Arts Interview Singapore

Exhibition Extravaganza: SKL0’s Rising Change at Biroshouten (shouten by biro)


Artist Samantha Lo, sometimes better known by her moniker SKL0, has come through at the end of a long journey. Once known as the ‘Sticker Lady’, we believe with absolute conviction that with her solo exhibition, she can finally make a name for herself as a creator of fine pop art.

Titled Rising Change, the exhibition, curated by Adam Bow and being shown at the newly established shouten space at Mandarin Gallery, builds on motifs and ideas that Sam has been developing over the past few years, exploring her own interpretation of Singapore through her newly acquired sculptural and painting skills, looking back on our history while aspiring towards the future. Says Sam: “Rising Change comments on our unique position as an Asian country who holds on to so many Western values, absorbing more of it as we become more globalised, while still holding on to our colonial past and rich Asian history. Because of this, we’re often left not knowing who we are, so I wanted to seize this moment of talking about culture and how our lifestyles, hopes and dreams we embody come together to create this culture we see.”

Dubbing her works ‘contemporary cultural artefacts’, Sam also features elements such as white sculptures reminiscent of building reliefs, along with Peranakan tiles that have since become some of her signature motifs. “I wanted to show different parts of my practice with this exhibition and tell a personal story with it,” she says. “And when I put them together here, for the first time I can see that they can actually co-exist.”

She elaborates on her concept behind the exhibition, explaining: “This entire series is a form of storytelling, where I envision how people see modern artefacts, and the different symbols that they embody. Rat Race, for example, was inspired by a Japanese folk tale about how a rat transformed into a bird and back again according to the seasons, and if you look at my work, you can see this rat positioned against a backdrop of roses starting to bloom in spring, taking inspiration from Peranakan engraved panels. In summer, the rat has grown wings and begins to bloom into a bird at its peak, and here, I’ve chosen to represent the flowers as peonies, reminiscent of Chinese paintings concerned with images of nature.”

“But every stage in life is temporal,” she continues, “and when we get to the fall, we see the bird literally fall as well, surrounded by daffodils, which I was inspired by paintings of Narcissus. As the bird falls, it becomes a rat again, grounding itself. But instead of cowering, it chooses to fight back, wearing a mask and now armed with bolt cutters above him, with aspirations to break out of the system. Yet he’s also dreaming of returning to spring.”

Some of the key elements then, of Rising Change are the themes of adaptability and resilience. Says Sam: “This one rat is just a character in a story, but then I begin to repeat it, and you zoom out and realise that all these rats come together to tell a story of society as a whole. You and me, we’re rats just running this rat race, powering this gear that helps power security cameras that help keep society in harmony. It’s a commentary on how we empower the system and those who want to keep us in check, and it really is hard to let go and escape the system, even if you keep harbouring al these aspirations to break free.”

“Then you take a look at the mynah, popping out of the 2D medium into the 3D world. There’s almost this desire to take back control of his system, break out of that and reclaim power for himself amidst this ‘harmony’ between society and the system,” she adds.”We applaud those who have successfully broken out of this harmonious, peaceful system, but we also can’t tell if this bird is a symbol of freedom, or one of anarchy and chaos.”

Says Adam Bow, founder of artist management company Culturement (where Sam acts as Creative Director): “Sam is interesting because of her versatility. It’s been fascinating to see her start off as a street artist then advancing her medium to grow into a fine artist. Every series she’s done has featured new mediums and techniques, and she’s got this range of Singaporean cultural elements melded together with these observations of society and their aspirations. It offers critical thoughts on contemporary society, asking how can we be better than this, and invites the community to connect and be a part of the work by engaging with it.”

He adds: “I want to push Sam to see where she could see the application of her work, and learn to open up and see it in different contexts or environments to make it work. A lot of the time, art is about carving your own path to getting people to experience and engage with it, and learn who and where your art would resonate most with. And with Sam already constantly pushing her own limits as to what she can do, we’re very interested to see where this journey takes her.”

Rising Change runs at Biroshouten (shouten by biro), 333A Orchard Road, #03-23, Singapore 238897 (Mandarin Gallery) from 1st November 2019. For more information, visit their Facebook page here


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