibition address, dates and artworks from her house.
3. This exhibition has very spiritual elements. Does TSU have a collective view on the manifestation of the spiritual world or heavens into the Earth, and its representation of this into art form?
We believe that people will pray more because of what is going on here on Earth, and we may also have our personal matters. You must have looked up at the sky and thought the Moon was beautiful or you were deep in your thoughts because you had a bad day or you were sad about something. At that moment, you are connected to something beyond the human, a spiritual part of the universe.
The Moon and Sun we see are the same planets no matter where we look up from. We may believe or not believe in any religion or spiritual forces, and we have different cultural backgrounds and upbringings. However, what all of us have in common is that the sky we look up is universal and we all have ancestors. If any of our ancestors did not exist, we would not have been here today. We believe that our ancestors are the strongest and closest God and spirituality that watch over us. We sometimes encounter ancestors’ signs in our everyday life.
Our artwork can become vehicles when we need to talk to our ancestors or loved ones or pray for something above us. Ancestors are always with us. They are our family.
In the part of the exhibition title, we included the number, “6”. It is associated with family (ancestors), harmony, God and spirituality, sixth sense, balancing, and more. “6” is one of the mysterious and powerful numbers that can help us through mysterious encounters and intuition, equally our ancestors guide us.
4. The install for this exhibition appears to be deceptively simple, but on closer inspection you can tell a lot of thought and work has gone into the hanging of each piece. What were some of the challenges of installing this exhibition?
A night before the install day, we had a very good idea of where and which artwork needed to go. So it was straightforward.
However, the larger arrangements were very difficult to install. All 16 timbers had different lengths and sizes, and some were curved due to being weathered for a long time. None of these wooden pieces aligned with each other, yet the gold leaf line needed to be aligned for the arrangement to reveal its desired effect. It was difficult to find a point to nail in the wall, as we couldn’t rely on the measurements from the top due to this irregularity. Even after finding the nailing point, we found the gold line didn’t match. Each nail needed a fine adjustment. When hammering the nail, all of the other timbers that were already hung needed to be temporarily de-installed, because hammering creates vibrations on the wall and the work may fall. We were pulling our hair because we had to put them up, match the gold line, put all the work down, nail the wall, put up the next one in the row…but then they weren’t aligning so we had to go back to square one every time. We knew it would be much easier if we had a rail at the back of them to make it one moveable sculpture, however we had a spiritual reason that we could not do it. An ex-cabinet maker who saw this installation described it as being “like art on art.”
5. The choice and use of materials in this exhibition are very specific, yet open for viewers to draw their own connections to each material. How does TSU hope to bridge different cultural and historic associations to materials such as gold leaf?
Gold leaf is glittering enough to enjoy visually. TSU agents, or gallery minders, told us that Shibuzumi paint apparently attracted a lot of viewers, and put them into their zones. Recycled timbers create a positive feeling too.
Choice of material is only our philosophical methodology, it helps our decision making throughout the entire project. The artwork we represent is our version of the material translation that belongs to us. Our interpretation can be different from others and it is not important—our practice does not aim to be prescriptive. We let our artwork have a conversation with the viewers. We hope the artwork takes on a personal existence, where you can go with peace of mind and treat them as an amulet. You may wish to talk to it when you are by yourself.
TSU’s exhibition 6. (THE SKY THAT LIGHTS UPON US) is on at Depot Artspace from 23 July – 4 August 2021.
You can view their previous work here.