Dawn Ng

Curated by Jenn Ellis

Presented Kate MacGarry

Exhibition 21 April – 20 May, 27 Old Nichol St, London E2 7HR, London, 2023

Dawn Ng, Kate MacGarry, 2023. Image courtesy artist and Kate MacGarry

Kate MacGarry is pleased to announce Dawn Ng’s first solo show at the gallery. The exhibition comprises lightboxes, photographs, a time lapse video and paintings, all of which articulate Ng’s nuanced exploration of time.

An ode to temporality, process and fleeting beauty, Ng’s body of work began as a study into the articulation of time. How, rather than relying on numerical terms, what if we shifted to an expression through colour, shape, form. Ng turns to the most ephemeral material available to her in her native Singapore – ice – and from there has devised an emotive language of creation, destruction, trace and remembrance.

The passage is a cyclical one. Ng assiduously builds blocks of frozen pigment with the skill of a chemist and a sculptor, a painter and an architect, creating a topographical medley of pigments, watercolours, dyes. The layers build, encrust, stagger – geologically seeming yet ultimately fleeting. Photographed from multiple angles as they decay, these comprise Ng’s ‘Clocks’ body of works. Taking their individual titles from song lyrics that Ng has listened to when laboriously creating each block, they capture a moment of being and recollecting – crystallised, engrained, like a record player track on repeat.

Dawn Ng, Kate MacGarry, 2023. Image courtesy artist and Kate MacGarry

The lightboxes represent the moment 00:00 when the blocks first emerge from their mould. The surprise and joy melded with the knowledge that from hereon they are decaying – leaving as soon as they arrived. Their charged yet meditative demise is captured by Ng’s time lapse films entitled ‘Time Lost Falling in Love’, a reference to time’s elasticity and its capricious capacity to speed up when you’re having fun and slow down in times of boredom. As the blocks cascade over 18 hours, Ng tailors and streamlines the process with the assiduous skill of a surgeon to a 20 mins lapse in which the form shifts colour and form, revealing their layers, core, underbelly, until they ultimately collapse in a pool of trace. What took weeks to build in the matter of minutes, gone.

The ‘Ash’ paintings, each of which correspond to a particular block, are the ultimate remembrance. The swirls of pigment each are given a last breath as they cling to the 300 GSM paper; the watercolours and dyes leaving first, the acrylic hanging longest. The result is again topographical; whereas with the ‘Clocks’ it seemed as if we’d dug something up from the ground here we feel we’ve encountered a slab of quartz or, further afield, a sulphuric tapestry. Hanging from the ceiling or against the wall, they oscillate between movement and stasis, bringing with them a charge and reference to our perennial shifting.

Dawn Ng, Kate MacGarry, 2023. Image courtesy artist and Kate MacGarry

A further painting is introduced, one that is new to Ng’s practice and marks a shorter route between block and plane. ‘Flow Sweetly, Hang Heavy I’ is the first of its kind to be shown in Europe, whereby a block is allowed to cascade, fall, drip and ooze directly onto a wooden board. The result is more akin to a map: avenues, tributaries, ducts connect and swirl, collectively heaving into a place of things. 

Ultimately, Ng transports us on a journey of creation and death, one that is empathetic and embraces emotion, play, song and movement. Sweet yet tart, ‘Now, Then’ pulls at our heart, exploring our existing conceptions of time and our own relationship with being. Our reality of living in constant motion while grasping onto a moment, an oscillation between what is now, and what was then.

Text by Jenn Ellis

Dawn Ng, Kate MacGarry, 2023. Image courtesy artist and Kate MacGarry

Dawn Ng is a multi-disciplinary visual artist, who has worked across a breadth of mediums, motifs, and scale, including sculpture, photography, light, film, collage, painting and large scale installations. Her practice deals with time, memory and the ephemeral. Often characterized by lyricism and a nuanced use of colour, her work has been acquired by the Singapore Art Museum, and exhibited at the Musee d’art contemporain de Lyon, the Jeju Biennale (2017), and the Lille3000 art festival, France. Solo exhibitions include Into Air, St Cyprian’s Church, London (2022), Monument Momento, Sullivan & Strumpf, Singapore (2020), A Thing of Beauty, Art Paris Art Fair (2015) and Sixteen, Art Basel Hong Kong (2013). Ng has been commissioned by the Hermes Foundation (2016), ArtScience Museum (2019), Asian Civilisations Museum (2020) and most recently by the National Gallery Singapore (2023).