Imprinting old memories onto fabric of life, and art

20 April 2019
The Straits Times, Home, B7

Visual artist Choo Jen Quinn next to her art installation, Piece Of Mind, at The Plaza in the National Library Building, in Victoria Street. The installation, which is supported by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities, the National Youth Council and SG Cares, will be displayed there until April 28.

In her quest to create an artistic piece that explores dementia, 20-year-old visual artist Choo Jen Quinn spent nine months visiting two seniors with the condition. Siak Choon, 85, who has severe dementia, would relive his younger days as a musician in Hong Kong, where he played the piano and trumpet in restaurants and theatres, and accompanied Cantonese singers at concerts. “In the midst of our conversations, he would abruptly pause and get lost in another world. He would then start humming and moving his hands as though he was conducting a piece of music,” said Ms Choo, a final-year student at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa).

Gwek Siang, 83, who was diagnosed with dementia last year, told Ms Choo that she used to enjoy sewing and fashioning cushions and pillowcases from her old dresses, before she stopped sewing 20 years ago. During one of her visits, Ms Choo took out the senior’s old sewing machine so she could sew again. Determined to sew the perfect seam, Gwek Siang unstitched the cloth six times and ran it through the sewing machine until the stitches were straight and tight, said Ms Choo. After interacting with the seniors – whose real names have been changed to protect their privacy – she chose to preserve their memories and other aspects of dementia in an abstract art installation built with panels of white chiffon fabric.

Supported by Thye Hua Kwan (THK) Moral Charities, the National Youth Council and SG Cares, her art installation, Piece Of Mind, was unveiled at The Plaza in the National Library Building on Thursday. The installation will be displayed at The Plaza until April 28. Ms Choo is working with the National Library Board to display the installation at 10 libraries island-wide. THK is also hoping to showcase the installation at partnering venues, which include shopping malls and schools. Piece Of Mind could also feature at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth’s bicentennial celebration in August.

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Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.