Following Breadcrumbs by Julie Heather Liew

Rene Magritte meets Adolescence

Following Breadcrumbs by Julie Heather Liew

“The nature of my work tends to bring out the ‘child’ in all of us – that inquisitive, fidgety creature that we often suppress in order to enter adulthood in a socially-acceptable state of mind. The Upper Gallery provides such a personal and intimate environment for viewers to appreciate art in, I decided to use that to enhance the overall experience of viewing my installations and sculptures” (press release).

When the Brothers Grimm wrote Hansel and Gretel in German, they did not predict that their stories would be translated and told in different languages around the world. And neither did concepts of intellectual property exist in the early 1800s. Taking this children’s story at face value, it is a clever and gripping story that perhaps, impart morals:  1) don’t be a glutton; 2) don’t waste food; 2.5) don’t eat food that falls on the table, let alone the floor;  3) siblings stick together.

Fortunately, the young artist Julie Heather Liew has not interpreted or used a similar reading of Hansel and Gretel morals as subject matter for her body of work; instead, she has used a safer ‘growing up’ theme. The artworks reflect several uncertainties, camouflaged by her careful selection of objects and materials used to signify personal meaning. The cliched image of the pointed roof house is repeated as receptacles for objects (and memories) in several works. For example, peering into a wooden house structure in the middle of the gallery, one would find as eggs on hay. In different corners of the gallery, a miniature globe is nested in a concrete pillow; random objects are placed on a horizontal blackboard; alphabet pasta rests on a Children’s Ikea table and chair set; plinths with altered objects stuck on the side and top. Curiously, the “fidgety creature” mentioned in the artist statement (reproduced above) can not be found. Are they the fictitious inhabitants of the said houses or invented authors of the artworks? Would the witch or stepmother in Hansel and Gretel, be likely candidates for the role of the fidgety creature? How about casting Hansel and Gretel as the fidgety creatures? Like Rene Magritte in Personal Values (1951), objects taken out of context will seem absurd. Only to the most determined and imaginative viewer, these become magical.

For her intrepid, experimental body of work, and perhaps first solo show, the artist has been rather productive.  To be blunt, any artist who decides to make art that is memorable, and to survive as a practitioner must consider pursuing a stronger element of craftsmanship and weighted choice of subject matter. Whether the artist sees herself as the victim or the creator of the tale when the breadcrumbs trail ends, now depends on her. Even so, I grudgingly admit that career choices sometimes depends on extraneous factors and tremendous opportunities.

To end, not all grim stories are only for children, are they?  Because, as pointed out by the artist, there is an inner child in all of us. Sculpted carefully and managed correctly, even artworks with a child-like theme would have their appeal and audience.

Sculpture Square, Upper Gallery, 10 – 26 Sep 2011
http://www.sculpturesq.com.sg/Events/Entries/2011/9/9_Following_Breadcrumbs.html

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This text was edited and posted much later than intended. The author apologizes for the lateness.

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