With her Homemade by Leow Wei Li exhibition, the Singaporean visual artist continues to take everyday experiences and turn them into extraordinary pieces.
“I started working from home last year,” says the Fine Arts graduate from Lasalle College of the Arts, whose awards include the Young Talent Programme Winners’ Solo Exhibition 2016/17 at Ion Art. “Gradually, materials from other parts of the house found their way into the studio. Homemade was inspired by domestic items, like leftovers from the kitchen!”
Homemade also marks the inaugural exhibition at SPRMRKT at Dempsey Hill, the third outpost of the cultural-culinary concept founded by Sue-Shan Quek. Besides showcases by up-and-coming artists, it also features a retail space with merchandise made locally and regionally. The restaurant offers a dinner menu that leans towards vegetable-forward dishes.
All 16 artworks here have a whimsical quality that is trademark of Leow’s aesthetic. Secrets, for example, was made with sunflower seed shells she collected from a family conversation. “The cracking of the shells involuntarily created a rhythm for words to flow, filling also the gaps between words,” she explains.
Leow cites her mother as an inspiration. “She has very specific ways of doing things especially when it comes to cooking and cleaning. Working with materials seems funny to me whenever I imagine the things she would say.”
With the circuit breaker in place at the time of this e-interview, Leow hasn’t had a chance to ask what the older woman thought of Homemade, which runs until 12 July. But come June 2, when the measures are scheduled to end, we can expect to find her and mum at SPRMRKT at Dempsey Hill.
Your works for Homemade build on your use of mixed media, with ingredients such as longevity noodles (Long Life) and sunflower seed shells (Secrets). How does food reflect your relationship with food?
I believe our relationship with food is much more complex than we understand… I’m embarrassed to admit, but, yes, I too rushed to the supermarket, just before the circuit breaker kicked in. But when I was checking out, I realised most of my purchases were junk food. Nothing in my basket really benefited my health!
Covid-19 made me ponder over the necessities of life in a new way. At the least, I now know what my neighbours love to eat. It is a new insight for me! And, I was working on another series of paintings with flour – which sold out! So I can’t predict what’s next!
One food you’d never eat and why?
Corn ice cream. At one point I thought it was the taste but now I think it might be the shape of corn.
Back to Homemade: Toughest ingredient to work with and why?
Cheese was the toughest for me, emotionally. I have never applied something to my painting – and got rejected this way. I decided to forcefully adhere it on with industrial glue, just to remind myself not to take the surfaces of my paintings for granted. They are alive!
What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?
Joy! I hope others can see these paintings as part of their everyday life too.
Any ingredient you want to explore for upcoming artworks?
I’m exploring items from the traditional medical halls.
Homemade by Leow Wei Li is at SPRMRKT at Dempsey until 12 July, 2020. More details here.