Interview with Kay Kok Chung
Kay Kok Chung Oi received her Doctorate Degree in Education from Durham University, UK. Kay also graduated with a Master Degree in Art Education and a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts from the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, USA and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia respectively.
Kay’s artworks revolve around the field of geometry as it best expresses her artistic viewpoint. This is in part, because she has been greatly inspired by the works of Russian avant garde artists namely, El Lizzitky and Kalemich. One of Kay’s research interests centers on the development of extended logic through visual arts education. Extended logic is the ability to develop innovative ideas from existing ideas and as such, it is essential to acquire the skill to perceive and imagine for a person to reinvent or innovate innovative ideas from existing ones.
Additionally, Kay also creates artworks based on books that were written by a renowned ethnohistorian, Professor James Francis Warren from Murdoch University, Australia. For example, her solo exhibition, “Distant Call” in 2004, was based on Professor James Francis Warren’s book, “Rickshaw Coolie: A People's History of Singapore 1880-1940”. These artworks were mentioned in Professor James Francis Warren’s keynote speech, which was delivered during the inauguration of National Singapore Museum in 2007.
Kay’s artwork, “Virtuous Cycle” was awarded as the winning entry for Macpherson MRT Station in the Land Transport Authority Integrated Art Competition, 2007. The artwork is located at the platform level of Macpherson MRT Station. Kay has also presented in international conferences and published her works internationally.
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?
My name is Kay Kok Chung Oi. Kay is my baptised name. Chung Oi is my given name. Kok is my family name. I live and work in Singapore as a visual artist and art educator. I started to draw and paint when I was 9 years old. Due to strong parental objection, I did not pursue fine arts after I graduated from secondary school in 1981. Instead, I studied architectural in Singapore Polytechnic from 1982 to 1985. Thereafter, I worked for 13 years in the civil service before I quitted my job and pursued a programme in visual arts at LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore from 1999 to 2000. While I was studying at LaSalle-SIA, I “fell in love” with Russian avant garde art especially the artworks by El Lizzitky who was an architect and a painter. I was specially impressed by the shapes, colours and precision due to Lizzitky’s background. This motivated me to integrate my architectural skills into my artwork, which subsequently became my first experience in applying what I learned from my previous studies and employed my architectural skills in into my creative process. I felt great because I have not literally thrown what I studied previously and instead, I applied and explored it into my artmaking process. The exploration and experimentation did not come easy as I had to find my own language that I was comfortable with. My ultimate artistic goal was that I must feel my artistic language in such a manner that the artistic language is me and I am the artistic language.
How would you describe yourself and your artwork?
I described my artwork as my personal identity. Many of my friends who are established and prominent artists in Singapore, will remark, “These works are so Kay!” or “These are Kay’s works!” Such remarks indicate that my artworks identified who I am. This is what I want to achieve whenever I exhibit my artworks.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from the nature, surroundings (along the street, things at the flea markets and etc), books especially architectural and design books. I believe that in order for me to make greater works, I need to read so that I am able to explore and experiment to fine tune my artistic language to break new artistic ground.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I desire that my viewers feel the innate intensity of my artworks due to the precision, details and colours as well as the illusion and perspective I created. This would enable the viewers to look deeper into my artworks and shared the artmaking experiences that I had while creating my artworks. In other words, my artworks are “talking” to my viewers.
When do you know that an artwork is finished ?
I will only consider that my artwork is completed when I exhausted in creating more details and line works. I will step back and examine closely before I conclude that I am done with it!
What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?
My most exciting in my art career was when I first collaborated with Professor James Francis Warren who is a renowned ethnohistorian from Murdoch University, Australia. I used his book, ““Rickshaw Coolie: A People's History of Singapore 1880-1940”, as my artistic theme and I created a series of paintings that were exhibited in 2004. I sold 50% of my artworks. These artworks were mentioned in Professor James Francis Warren’s keynote speech, which was delivered during the inauguration of National Singapore Museum in 2007.
How long does it take to produce one work?
It depends on the size and theme. For a painting of 1.5m X 1.6m, I take about 3 to 4 weeks to complete. This means, I would have spent at least 8 hours per day to work on that scale of artwork.
What exciting projects are you working on right now?
Personally, I am still working on drawings that depict the history of Singapore River. I am still exploring and experimenting.
Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
I might be exhibiting in a group exhibition in October 2019 and it all depends if my artworks are selected by the jurors.