The ambiguity of melancholia of an inner child
The exhibition consists of 2 parts: a gallery walkway of Marina Mandarin, Level 5 of old and new works (2002, 2003 and 2006 onwards giving the works a fair comparison over time); and the studio which the artist worked in at level 4. If you ask me, the studio offered a truer state of the creator, the mental image of possibly huddled over her quilt pen and ink compared to a gallery walkway that expands skywards to near ‘infinity’, is more romantic. In the protection of the ‘white cube’, the works are more inviting, contemplative and personal. A recurring image is seen in many of the works: an image of a girl seated, with her hands poised to shield her eyes as she peers past the viewer into the distance. Her eyes are bleary , in a modern graphic sfumato (smoky) kind of way, subdued in the shadows. If one follows the biography of the artist, we can imagine it’s a representation of the artist, injured after her accident at sea in 2004.
It is difficult not to read too much into the work, because the surface is so gorgeous that it draws the viewer in, both formally and conceptually. The formal qualities of these works on display are exquisite, exhibiting control of line and delicate use of cross-hatching and hatching to create tones from a single colour. The technical control of the pen, understanding of composition are master strokes, worthy of many looks. These are pretty pictures to look at. Conceptually, they thread the safe path of surrealism, a dash of fairy tales in Taiwanese Jimmy Liao illustrated style, stirred with plot twisters in “Unfortunate Series of Events” and “James and the Giant Peach“. The use of fairy tale and nursery icons forces the discerning viewer to feel a sense of melancholia or certain doom of the girl character as she wonders through the picture surfaces, in one compelling narrative. Perhaps that sadness comes from the title – a plight with (n)ever after – doomed to ambiguity, contrary with fairy tales that ends (fictitiously) with ‘happily ever after’.
On a psycho-analytical Freudian level, this new regurgitated fairy tale provides temporary refuge, allowing the artist to re-navigate herself, un-restrained by her temporary immobility (refer to artist’s text in catalogue). The therapy of art making perhaps eased some of the pain, directing loose imaginations to creative interpretations. So perhaps, while the pictures offers more of the same, in the same fashion as Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan‘ s Labyrinth ‘plot’, the ending offered here are non-conclusive and more pensive than one can imagine. It’s unusual to end a review with a quote, but i think it sums up the wretched feeling I had after leaving the theatre that screened Pan’s Labyrinth, and Sandra’s exhibition:
“…deeper meaning lies in the fairy tales of my childhood
than in the truth that life teaches.”—Schiller
6 of 10 stars
March 21 till April 30, 2007
Marina Mandarin Hotel, Level 5