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Artists @ Home: Divaagar

As we collectively stay at home during these turbulent times, how are artists coping, and what are they brewing up at home? Artists @ Home is a series of email interviews with artists where we find out what they’ve been up to as all of us, voluntarily or not, embrace the home as work and studio space.

Kicking off this series, we have Singaporean visual artist Divaagar. As an artist whose practice explores the relationship between desires and spaces, and as a freelance interior designer and decorator, he talks to us about how various aspects of his work and personal life converge in the cosy set-up of his bedroom.

What’s different about working from home rather than from the studio? (Or, if there’s nothing different about how you usually work vs. the current situation, please feel free to share more about that too.)

Well, prior to the circuit breaker, I didn’t have a regular studio to work from. I mostly rented out short-term spaces, built the work on-site, or worked from my corridor for projects that required preparation beforehand. That said, a lot of my everyday work involves my computer (i.e. correspondence, planning, 3D models, etc.) and even though that seems like work that I could do at home, my usual habits involve heading over to 24-hour cafes in the middle of the night to get them completed.

However, now that I’m required to stay indoors, it requires a lot more motivation to get started on things that normally come naturally when I head out with the purpose of doing work. My bedroom, where I’ll be working from, has been designed with comfort in mind, and I do find it difficult to focus on work.

The view from Divaagar’s bed. Image courtesy of the artist.

What art (or non-art related things) are you working on right now?

I’m using this time to record project ideas and make notes, models and plans for the future. Though my practice relies a lot on observing my environments, perhaps the distance could be fruitful in some way. I’m also working with some friends on a project entitled Rough Paper, involving beautiful handmade paper from 3Pumpkins’ paper-making workshops – so watch out for that soon!

Samples of papers made through the 3Pumpkins workshops, available soon from Rough Paper. Image courtesy of the artist.

As for non-art related things, I’m taking the opportunity to do some home projects that I’ve been putting off. A day before our confinements, I had bought paint to bring some new life into my dilapidated wardrobe, and painted some blocks of colours to freshen it up. I completed that within 2 days, and have since started to find new and exciting things to spruce up around the house. Also more gardening, and cooking!

Image courtesy of the artist.

What’s one thing (poem, artwork, song, movie etc) that’s been on your mind and why?

Even though I’ve watched it a hundred times over, I’ve been re-watching this absolute god of a man, Brad Leone and his series ‘It’s Alive!’ on the Bon Appetit Youtube channel. Other than the entertaining editing and the eye candy, I’ve been thinking about things through the lens of fermentation: how we’re being contained, how that builds pressure, and what being given a bit of time away from continuously making can do to our ideas and projects.

I’ve even been inspired to attempt a ginger beer, and some pickling of beets and mangoes. It’s all good fun. In fermentation, we can’t always see what happens beneath the surface of what we perceive, but we can see the effects of the process. But I guess now we can stop to appreciate the moments in these activities that we do to tide ourselves through the circuit breaker season.

Strained excess ginger pulp before bottling for fermentation. Image courtesy of the artist.

What are other home projects that you’re intending to embark on, now that you’ve completed your wardrobe spruce?

I might paint a really old bookcase in the same style, and do some kitchen upgrades, such as installing some hanging solutions to make space for some new pans and utensils that I’ve acquired recently. Who knows, maybe after another two weeks, I’ll find something new at home that needs improving!

Where do you get your ideas for home improvement projects from?

I’m always exposed to what design trends and home solutions there are through my work, but often I’m left feeling quite underwhelmed by all these minimal, clean lines, and find some comfort in the cracks and dust on the surfaces in a house.

If I could pick from some of my home inspirations, one that stands out is Amy Sedaris’ home, which is absolutely full of life and personality! While I don’t share that energy that she has, a lot of it boils down to how you’d have your spaces facilitate the energy you’d want around yourself, be it frames of friends and loved ones around, or arranging your furniture to facilitate productivity. I personally like my interiors darker, but with immense life and warmth. That inspires a lot of the more aesthetic projects in my home. As for more practical aspects, it’s always about being more attuned to one’s needs and figuring it out from there!

Speaking to what you’ve mentioned earlier about your practice relying on the observation of your environments, what have you observed about your environment ever since COVID-19 began? Any plans for a COVID-19 inspired artwork there?

Nothing especially insightful yet, I think. It’s only been a little more than a week so far (Editor’s note: at the time of our correspondence, the circuit breaker in Singapore had been ongoing for about a week), and I can see that people are not doing great, so that’s where my concern is. We really lose sight of how important a face-to-face conversation is, or how important touch is in our daily lives, for which there is no real solution at the moment.

I’ll be making some art, but it wouldn’t be directly about COVID-19, because I think a lot of our news and media is already quite saturated with news about the virus cases, public panic and even care. I would rather not add more noise than there already is. It could be useful to think of art in the sense of decompressing from the situation and to find some relief, if I were to make something of this situation. Currently I’m working on a digital work for Our Softest Hour, an online art project by Nature Shankar and Kimberly Kiong which hopes to be a site that offers repose, healing and intimacy through art. That’s still very much a work in progress for me at the moment, so look out for that soon! 

The artist in his resting (and now working) place, feat. freshly painted wardrobe in the background. Image courtesy of the artist.
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