Playing With & For The Community
by Melanie Chua
The Pale Rose of Wool (2009)
by April Lee
at Polymath & Crust (3F)
April Lee offers a quietly enchanting installation where loneliness and union conflate. A lovingly set-up photo exhibition, her film photography is a visual narrative of a music piece from Japanese electronica musician FJORDNE’s new album The Setting Sun. It is his fourth under Kitchen, which happens to be the label for which April serves as curator. In turn, his is a parallel universe inspired by a novel (of the same name) by Osamu Dazai, Japan’s Virgina Woolf equivalent.
This triadic relationship is expressed in her visual pieces. Each conjures multiple layers of image and sound, memory and imagination. Mounted on blunt wooden frames, each picture is a window to what at first seems little more than the ordinary and familiar.
Shooting in muted colours and soft focus, Lee’s strength comes in using light and shadow. The obvious is slightly obscured, but this allows further revelation beyond the literal object. In this way, the viewer’s definitions fade and expectations mellow. A plank of wood, then a clock then a tree, each photo becomes a guided meditation, partnered by poetic musings typed on song sheets.
The threaded journey ends on the other side of the exhibition space. The artist ventures into the social world now, asking questions of paths and people. The series of photos is punctuated by a solo dark spot of a bird, in flight above an expanse of ocean. By now, the images have ventured into eternal musings on time and aloneness.
The atmosphere never sinks though. The ongoing strains of music keep a sense of movement, and the artist’s notes gives a quiet parallel with gentle direction. These turn ‘looking’ into an art, where the full truth is only revealed through attentive care.
More importantly, Lee sees ‘looking’ as ‘being’, where it takes sensitivity to hear what another is saying, whether an open book, or the still poise of a sleeping friend. Thus, it is apt that almost half the pictures seem to find solace in a feature of nature; what else is so complex and unburdened at the same time. It makes it alright to question without a ready answer. Musing becomes a sign of life.
Lee cleverly keeps her work simple, with the many strains colluding within her set-up. Pulling inspiration from nostalgia, her themes are almost ethereally done, but takes rooted expression. The space seems quaint but is ample enough for the artist’s expression and its implications; the pictures clad in natural wood but boldly set on the walls. Even FJORDNE’s music, while simple in its melody, fills the room confidently, even jarringly at times. Within it, innocuously displayed are enchanting objects- relics. An old Singer sewing machine, a bound book, wildflowers, embossed frames recall another time; hand and heart are what matter in her production, not machines.
For an exhibition built on sight and sound, the result is surprisingly textural. The air seems thick with thoughts. Yet, the exhibition never feels antiquated or ponderous. Indeed, neither does one feel trapped by unresolved pathos. Lee hopes “for you to see, touch, smell and feel”. And that is perhaps the answer, for one leaves the room more alive than stale, and set on the path to harmony, even if a little more aware of aloneness. Nothing assaults, but the visitor remembers, by feeling, and by being allowed to be.
Exhibition website: http://www.kitchen-label.com/thepaleroseofwool/
For photos, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/kitchen-label/sets/72157622195199194/