The Room illustrates the journey of art-making and its spaces.
The Room pays homage to the formative years of art and design education, and explores the psychological spaces inhabited throughout the creative process. It was made in dialogue with Mr Chia Wei Hou on the role of space in art education. Nine drawings illustrate nine months of art-making, a nod to the ‘Nine Square Grid Problem,’ a popular pedagogical tool in American architectural education. It was further inspired by works such as Oscar Upon A Time, the anthology Dream Storeys by Clara Chow, and the drawings of Jimenez Lai.
The room is yours.
The room is whatever you make of it.
You don’t want to be afraid of it, but you are.
It is blank.
Blank like an empty page staring back at you, waiting, challenging, mocking. You fill it with your books and bags from other classes, with snacks and drinks and useless things, and with all the art materials you can find. It feels less unsettling after that, but also vaguely wrong. You’re not an artist.
You just got here somehow.
The room gives you what you give it.
It is too exposed, in the naked light, all its crevices and cracks visible to the world. The walls reflect your anxiety. The corners hold deep shadows. The room has character beneath its white plaster coat. On bad days, when you can do nothing else, you sit in a corner and scratch away at the paint. The bad corner blossoms into a figure of rugged concrete.
On bad days you are so ashamed. On other days you think it is your best artwork. There are no good days.
You come to know the room. You find a hidden niche that is just the right size for your sketchbooks, a hollow in the wall shaped exactly for your tired back, a strange crack that holds all your charcoal just at the right height, a loose brick that lets in the most perfect sunlight.
The shelves fill up with more of your work, endless trials and failures, and some days you are surprised by what you see. You are not an artist, but your work is here.
The room wraps itself around you.
Sometimes, inside, you can almost believe that you are exactly where you should be. Sometimes, inside, you are happy and the room is jubilant, dazzling the walls with colour and light, your creations coming alive with excitement, shadows dancing, cool breeze fresh from rain slipping in through the window. Sometimes, inside, you are broken. Then the corners of the room are soft and the darkness comforting, and when dawn breaks the walls are left with pencil smudges, fingers wiping your tears away.
When you make your art, the room sits with you. Watches. Waits without judgment.
It is quiet. It is good not to be alone.
On the last day, you are a mess. Your art is perfectly installed and you see nothing but all the improvements that you didn’t make. You see the marks of your struggle on every wall, every crack, every corner; your hope in every line; your absolutely foolish belief reflected back too harshly by the perfectly angled lights. The ceiling is too high and the floor is too low. It is too much, and you close the door behind you.
When the people enter, the room fades back.
It is now merely background: a perfectly ordinary whitewashed gallery, making room for your friends and your art, as if it was never anything more than that.
You stop worrying.
You forget about how much of you they’ll see in this well-lit place. You are inexplicably happy when your closest friends lean into the corner, their bodies relaxing against its strength.
You are not an artist, but you are here.
After it is all over, you leave.
The room goes to someone else. You graduate and grow up and move away and sometimes you think about the nine months you had with that room, with its changing walls and innumerable corners.
On dark nights you remember how everything collapsed on you, and when you opened your eyes, it was not rubble on you but morning dew, and the room straightened itself out and you followed suit. You remember the times when your fears echoed in the darkness, and when your thoughts glowed like firelight.
You remember. You are here.