Interview with Dawn Ang (aka Aeropalmics)

How Aeropalmics’ wood sculptures remind us we have the agency to evoke calm, and clarity, in the age of madness.

Last week, Cuturi Gallery kicked started its first c/discoveries solo exhibition of the year: Turn of the Sun by one of the most promising young artists in Singapore- Dawn Ang, aka Aeropalmics.  

 

We speak to Aeropalmics on how she got started in the art world, her inquisitiveness and introspectiveness along the artistic journey and the intended means behind and beyond this exhibition. 

 

Aeropalmics

 

Hi Dawn! We are excited to have your works at the gallery for what I believe is your first solo-exhibition in a commercial art gallery. For those that do not know you, can you share a little about you and your background please? Did you go to art school? Tell us a little more about your artist name, Aeropalmics.

Hi, I am Dawn A., I produce personal and commercial work under the name Aeropalmics! Growing up, I was curious, energetic and had a huge love for people. I wanted to soak the world in. I found- and find- a lot of joy in long conversations where all parties feel comfortable enough to then be afforded the ability to dive deep and exchange ideas and experiences. Drawing, books, and cartoons expanded my worldview and helped me make sense of how things worked. Discovering boundless avenues for creative expression through exploration and various work stints then furthered my love and understanding of people and their processes.

 

Art school was a ball of fun where experimentation was concerned. I was surrounded by people who enjoyed painting, drawing, sculpting, writing and design as much as I do. We constantly exchanged ideas and gave one another tips and critique- I would be hard pressed to find another setup that is as invigorating. The melding of hundreds of minds! It was great. This helped further broaden my understanding of people and how they perceive things, and that has helped myself and my art grow.

 

The term 'Aeropalmics' means putting your cupped hand out a moving vehicle to gauge wind resistance. I liked how it represented the child-like glee of freedom and enjoyment and felt like it was something I wanted to take with me through life and my art practice- hence the moniker.

 

When we first met back in October 2019, I recall you coming to the gallery with many small pencil drawings. I was absolutely amazed by the detail, technique, and imagination of each of these artworks. We even showed one of them in our In Full Bloom group show earlier this year (See image – A Poem in Every Flower). How did you learn, and how do you come up with the subjects of each drawing?

I discovered a love for drawing, painting, and craft from when I was little. My parents were- and are- very encouraging and supportive of learning, and that allowed for a lot of creative freedom- so long as I finished my homework. I was completely enamoured with the idea of creating; a blank sheet of paper, wood, or a slab of clay could become something else altogether with a few choice lines and some shaping. That, to me, was magic.

 

I taught myself to be able to draw virtually anything, and created comic art throughout Primary and Secondary school; on math tests, compositions, in countless notebooks- and on everyone else’s notebooks as well- but never thought it was something I’d be able to pursue as a career. My traditional Chinese parents had warned me that all this passion was classified under Play, and that “Art cannot earn money” while striving to be supportive of my decisions throughout. That created a bit of a complex within me. I was a good student born of fear, and midway through Secondary school, I felt like I needed a more concrete goal to keep going. I loved languages, literature, and sciences, but could not for the life of me see myself doing any of it for the rest of my life. I, unfortunately, was brainwashed into thinking that I had to and could only stick to one thing, and if I chose wrong, I was doomed to forever stew in that one bad decision. Silly, I know. I then decided to switch schools for a change of environment, and that is where my practice really began. I chose art. Something in my mind clicked. I would find a way to do it. I dreamed up countless monsters- I had a Dungeons and Dragons phase- serpents and succubi, I drew them all. My lovely art teacher lent me many art books that expanded my art vocabulary. Hieronymus Bosch, Philip Castle, Duchamp. The possibilities were endless.

 

I contemplated specialising in fields from fashion to advertising, and fine art won out at that point. I’m grateful it granted me the brain and studio space to further my practice. Put myself out there acquiring freelance gigs while working in interior design, furniture-design, teaching art in schools, assisting other artists with specific projects, and then began freelancing as a full-time creative once I felt like it was something I could take on.

 

There were 3 points in my life that made a difference, when I was a toddler in my discovery of Crayon! Paper! Good!, the turning point when I felt like I had failed to envision a future where I was happy doing what I loved, and later on when I had stumbled upon the knowledge that the possibilities to happiness and satisfaction were limitless if I went about it the well-researched and introspective way.

 

I have countless notebooks and post-it notes- alongside digital notetaking on my phone- where I write down ideas when they strike me. Have a gigantic bank of them and refer to them when I require some added inspiration. I also constantly surround myself with art- doing research, getting inspired by people, nature, architecture. Any kind of shape, form or idea could compel fresh work.

 

  

A Poem in Every Flower, 2020

 

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I know you were commissioned to create beautiful murals around Singapore. Could you share a little more about that?

Having walls as our canvas is magical- us artists get to completely change a space by filling fields of vision with our creations! It is always exciting to see everything come together that way. It takes planning- making sure it matches the decor of the space, and that it is aligned with the clients' wants and needs as well. I've been incredibly privileged to have worked on walls of both private clients and large MNCs like Google, Facebook, JLL, Openspace, JMD and Wanderlust Hotel- some of which are collaborations with The Artling, who have been extremely generous with getting me to work alongside them for many projects. The Artling is an online art gallery and consultancy firm run by brilliant people who love art. These projects allow me leaps of growth in empathy through figuring out what clients want and how I can go about filling that void.

