The Secret Life of Jade

The Secret Life of Jade is an outcome of Suzann Victor’s recent residency with the Singapore Tyler Print Institute and in-depth engagement with the genre of printmaking. At the first glance, this aquatint appears to be a marked departure in the artist’s practice, as Victor is better known for her large-scale, kinetic and often mechanically complex installations. Upon scrutiny, this work – alongside her other STPI pieces – draw upon several concerns and themes with the very act and process of ‘looking’ at artworks. At the same time, the challenging and collaborative printmaking process opened up a space for daring experimentation and exploration for Victor, as spontaneity, instinct and chance ad to jostle with the requirements of precision planning and technical deliberation, even as the artist’s normally ‘private’ space of thinking and making had to be negotiated in the ‘public’ before the team of STPI printmakers who were there to facilitate the printmaking.Formally and aesthetically, The Secret Life of Jade appears like an abstract Chinese ink painting. Indeed, this expressionist work reveals a return to her roots or beginnings as an award-winning painter, but here, the medium holds one radical difference: it is painted, literally with acid on copper plate. Moreover, owing to the work’s size and acid’s dangerous corrosive and highly toxic nature, Victor had to paint unconventionally (with the plate laid on the group instead of propped up vertically), and with her vision and painting gestures encumbered by the requisite safety gear. Thus the translucent delicacy of The Secret Life of Jade stands in stark contrast to its unseen, ‘secret’ making process. The added challenger was that the aquatint had to be composed by layering one copper plate after another, so that there was no way to fully pre-determine or control the composition of the work. Yet this element of change is core to the piece, and of note too, is that there is no single orientation to the aquatint. In the words of the artist, “there is no wrong side” and Jade has an ‘openness’ that prompts a viewing and encounter from myriad perspectives.Suzann Victor (b. 1959, Singapore) received her PhD in Visual Art in 2009 as well as her Masters of Arts (Honours) in 2000, both from the University of Western Sydney. The former Artistic Director of 5th Passage Ltd, (1991 to 1993), Victor process works that often investigate the post-colonial condition, as well as the notion of the notion abject, the absent body and ‘body machine’, as well as the dynamics of female sexuality within the patriarchal society. She has exhibited widely at international platforms including ‘Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves’ at ZKM Centre for Art & Media, Karlsruhe, Germany (2007), the 6th Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2006), the 29th Venice Biennale (2001) and the 2nd Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane, Australia (1996). Her works have also been commissioned by the Singapore Biennale 2013, National Museum of Singapore and the Casula Powerhouse, Sydney.