Congratulations to Chloe, she is officially an Art Psychotherapist, graduating with distinction from Lasalle College, Singapore. Practising her art in a bright studio in the hip hood of Singapore, Chloe Manasseh works with passion and experience. Her bright, and varied works speak volumes about her versatile capacity to freely paint and transform any surface. From her FB Air programs, to her public Chandelier Commission for Changi City Point Mall, Singapore, beautifully recreating the ambience at Eden Hall, a house reminiscing with colonial architecture, where her grandfather was born, to seamlessly decorating the Presidential Suite at the extensively refurbished Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Chloe enchants the hearts of her collectors.
Nidhi Samani took the opportunity for a casual digital rendezvous during the lockdown with Chloe to explore her world of her art journey.
I first met you at the Eden Hall, the British High Commissioner to Singapore’s official residence, the historical bungalow where you grandfather was born. It was as a beautiful curated exhibition ‘The Fruitfulness of Forgetting’ and your art works brought the intricate patterns to life in the already beautiful architecture.
Getting to know your journey into art a little more, tell us what inclined you towards arts?
My family are all artistically inclined, and both my parents were film makers, so I was introduced to various art forms and industries from a young age. My grandfather, Leonard Manasseh OBE RA, was a big artistic influence on me growing up, and always encouraged my painting. He was a world-renowned architect, with a passion for painting, which became the core of his artistic practice after he retired. His use of colour and love of flora and fauna have influenced my own practice. He would always encourage me not to fear colour, and he gifted me his oil collection of Old Holland paints, with colours such as golden green becoming a staple colour within many of my works.
I was inspired to know of your involvement with Lasalle College of the Arts for your Masters degree, why did you choose to specialise in Art Psychotherapy? We don’t see many accomplished artists taking this path.
Thank you! I have always been interested in psychology and psychotherapeutic practices, and wrote my first thesis for my BFA on the effects of trauma within the artworks of Francis Bacon and Frida Kahlo. Whilst I was doing my Masters in Fine Arts, my mum, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist and film-maker, was completing her clinical Doctorate about a pioneering intervention she formulated called Applied Cinematherapy – marrying her two passions. Since then, the possibility of doing a second Masters in Art Psychotherapy became very enticing, and four years later its a reality!
The therapeutic potential of art is profound, and I have always found it incredibly engaging when working with children with learning differences or disabilities. When I first moved to Singapore from London three years ago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do an 8-month artist residency at The Winstedt School here. It is an incredible environment catering to children and adolescents with a range of learning differences, from Autism to ADHD. My experience of having my personal studio within the school, and running art workshops for their students was the final motivation I needed to pursue this path. I love working with children, and this career path enables me to both continue working as a fine artist, whilst giving back through art therapy.
What advice would you share with a newbie who aspire to walk this route?
I would recommend having some life experience, and a genuine passion for the arts and creating art. It is a challenging (in the best way!), introspective and rewarding journey. It has also given me insight into my own fine art practice, and enabled me to develop a deeper sense of identity as both a fine artist and art psychotherapist.
You have participated in many art residencies across the world. Did any of them play a role in redefining your practice?
They have all played a role in the growth and changes within my practice, as each residency enabled me to develop certain ideas and work with different media all of which influenced me and my practice in different ways. As mentioned above my artist residency at The Winstedt School was significant in encouraging me to pursue art psychotherapy.
I would say one of the most life-changing experiences for me was in 2015, when I was fortunate to be accepted as one of five Artists in Residence at The Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency, in Joshua Tree, California. The nature of the residency enabled me to take my video sound project (100 Sounds) to a new level, alongside working on a new body of paintings. At its core my work reflects on a sense of identity in space, and questions the notion of familiarity in space, and whether a true wilderness can ever exist. I find the notion of wilderness fascinating – in particular whether there is such a thing as a wilderness for me; a space within which I might be unable to locate myself, with no reference to things I know.