 

Mural for Jones Lang Lasalle Incorporated (JLL)'s Singapore Headquarters

 

Wanderlust Hotel Airwell Mural and Prints

 

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Now let us talk about your exhibition, Turn of the Sun. What does it mean to you, and how did you come up with the idea of creating these wood sculptures?

'Turn of the Sun' is a reflection of the continuous cyclical motion of the universe and its parts; ageless and enduring. These pieces aim to draw to our attention the erratic and acrobatic nature of our minds and how we have agency to evoke focus with practice.

 

I have been wanting to create more art in the realm of aiding people in keeping calm and realigning the mind through breathing. The aim was to create abstract pieces that would sit well as design pieces- keeping the eye interested as we move through the space we're in. I love how colour, furniture and spacial design can alter moods, and wanted to possibly create objects that push this idea. I've also included theta wave sounds to aid with bringing the mind into a meditative state.

 

What would you want the public to remember out of your exhibition?

If possible, to take a few minutes out of their day to focus on breathing- to clear and realign the mind- makes for better judgement and decision making! Because why not hack our minds and bodies when we can- to make the best of everything at our disposal?

 

For fellow artists that may be reading this interview, how was your collaboration with c/discoveries and what message would you have to young and aspiring artists in Singapore?

My collaboration with c/discoveries was fantastic! Incredibly grateful for being allowed to freely discuss and plan pieces within a space and see everything come to fruition.

 

Have a good think on the specific goals you would like to achieve, take steps to get there- make progress, regardless of how tiny or slow it may seem at the time. Be tireless, be relentless. The going might be tough at the start, but with the right pivots, you will get where you want to be. Let yourself be open to opportunities and people. Be brave, make work you care for and people will see how much of yourself you have given to your craft and love it all the more.

 

I think the most challenging bit is balancing craft and money, and the obstacles that come with that. I enjoy financial freedom- everyone does. Worrying about how you’re going to have food and pay rent when you had just started out as a wee kid isn’t ideal, and thinking up different ways to attain constant cash flow to cover all bases- that will help. I could then take my time with building the brand that now allows me the space to work with any medium and plan collaborations with any fellow creative/brand/company. Picking up various skills to sort out other avenues of income took priority earlier on, and that now enables me to create the pieces that bring me joy. I still take on projects as a freelance illustrator, muralist, creative director, graphic and interior designer, photographer, and paper sculptor to keep the brain juices going!

 

Thank you very much for your time Dawn. One last question… What is next for Aeropalmics?!

I’d like to also delve into more immersive, experiential work.

 

In 2018 I created a virtual reality installation titled ‘Cloudless Sleep’ for an exhibition in the ArtScience Museum that combined the use of technology and art. It was designed to help people benefit from relaxation through meditation. I felt very passionately for it. Meditation is perhaps the most crucial instrument used to harness power of thought, to cultivate clarity and ultimately achieve inner peace. City dwellers wrestle with the stressors of stimulus overload, constant change, crowding, noise, and pollution. Every day brings multiple demands into the urban dweller’s life that require processing and adjustment. Self-regulation of inner calm and clarity of thought has never been more necessary. The focus of the project was to bring the brain to a theta state, where the verbal and thinking mind transitions to the meditative and visual mind. The aim was to move the user into a deeper state of awareness, where intuition and capacity for complicated problem-solving increases.

 

I set up the VR experience to have the user lie in womb-like chairs, utilizing physical surrender along with theta sound waves to aid with lowering defences. Once the headset is put on, the user is transported into a safe, calming, soft-grey environment with sun on low glow, islands with waterfalls gently floating in the sky, drifting papercut pieces, and the soft sounds of water lapping on a distant shore.

 

Cut to opening night- the space came alive. I watched people stay under for as long as 20 minutes and it brought me so much joy. A few lovely souls came to chat with me after the experience, excitedly saying that it made a difference. They reported feeling refreshed, wonderful and most of all, clear-headed. Some spoke about the possibility of purchasing the product to take home with them to use regularly. It warmed my heart knowing that this humble experiment had worked; the visual aspect of a VR landscape coupled with theta sound waves allowed for an easier time to sink into breathwork that might be intimidating for someone meditating for the first time.

 

This experience changed me, made me want to create more things of this nature, to have users reap a more tangible benefit of calm, surprise or wonder from the art. Would be wonderful if it were educational in nature too! Totally open to new ideas, constantly thinking of ideas to open up more avenues for collaborations. Woohoo!

 

 

VR installation ‘Cloudless Sleep’ at the ArtScience Museum

 

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Artist

 

Turn of the sun is on view digitally from 5th June till 1st July, in-gallery viewing is scheduled for 2nd July till 19th July 2020 at #02-16 Pacific Plaza, 9 Scotts Road, Singapore 228210. Admission is free.

June 16, 2020
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