Written by Debbie Cheung | Photographs courtesy of Singapore Art Museum, 2017
"Everything is about time." – Kim Whye Kee
This October, in addition to the Human Archive Project that is her solo exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum, contemporary artist Nicola Anthony had the opportunity to collaborate with fellow Yellow Ribbon Artist mentors Barry Yeow and Kim Whye Kee on a sculptural installation titled The Flow of Time.
Commissioned by Yellow Ribbon Project for the Singapore Art Museum Glass Box Gallery as a commemoration of the Yellow Ribbon Art Exhibition 2017 For Better Endings and New Beginnings, The Flow of Time takes the shape of an hourglass. It encapsulates the artist mentors' reflections and experiences in delivering the Yellow Ribbon Art Programme for the inmates at Changi Prison, Singapore, and revolves around the theme of time. Time, in its flux and endless dichotomies: cruel yet kind, never-ending yet ephemeral, with endless opportunities and choices encased within the folds of future.
"What became clear to us was that when your day is not your own, or when your past contains mistakes and your future is uncertain, time becomes very powerful." – Nicola Anthony, speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Yellow Ribbon Art Exhibition, 6th October 2017.
In the process of planning for the sculpture, the artist-mentors decided on the visual of a floating hourglass on its side, which the three artists would create together, each in their own technique.
Barry Yeow's oil paintings mounted on silver disks create grounded stability in acting as the base, fantastical in their textured and painstakingly layered paths of colourful oils that allude to "the beginning and ending of every journey in life."
Kim Whye Kee's broken remains of a half-finished teapot suspend as grains of time in the centre of the hourglass, sculpting the spaces in between with endless possibilities of freedom and hope. Who knows which way the grains would fall? The pieces reminds us that "without broken fragments, there will not be the 'Unbroken'".
Nicola Anthony's paper skin forms the body of the hourglass, stained with inks and burnt with incense sticks– a nod to Nicola's signature art techniques that were also taught to her students at Changi women's prison. For Nicola, the process of burning and erasing the surface of inked calligraphy papers is both time-consuming, meditative and symbolic: a process that takes and gives, destroys and births in equal measure.
"I am destroying and burning yet also creating complexity, beauty, and revealing new depictions." – Nicola Anthony
Complex in its easily relatable and colourful presentation, the Flow of Time is an evocative tribute to the struggles and soul-searching journeys the inmates embark upon during their time 'inside' and through the Yellow Ribbon Project art programme.