July 12, 2018

Topical seminars: Trees of Life – Knowledge in Material

NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore

(1) Courtesy Jenny Balfour-Paul. (2) Idem (3) Manish Nai, Untitled, 2018. Courtesy the artist. (4) Liang Shaoji, Moon Garden, 2015. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery. (5) Courtesy Vivian Xu. (6) Courtesy Phi Phi Oanh. (7) Courtesy Hanna Szczepanowska. (8) Sopheap Pich, Delta, 2007. Courtesy The MaGMA Collection.

This series of topical seminars focuses on materials derived from four plants deeply rooted in Asia: indigo (Indigofera tinctorial), lacquer (Rhus succedanea and Melanorrhoea usitata), rattan (Calamoideae), and mulberry (Morus).

Through lectures, panels, talks, and workshops, participants—including artists, craftsmen, ethnobotanists, anthropologists, scientists, scholars, and designers—share their diverse perspectives, reiterating the role art and craft traditions have in supporting local communities and ecosystems.

The seminars are held in conjunction with the presentation Trees of Life – Knowledge in Material at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore featuring works by Manish Nai, Phi Phi Oanh, Sopheap Pich, Liang Shaoji, and Vivian Xu, who work with indigo, lacquer, rattan, and mulberry silk respectively.

All seminars are open to the public, workshops require registration and a fee. For more information and updates please visit our website.

On Lacquer
Saturday, July 21

In Conversation: "Lacquer in Contemporary Art"
with artists Saeko Ando (Japan/Vietnam) and Phi Phi Oanh (United States/Vietnam), moderated by Khim Ong (Singapore), Deputy Director, Curatorial Programmes, NTU CCA Singapore

Sunday, July 22

Workshop: "Unearthing Lotus Flower – Sanding and Polishing a Vietnamese Son Mai Painting"

by Saeko Ando (Japan/Vietnam), artist

As the name son mài (meaning “lacquer” and “sanding”) suggests, sanding is an integral process of lacquer art. Participants get hands-on experience of sanding and polishing a lacquer painting.

On Rattan
Saturday, August 25

Lecture: "The Ethnobotanic Story of Rattan"

by Dr John Dransfield (United Kingdom), ethnobotanist and Honorary Research Fellow, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

With over 600 species of rattan, its uses range from medicine to cigarette papers, from basket weaving to cane furniture. Leading rattan expert Dr John Dransfield will talk about unsustainable harvesting and possibilities of smallholder cultivation.

In Conversation: Sopheap Pich
(Cambodia), artist with Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore), Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University (NTU ADM)

Lecture: "Rattan – A New Look at a Centuries-Old Material"
by Dr Hanna Szczepanowska (Poland/Singapore), Senior Conservation Scientist, Cultural Heritage Board, Singapore

Rattan, a climbing palm of tropical Southeast Asia, has supplied material over the centuries for everyday objects and artworks. This lecture focuses on rattan’s lustrous surface and material stability.

Panel: "Traditional Rattan in Contemporary Design"
with Paola Bellani (Italy), Deputy Editor and Founder, disegno; P.C. Ee (Singapore), Co-founder, Industry+; and Lim Masulin (Indonesia), Founder, BYO Living, moderated by Laura Miotto (Italy/Singapore), Associate Professor, NTU ADM

Dedicated to spatial and furniture design, this panel of designers and manufacturers discuss traditional weaving techniques guided by an environmental consciousness.

Sunday, August 26

Workshop: "Weaving Patterns with Rattan"
by P.C. Ee (Singapore), Co-founder, Industry+ and Lim Masulin (Indonesia), Founder, BYO Living

This introduction to weaving applications and advancements will be combined with a hands-on activity.

On Indigo
Saturday, August 4

Workshop: "The Colour of the Region. Indigo Dye and Batik"
by Dinu Bodiciu (Romania/Singapore), Fashion Lecturer, LASALLE College of the Arts and Martin Bonney (United Kingdom/Singapore), Fashion and Textile Lecturer, LASALLE College of the Arts, and textile designer

An introduction presents indigo’s progression from the “colour of the kings” to the “colour of the masses” and its socio-cultural connotations around the world. Participants will explore resist dye approaches.

Sunday, August 19

Workshop: "Mysterious, Magical, and Medicinal – The Power of Indigo"
by Kelly Reedy (United States/Singapore), artist and educator

Indigo has been attributed with mysterious, magical, and medicinal powers. Its fermented dye bath has been used to ward off evil spirits and applied as an antiseptic. Participants will experiment with indigo dye and shibori, a Japanese tie-dye technique.

Saturday, September 1

Lecture: "Indigo – Mummy Cloths to Blue Jeans"
by Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul (United Kingdom)

Authoring three books on indigo, Dr Jenny Balfour-Paul speaks about the “King of Dyes” and how it has suited all types of textiles, from prestige silks to blue jeans, as well as paint for frescoes and manuscripts.

Panel: "Textile Traditions and Natural Dyes"
with Tjok Agung Pemayun (Indonesia), BISA studio and Dr Geneviève Duggan (France/Singapore), anthropologist, chaired by Lee Chor Lin (Singapore)

This panel examines the richness of traditional fabrics through the lens of textile experts.

In Conversation: Manish Nai (India), artist with Dr June Yap (Singapore), Director, Curatorial, Programmes and Publications, Singapore Art Museum

Panel: "Sustainability in Fashion"
with Philip Huang (United States/Thailand), Founder, Philip Huang; William Ingram (United Kingdom/Indonesia), Founder, Threads of Life; and Dr Nanci Takeyama (Brazil/Singapore), Assistant Professor, NTU ADM, chaired by Dinu Bodiciu (Romania/Singapore), Fashion Lecturer, LASALLE College of the Arts

Discussing issues of sustainability and environmentally-responsible design, topics include consumerism, organic production, responsible material sourcing, preservation, and fair trade.

On Mulberry
Saturday, September 8

Lecture: "Silk – Properties, Fabrication, and Applications"
by Dr Dararat Mekkriengkrai (Thailand), Materials Specialist, Material ConneXion® Bangkok, Material & Design Innovation Centre

The speaker will share her experience working closely with suppliers and researchers, focusing on technological advancements and innovative applications.

Panel: "Sericultural Practices"
with artists Liang Shaoji (China) and Vivian Xu (China), chaired by Dr Lisa Onaga (United States/Germany), Senior Research Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Sericulture, or silk farming, is integral to the practices of both Liang Shaoji and Vivian Xu. The artists will present their experimentations with silk, while Dr Lisa Onaga shares her research on Imperial Japan's pursuit of the perfect silkworm cocoon.

Trees of Life – Knowledge in Material, on view from July 21 to September 30, 2018, is led by Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore and Professor, NTU ADM; Laura Miotto, Associate Professor and Co-director, MA Museum Studies and Curatorial Practices, NTU ADM; and Khim Ong, Deputy Director, Curatorial Programmes, NTU CCA Singapore.

About NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore
Located in Gillman Barracks, the NTU CCA Singapore is a national research centre of Nanyang Technological University and is supported by a grant from the Economic Development Board. The Centre is unique in its threefold constellation of research and academic programmes, international exhibitions, and residencies.

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