During this residency I was residing alone in a beautiful house in the middle of the Mojave Desert – a vast and unfamiliar landscape, which forced me to confront identity, isolation, fear of the unknown and the beautiful raw setting on a daily basis. It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience, which in a sense defined my practice. My time in the desert has continued to influence me, and can be seen in recent projects, such as my permanent chandelier installation at Changi City Point Mall, SG.
What is your genre of work and tell us why and what you do?
Taking inspiration from intricate patterns, the natural landscape and my imagination, my paintings and video works acknowledge the role the body plays in experiencing a place; the intricacy of man-made spaces in parallel with the natural landscape. I reflect on the limits of representation in relation to the wholeness of experience, deconstructing memories and direct experience into simple forms, creating works that sit between experience and imagination.
Working between observation and found imagery, my works evoke a sense of exotic escapism, whilst commenting on our inherent compulsion to bring nature indoors. Reflecting on how we inhabit space through visual identity, my works reveal my interest in the process by which imagination can intrude on physical space, influencing how people establish a connection to it. Exploring the fragility of vision and ideas of remixing reality, I think about the relationship between individual and collective memory, my identity within space and my forged identity within new spaces.
Recently, my research has focussed on folklore and interpretations of religious texts within tapestries and book illustrations – more specifically referring to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life. In 2016 I did an artist residency at the Portico Library in Manchester, UK, where we were asked to research and create artwork in response to the original texts of Paradise Lost by John Milton. For me the descriptions in the text did not tally with the artistic renderings within the book, which triggered my interest for further research. Many of my recent paintings are influenced by religious and folklore tapestries.
How has the lockdown impacted you? As an artist, creating home studio is a challenge. How does confinement inspire you?
I have personally found the lockdown very challenging, and I am missing my studio terribly! At the moment I live in a house with my parents who are very supportive. They have helped me create two spaces where I can work in comfortably. For me I think the most helpful thing was to get rid of any expectations or pressure to create. The work I have made during lockdown has been quite varied, for example I’ve painted some old furniture, some shoes and a matching handbag and a leather folio as well as creating a new series of cement pots. The lockdown has also made it hard to get new materials so I decided to paint over some large canvases that I felt didn’t quite work resulting in a couple of works I’m pleased with and which are a departure from my last series.
I would say from all the work I have created during lockdown, it is the two large paintings which were directly inspired from confinement, and the Covid situation in general. The works depict longboats overflowing with flowers, with faceless individuals navigating the boats through water. For me at least, Covid has been a confronting experience, eliciting thoughts around mortality and freedom. It has also made me reflect on the different ways different cultures celebrate life, and equally celebrate death. I read somewhere that flowers are symbolic as they act as a companion in joy and in sorrow throughout life, which I thought was very powerful.
Its been a long hiatus for the art lovers, and the world will be looking for a creative space for coming months and perhaps the future of art. What are your thoughts? Will it be business as usual, or is online the way forward for artists?
Whilst I think that an online presence for both artists and galleries is important, especially during an unprecedented global pandemic, I imagine for some slightly more introverted artists – like myself, the process of having to engage online is quite daunting. I hope, on a personal level, that online will not become the new normal, as I think the experience of seeing artwork in the flesh is very different from seeing it on a screen. With my paintings, it is the scale, the brush mark, the texture and the placement of the works, which create a new environment for the viewer to enter. I think this is lost, when viewed online. Even with my video works, the nature of how I exhibit them – often large projections with live sound, entirely changes the nature and experience of the artwork.
Any social media handle, or websites you would like our readers to connect with to get to know you and your works more closely?
My personal website is www.chloemanasseh.com, and my artist instagram handle is chloemanasseh_studio. I am currently working on a new website which will include some of my household creations, including wearable artworks and options for commissioned hand-painted wallpaper murals, so please stay tuned.
As the lockdown eases, we all are excited to see how the art world is slowly coming out of its hibernation and connecting our conversations to our journeys. It was fantastic to have peeked into Chloe’s works, her relationship and passion with art. Until we hear from her on her upcoming works, check out her works she has built up in her collection.