CLOCKWORK MOONs series
48cm x 48cm. Ink and incense-burned drawing on Korean paper, embroidery hoops, light, 2017
Commissioned by Singapore Art Museum, nominated for The Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2019.
Migrant workers in Singapore are an ever present but often invisible layer of society. Helping to build the glistening skyscrapers and reclaim land from the sea, they are literally shaping this city. This artwork focuses on a micro-community of migrant workers - a group of Burmese men who toil day and night on land reclamation for an immoral employer*. This community experiences each prolonged day as an endurance, they are exhausted and suffer sleep and food deprivation. Simultaneously their hours seem fleeting because there is so much to be done. This migrant community are highly qualified ship engineers who have come to Singapore from Myanmar to further their careers and support their families. Instead they find themselves doing menial work such as scrubbing the decks, and are expected to do the work of five men because the ship is undermanned. Every 24 hours they get a few pockets of 45 minutes in which to sleep. Each month they get just $50 for food and water. Stuck on the ship battling with the inhumane working hours, these men are forced to ferry earth back and forward from Changi and Tuas. They feel that much has been lost, including their human rights. In one case an accident caused one of the members of this community to permanently lose sight in his eye. They find themselves in an unbreakable cycle because of the threat of being sent home at great expense due to the debt they have accrued paying high recruitment fees to their Burmese agent and kickbacks to their Singaporean employer. They pray to return home to their families in Myanmar, where temples offer kindness and free water.
* Their employer is currently being investigated by MOM for the collection of kickbacks and the underpayment of salary claims are being seen at the Employment Claims Tribunal employer is currently being brought to court for illegal treatment via MOM, Myanmar Embassy, and through the assistance of the Myanmar Embassy and the charity Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E)
About the Clockwork Moon series
Reclamation is part of Clockwork Moons, a larger body of work. Clockwork Moons is a series of eight kinetic artworks exhibited as part of Nicola's solo exhibition entitled Human Archive Project, at Singapore Art Museum. Created by drawing on paper using a burning process, each piece is mindfully inscribed using an incense stick to perforate the surface and create images in the voids left behind.
The works showcase the stories of those within communities who experience time differently. Whether because their time is not their own, or their lives have become unmanageable. Members of disenfranchised communities have kindly welcomed Nicola and shared their tales. In this process, Nicola met prisoners whose lives are on pause whilst their time elongates entirely out of their control; families who, due to trauma have difficulty remembering the past; those who have no concept of future because they fear their life may not last another day; and those who are overwhelmed in jobs or situations where they are not in control of their own moments. In each case she has met inspiring individuals who have found the strength to manage their situation by not just being survivors but being overcomers.
Each moon represents the stories and experiences of those in 8 different communities or groups, including the elderly, trauma based families, migrant workers & domestic workers, young adults with chronic illnesses, individuals dealing with addiction, and inmates at Changi Prison.
This work was made possible through partnerships with H.O.M.E. charity, National University Hospital Children's Unit, Changi Women’s prison, Yellow Ribbon Project, and all the individuals who participated and shared their experiences.
Awards & Prizes
Reclamation has been shortlisted for the The Sovereign Asian Art Prize, 2019. This prize is recognised as the most prestigious prize in its field and region. The Sovereign Asian Art Foundation will hold an auction, exhibition and gala dinner, details below.
Held annually, The Sovereign Asian Art Foundation invites mid-career contemporary artists - nominated by a carefully selected board of independent art experts from the region - to enter up to three artworks. 4-500 Entries are then shortlisted by a small judging panel consisting of world-class art specialists, who select the best 30 artworks to be exhibited in a prominent public space in Hong Kong, where the grand prize winner will be revealed at the annual sell-out gala dinner at The Four Seasons, Hong Kong.
More about the Sovereign Art Foundation: The Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) was established in 2003 with a well-defined twin focus: to recognise the growing wealth of contemporary art talent in Asia, and bring the proven benefits of expressive arts to underprivileged children. "The beauty of our model is that we are able to achieve both goals in an eminently sustainable way. The Sovereign Asian Art Prize, now recognised as the most prestigious prize in its field and region, raises funds by auctioning those artworks that reach the final stage of the competition. The proceeds are then shared equally between the artists and the Foundation, to be used for our charitable projects across Asia."
Visit this artwork
Event sponsors and venues
With the kind support of