Booking.com

Kayleigh Goh is an emerging artist who graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts a mere 2 years ago and whose very first solo exhibition has just opened at Gajah Gallery.  I met and spoke to her for the first time when I was invited to write the catalogue essay for the show. After that first chat, we kept in constant touch as I followed the progress of her work. In the process, I found out so much more about who she is as a person and about the life that shaped her into the burgeoning artist she is today.  Join me on this deep-dive into my inbox, over the three weeks leading up to her exhibition – where Kayleigh and I talk about her practice, how she splits her life between Johor Bahru and Singapore and everything in between.

From the artist’s perspective. Image courtesy of Kayleigh Goh

To: Kayleigh Goh

From: Joyce Choong

Sent: 9 September 2018 at 12:57pm

Dear Kayleigh,

I haven’t seen you in a while, I hope everything is going well.

I saw that you just sent the works over from your studio in Johor Bahru to Gajah Gallery – how was that? Making logistical arrangements sounds like a very important aspect of being an artist that doesn’t often get spoken of –  from securing a studio to arranging for the delivery of works and insurance (do you do that too?). I like to call it “life administration”, like filling in paperwork or banking. They’re annoying and take up a lot of time, but have to be done to be a functioning human being. I wonder if you anticipated things like this as you were growing into your practice.

Best,

Joyce

The artist at work in the LASALLE studios. Image courtesy of Kayleigh Goh.

To: Joyce Choong

From: Kayleigh Goh

Sent: 12 September 2018 at 6:10am

Hey Joyce,

Yes! I’ve just finished my last piece for my first solo show with Gajah Gallery. I’m actually heading to Gajah later to check on the framed paintings and photograph them. I am lucky with transportation – since my first group show with Gajah Gallery, they have been helping me make and manage logistical arrangements. For insurance… I think I really need to do my research.

l wonder if I’ve mentioned that my brother has decided to stay in Melbourne, so I’ve had the opportunity to turn his bedroom into a working studio space. However, I’m now thinking of saving up to find a larger, brighter space to work with as my paintings grow bigger. I’m struggling to decide between saving my money to invest in a space or a Master’s education. As my works grow (literally and figuratively!) the need for a bigger space is more immediate, and I want to continue experimenting with simple wood machines. I am excited to play with all kinds of wood-cutting, drilling and grinding machines, to explore 3-dimensional elements in my practice. This experimentation is still in its infancy, but working with too much cement and wood gives off weird chemical smells in a closed, confined area. The air circulation in my current studio is not ideal, and “live fast die young” is not really what I had in mind.

Regards,

Kayleigh

Wood and concrete in the studio. Image courtesy of the artist.

To: Kayleigh Goh

From: Joyce Choong

Sent: 14 September 2018 at 4:57pm

So good to hear about the developments with Gajah, that sounds fantastic! The gallery sounds very supportive as well, which is great. Are you particular about the kind of frames you use? As the viewer, I think the way a work is framed subconsciously affects its reception. It seems such a significant aspect of an artwork – almost part of the work itself! I myself use IKEA frames for things but then again, I am cheap.

Speaking of your studio in Johor Bahru, I was also thinking of your experience splitting your time between JB and Singapore. Do you find it difficult? Not just the journey or the distance, but living your life in two separate places, with two different environments and groups of people. I know your installation under the National Art Council’s (NAC) Public Art Trust is centred around that, and it’s something that I thought of as I was travelling from Singapore to Glasgow as well. It’s a strange feeling, having such radically different experiences when you’re living the same life. You described as being “parallel”, and I think I feel that more acutely now. How long have you been doing this for, and have your feelings changed over time?

Best,

Joyce

Work in progress. Image courtesy of the artist.

To: Joyce Choong

From: Kayleigh Goh

Sent: 17 September 2018 at 11:45am

I think I am both particular and not particular with the frames I use. They have to be simple, neat, not too light nor dark, but I am not that particular with what type of wood it is. I’m currently using pine. My framer suggested it, and I trust him entirely. I have to say actually… I’ve used IKEA frames in one of my paintings as well! But I used it as part of the painting rather than the frame itself.

