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Visible Invisibilities: On Jinnie Seo's Storm

Jinnie Seo's work shows her unending fascination with extending the potential of two
-dimensional lines and drawing as an artistic medium. Moving out from beyond the canvas,
so to speak, Seo's drawings re-imagined into the walls and ceilings of architectural forms
writ visible the emotional and experiential qualities of otherwise flat pictorial planes.
The museum and gallery spaces that have been given over to Seo are transformed
into visual meditations on the poetics of spaces.

Storm was commissioned by the National Museum of Singapore as part of its Art-On-Site
programme. Under this programme, Asian artists were invited to create original work within the
public spaces of the Museum that would alter visitor perceptions of the Museum environment.
The peculiarities of the National Museum architecture, with its juxtaposition of a 19th century
British colonial monument building with a 21st century modernist extension building meant tha
t any artistic intervention would have to respond directly to this opposition between old and
new. During the Museum's three year redevelopment ending in 2006, the architects consulting
onthe design of the new extension building deliberately chose to construct a modernist
glass and steel extension in order not to obscure, but rather showcase the neo-Palladian
architectural features of the monument building. The glass atrium where Seo chose to site her
work was, in fact designed to be invisible.

Into this pristine space, Seo applies over 1459 metres of vinyl in 24 different colours onto the
glass fa?de measuring 60x8m in total. Seo's vigorous insertions of vibrant and pulsating colour
planes via vinyl sheets into the otherwise monochromatically gray and pure spaces of the
Museum disrupt the intended invisibility of the modernist glass, steel and concrete that
make upthe extension building. The work instead focuses the viewer's attention back onto the
physical reality of this glass building. By covering the entire glass fa?de of the extension
building with coloured vinyl sheets, Seo emphasizes the sense of volume and height in this
glass 'showcase' building and in the process accentuates the significance of the human feat
s of engineering that make the building possible in the first place. Her enveloping of the
Canning Visitor Services Counter with thin criss-crossing lines of silver-coloured vinyl
sheets similarly gives a renewed sense of the three-dimensionality of the structure
to the viewer.

The abstract idioms that Seo deploys in this work, nevertheless, cannot be confined within purely
formal ends. The artist actually names her work. Somewhat similar to Zarina Hashmi, the
respected Indian print-maker, the act of naming indicates a desire to 'contextualise the lines
and remove them from the notion of pure intellectual aestheticism'1. The work Storm becomes
a platform or stage upon which the viewer is invited to unravel Seo's personal emotional
responses to the history of her encounter with the Museum and its interior and exterior
environment. The artist has made the decision to apply vinyl sheets to both the exterior and
the interior surfaces of the glass fcade. Curvilinear and quasi-organic shapes that mirror the
lush vegetation of the park as well as the swirling clouds that are frequently visible in the sky
dominate the exterior surface. Indeed, the gaps that Seo leaves in between her vinyl panels
allow sunlight to penetrate into the interior as lines of light. At the magical hours of dawn and
sunset, the rapidly changing light conditions creates a burst of lines of sunlight onto the floors of
the glass atrium, as if reminding us that nature is never far away, even in this air-conditioned
glass box.

In her artist statement, Seo speaks of these organic shapes on the exterior fa?de as 'homage to
nature's wonder as the glass fa?de faces the Fort Canning Park'2. The organic forms in the park
beyond that are held at bay by the gray retaining wall of the bus bay outside the atrium are here
re-imagined as a swirling pool of colour and brought into the Museum space itself. They echo
how 'the flux of the organic world modifies the rigors of geometry.'3

Within the glass atrium however, Seo has created three curtains composed of geometric forms
'fitted' over the existing doorways of the atrium. Walking from the link-bridge connecting the
monument building to the new extension building and passing beneath the swinging red
chandeliers, the viewer is able to peek through the 'red curtains', like a game of hide and seek,
to the curvilinear forms beyond the three doors. It is in essence, an invitation to participate in the
same process of exploration that the artist embarked upon in conceiving this work.

The house is open.

Tan Boon Hui
Deputy Director for Programmes
National Museum of Singapore

1. Milford, M-A (2006) 'Shadow Houses and Woven Dreams' in Zarina: Weaving Memory
    1990-2006, pages un-numbered, Bodhi Art: Mumbai, 2007

Artist statement.
Fendrich, L. (1999) 'Why Abstract Art Still Matters', reprinted in Chasman, Deborah &
    Chiang, Edna (Eds) Drawing Us In: How We Experience Visual Art, 2000: pp. 68-76,
    Beacon Press: Boston; pp.70.