Jaen, who works as a legal counsel, read law in the UK, but her “first love” was art. In her artist statement, she describes her paintings as being “driven by my fascination with the anatomy of the human body.” She explores that very subject with a palette knife on all her paintings in the body of work being exhibited. “I cannot express myself, my emotions, my state of mind, any better than through the most powerful language we know – the body,” she said.
S: From as far as you can remember, what was your first drawing/painting about?
I reckon drawing and painting are innate to all of us. Before we could speak, images, shapes and colours were like the sole language we know! It started with simple scribble to sketching random designs then dabbling with colours when I was a child. Be it a pencil, colour pencils, magic colours or a pen, if paper was in sight too, you can be rest assured I will be creating something! As for learning, mostly is through trial and error and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. But it did get to a stage where I felt that some reference would be good and that was when I took to books (my mother was a huge fan of Reader’s Digest!). As I recall, my very first few were flowers. I was drawn by the sheer variety of it and you can almost create a certain form and no one would question its actual existence!
S: Why didn’t you pursue an education in the arts?
I certainty thought about it and was very passionate about studying arts. But a very wise man advised me that I should seriously consider what is best for me, taking into consideration my surroundings including things that are not within my control, like the economy. He advised that I should pick a career that can withstand recessions, that is always needed no matter the state of the economy. He proceeded to provide 2 examples – a lawyer or an accountant. Law school it was! This man, this very wise man is non-other than my father.
S: Under a legal profession, you do get to meet a lot of people, hear their stories and must have some interest in reading. Tell us more about your style of painting in Body & Soul and where you got your inspiration from. Do books or people inspire you?
Body & Soul is all about freedom and imagination; merging reality and a touch of fantasy. Anything and everything around me inspires me. It could be as simple as noticing a unique feature on a stranger’s face to going blind and listen to my inner voice and let my imagination take over. Our subconscious is capable of absorbing so much from our surroundings without us knowing and it’s amazing to see how it can find its way into our conscious mind when we allow our conscious mind to wander and our hand to create.
S: We’re lucky to have seen some of your earlier works and they vary in style and concept. Could you tell us more about Mother & Child?
This piece was inspired by a casual conversation between my friends and I wherein the topic was about their children. Although I am not a mother myself, I could sense how proud they were of their children and how much joy their children have brought them. My inspiration then was to try and capture this emotion and paint it in a child-like manner. This piece was created prior to my discovery of palette knife painting.
S: Coming back to the exhibition at SPRMRKT, what is it about the human figure that intrigues you? Are these faces and figures of anyone in particular?
The endless stories that it can tell and the emotion that it can portray without having to say a word. I may be smiling but my eyes could be conveying a different message. I may be crying but it could be tears of joy. The lack of certainty where a smile doesn’t always represent happiness and tears doesn’t always signify sadness creates a grey area where interpretation is key and this space – this very space – is what intrigues me the most and drives me to capture it on canvas. The faces and figures that I have painted are all from imagination – materialisation from chance events and things that I have picked up along the way.
Artwork featured above are only two of the six works on exhibition. Please visit us on 2 McCallum Street, Singapore 069043 to see the complete show and commissioned piece. Call us at +65 6221 2105 for opening hours.
S: Do you paint from photos? If no, why not?
No I don’t. I’m not a fan of replication. The idea of painting in accordance to something does not appeal to me at all. The thought of knowing the end before I begin will strangle every bit of passion I have to paint. If the photo is of something interesting, I may choose to use that as a base but the end result will definitely not be a replication.
S: And what is it about women and their bodies in relationship to food did you have in mind when creating the commissioned project for SPRMRKT?
There is no lack of evidence (in social media especially) on how obsessive women (and some men) have become with their appearances. Although this is predominantly driven by weight loss agenda, we should also give attention to those who are fighting against it and reminding us – it is perfectly beautiful to be who you are. I wanted to capture both end of this spectrum in the commissioned project and this was how I came up with the painting.
S: Food has always been a significant part of our lives, especially here in Singapore. Whether it’s dinner at home, a weekend BBQ or a celebratory feast, we’re always talking about the latest food trends, hip cafes and celebrity restaurants. Does food or dining out mean different things to you as a lawyer and as an artist?
Not at all. My career is what I do whilst art is what I love. The latter is definitely the dominant me and it shines through in all the things that I do. A pop of creative touch can go a long way in making a good event great! Not to mention memorable!
S: What are your plans after this exhibition? Can we expect to see more work soon?
I will continue to paint and there’s no doubt about that. I certainly hope I will be able to hold more exhibitions in the near future and continue to share my work.
Thank you Jaen!