I have been travelling in and out of Singapore since my first year at LASALLE, from 2012 till now. But I don’t travel as much as I did during my college years. I actually know many people that do the same. I don’t think it’s difficult to adapt, as Singapore and Malaysia have so much in common, well, since previously we are all part of Malaya right? But still, Singapore and Johor each has its own distinctive vibe. Whenever I travel in and out, I feel like there’s an internal switch that helps me tune and adapt to the differences. These differences, along with the different circles of people in each one, sometimes make me feel as if I live two parallel lives. Imagining you and your experience between Singapore and Glasgow, perhaps you feel it more acutely than I do.

But the most challenging thing about having life spread between cities is giving enough time to spend with all my different circles of friends and families. As we discussed before, time really is a luxury. I want to make deep connections, not just communicate at a superficial level.

Regards,

Kayleigh

The artist immersed. Image courtesy of Kayleigh Goh

To: Kayleigh Goh

From: Joyce Choong

Sent: 20 September 2018 at 10:53pm

I’ve found that giving time to people I care about is something I need to work on — everyone is unique in what they require of you to maintain a connection, and it sounds like maybe that’s something you’ve found out as well. You have mentioned that social media and speaking over text or WhatsApp can be quite taxing, which I completely agree with; yet its both a good and evil because it allows you to hold on to those connections, but superficially. I guess talking in real life is always better, which is ironic because we’re emailing each other!

I never realised there were so many people who commuted so often. I have only ever been to JB for leisure, so how would you characterise each city, or the differences between the two of them?

Best,

Joyce

Lost in Time, Like Tears in Rain in installation. Image courtesy of the artist.

To: Joyce Choong

From: Kayleigh Goh

Sent: 24 September 2018 at 8:07am

Well, I suppose we have no other way! I should have asked you out for coffee when you were still in Singapore. Thoughts and feelings can be communicated over text and voice, but direct and immediate experiences, like an aura or the frequency of another, is difficult to communicate through a mediator, even with video calls. And that’s quite an important aspect of engaging with others.

I think every artist is tied to a certain medium or working process, each with their own reason. The reason I chose to work with paintings and drawings is similar to why I like speaking to people face-to-face. I think of engagement, the tactility involved in the act of creation compared to taking photographs or shooting videos. I wanted to keep a pure, direct experience between me and my works, without a machine as the mediator. I feel it keeps the work’s aura, which I find important for myself. Living in the world where there are fewer and fewer of these kinds of interactions, it is my attempt to keep them in my life. I am the kind of person who prefers printed books over a Kindle, a physical bookshop over online book-shopping if you know what I mean.

Hmm, how would I characterise Johor and Singapore… Johor feels more organic while Singapore feels more structured and organised. Being in different cities I feel like a different me at times. But it’s a good thing. I am really happy to be a combination of both, experiencing the balance of rawness and structure from each city. I relate that balance in my practice — the need to experience the freshness of experimentation, then subsequently relaying that into organised works.

One more week to the opening! I can slowly sense the nerves and excitement. Quite a number of friends have promised to come all the way from Johor to attend the opening as well. I really do hope the experience on the opening night is worth everybody’s time. I really am sincerely grateful to everybody who has spent or will be spending time and effort to come. I think of it as healthy stress, a reminder to myself to put in my full effort, to make every future show worth making time for.

Regards,

Kayleigh

Works going up in Gajah Gallery. Image courtesy of the artist.

To: Kayleigh Goh

From: Joyce Choong

Sent: 25 September 2018 at 6:14pm

I’ve been seeing more and more promotion for your show and getting excited for you. I’m sad that I won’t be there but by the sound of it, I trust it’ll be very well received. It’s going to be an exhilarating week, enjoy it!

Best,

Joyce

 

Note: Kayleigh Goh’s solo exhibition, And Yet, If Only, runs in Gajah Gallery from 28 September to 15 October.



Don’t miss a thing!