Conversations@Studio-ID Art Gallery had an opportunity to interview Helene Le Chatelier, a multi disciplinary Singapore based contemporary artist. She gives us an insight into how abundance is an attitude, and how challenging times allows us to explore our own innate creativity of balancing and growing.
Last when we chatted over the phone during the early days of the social distancing, it was interesting to hear your views and your challenges of being an artist who will be homebound without access to your usual art studio. Helene, over to you.
Helene, what would you like your readers to know about your art journey so far and how is 2020 different?
I am totally what one calls a multidisciplinary artist. I studied Art in Paris. Soon after my graduation, I had the chance to exhibit my work in France where I also worked as a product designer for many years. It is only after I moved to Singapore in 2010 that I decided to fully embrace my artistic journey. Expressing myself through various modes of creation (painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation…) is a way for me to explore my subject through different angles . That said, even if I use diverse mediums, I mainly work in black and white or with a very restrictive palette and the subjects I explore are always related to memory and resilience, something all human beings have to deal with at some point. How social context and memory affect our intimate space and our deep identity is something I am really passionate about. How human beings can be so resilient in some impossible situation totally fascinates me… So, in that sense, this Covid19 and confinement situation is very close to my usual field of research and I suppose that in the end 2020 will be a natural next chapter in my practice…
Please tell us your latest mechanism of creating art space at home during this lockdown period.
First of all, I bought enough materials to make sure I would not be short on supply. I suppose this was a kind of reassurance mechanism and also, as my practice is quite diverse, I wanted to keep the freedom to be able to work with any medium I wanted during the lockdown. Also, as I live within a family of 6, I spent time reorganizing the space to secure a personal perimeter where nobody interfered and only to be used for my artistic practice. Recreating a room of one’s own, like Virginia Woolf expresses, in a space usually dedicated to my family life was one of the key actions to start this confinement time serenely.
What are the challenges of working from home?
As a mother of 4 kids, I have to say that my own confinement (which is my regular way of working) ended when the others’ confinement started! So my main challenge is definitely to find enough silence and time with no interference to immerse myself into my practice while my help may be needed on the family side… Hopefully my partner is extremely helpful and supportive and in this special time, I am particularly glad that we are 2 on board!
Tell us about the constraints of the current times and how has it evolved or changed your own limitations?
Well, I have always considered constraints as a huge creativity booster! So, even if for this present time, I was forced (with a certain frustration at first!) to drop off some large scale artworks and one installation I was making in my Singapore studio or to leave on side for a while an art and science experimentation about disappearance I was conducting in collaboration with the Mechanobiology Institute of Singapore, I decided to adapt my way of working as much as I could to fit my family and space constraints. Time windows for instance are shorter than usual and I also have much less space than in my Woodlands studio… But it doesn’t really matter. It is just a question about how you decide to embrace constraints and what you decide to make of them.
You have been putting up your newest works on the wall space at home. Tell us about your latest journeys of art work?
When the lockdown had been announced, I was preparing a group exhibition about our confinement strategies in general and under these very weird circumstances of the Covid19 in particular. So I decided to use the lockdown to create a new series in response to what I was planning to show in this group exhibition. I constraint myself to work on small scale modules to fit my working space at home. It was a totally premeditated action, experimenting compositions and space constraints both in my life and in my artworks. It gives me the chance to explore and express how our inner feelings have to stay confined within a defined small and closed perimeter (that seems too tight sometimes…) in order to keep life bearable for everyone. Under this lockdown time, more than ever, the challenge is to keep some of our feelings locked inside ourselves while we are also locked inside our homes. It also mirrors very well how we, sometimes, have to struggle with traumatic memories that need to find their right storage place within us… In that sense, this Covis19 situation questions the difficulty to find one’s right place and balance and this is exactly what these artworks are about.
Has the lockdown impacted your practice of work?
Yes, it surely has! But instead of suffering this lock down situation, I decided to play with the constraints it imposes to us. This conducted me for instance to elaborate smaller scale artworks to fit my working space at home. I am also working on pieces requiring several steps instead of one, allowing me to cut my working time in shorter sections just in case my presence is required on the family side… Also, bizarrely, I went back to basics by working on very classical and academic drawings that will probably be a preliminary study for a future series I have in mind for a long time. I believe that being back to basics is also a way for me to lean on undisputable techniques and artistic approaches in a very uncertain time… Something that is very reassuring…
What would you continue even after the lockdown is over?
… I really don’t know for now… I am sure this confinement time will have a deep influence on all of us. But for now, it is very difficult to estimate the consequences it will have nor the mechanisms we will keep from it.
It was a real insight into your world, Helene. It was inspiring to take a peek in your space of confinement and your journey. We all are in this together and we shall continue creating new positive memories.
Next: Working In Confinement, by Helene Chaltelier