Profile: Suzann Victor

Published on 19 January 2016

How many artists can say their art is truly moving? Suzann Victor’s art has Singapore literally swinging from the chandeliers.

BY DAPHNE ONG

If you walk along the link bridge inside the National Museum of Singapore and look up, you will see a row of red chandeliers swinging in a hypnotic, ever-changing wave form. That is one of Singaporean artist Suzann Victor’s masterpieces, Contours of a Rich Manoeuvre. In fact, different incarnations of this piece have surfaced at the Venice and Gwangju Biennales, as well as at the Adelaide Biennial.

From her early days as a budding artist with pencils and paints, Victor’s art has blossomed to produce large, compelling installations that respond to space and architecture. The awe-inspiring Rainbow Circle: Capturing a Natural Phenomenon was an unforgettable feature of the 2013 Singapore Biennale in which the ephemeral rainbow was brought into an indoor space. The densely metaphorical and symbolic work is typical of her unconventional practice.

Even as a student, Victor was already breaking with convention. “I went to art school as a mature student and knew that I wanted to steer clear of the kind of conservatism that represented the ‘Singapore art scene’ at the time,” she says. This sometimes proved a challenge for her. “My lecturer thought I had no imagination and pronounced that I would never make it as a contemporary artist.”

Victor has since proven the doubters wrong. Upon establishing her practice, she co-founded 5th Passage Artists, an initiative that provided a community-based platform for emerging artists in Singapore. “We wanted to place the experience of art within and among the public, to bring art to the public instead of the reverse.” With this philosophy, 5th Passage brought art to public spaces like Pacific Plaza and Parkway Parade.

After the dissolution of 5th Passage, Victor furthered her studies at Western Sydney University, culminating in her PhD. Studying and working in Australia kindled an awakening in her. “It became an overhaul of my social and political conscience, completely re-colouring my memories of growing up in Singapore. I found that I did not want to just make objects that can be called artworks. Rather, I want to offer an experience that could reverberate in meaning, energetically, over time.”

This commitment to evolution will be evident in Victor’s return to Singapore this year to re-install the swinging chandeliers as Wings of a Rich Manoeuvre in the National Museum. In addition, the best places to view more of Victor’s work are the Singapore Art Museum — in a current exhibition entitled 5 Stars: Art Reflects on Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy and Progress that will run until 2 May — and the Meritus Mandarin Hotel lobby where Panoramic Matrix is on permanent display.

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