A translucent fabric quietly billows to the left when you reach the upper floor of the Reykjavík City Library. The Weight of Air, a photography exhibition featuring the work of Ng Hui Hsien, is the first and last thing you see as you walk in and out of the museum. Like a delicate conch shell, the bright white space spirals inwards, three veils swelling with each breath ushered into the space.
Walking through the photographs of Iceland’s earthly terrains, imprinted on the curved fabrics to evoke a dream-like, ethereal state of mind, the viewer is gently coaxed into an exploration of the space and the self. Acting on a sense of self-discovery and journey, the artist chose to use the soft textiles in creating a welcoming air to her exhibition. “The translucent quality of the fabric alludes to snow,” she says, “this, together with the gentle movement of the fabric, is meant to evoke associations with dreams as you move through the space. It is a psychological space as much as it is a physical one.”
Capturing the intangible
As much as the photography of Hui Hsien is another way of seeing the world through the eyes of the artist, the medium of photography is also used to reflect on the mode of photography itself as an art form. “Photography is used to capture something visible,” the artist explains, “but it is also a way of pointing toward something intangible.” Hui Hsien relocated to Bristol in order to pursue a MA in Photography following her sociology studies in Singapore. Personal factors in her life led her to take up photography. Invited to a month-long retreat in Iceland, the artist used the opportunity to capture the sense of stillness the environment provided, while processing the emotions arising within herself.
A key element of Hui Hsien’s exhibition is a hand-stitched book of photography the artist herself bound at a master’s class in Japan. Hui Hsien gently opens the book to reveal how the book has been sewn. “The stitching may look delicate,” she gestures to the light blue thread she’s used for binding. “But there is also strength, as it is what holds the book together. The light blue thread was chosen, because the colour symbolises the range of emotions that tie the images in the book together.”
Beyond The Weight of Air, visitors to the exhibit get an insight into Hui Hsien’s ongoing project titled Myth. Working completely in a darkroom and by-passing the use of a camera, the artist experiments with organic matter she finds during her walks, exposing the material directly on photographic papers to achieve prints reminiscent of desert dunes and the solar system. In addition to photograms, there are other images in the series that are created using other darkroom processes. “At the heart of my practice is an attempt to establish resonance between inner and external worlds,” Hui Hsien discloses. “For Myth, I am creating an imaginary world that encourages people to reflect on larger forces, such as the mysteries of life or a higher power.”
Info: The exhibit is open from November 23rd through February 4th, 2019. More information is available on the Reykjavík Museum of Photography website.