Singaporean Artist Sarah Choo Jing Explores Femininity And Humanity With Valentino-Commissioned ‘Gestures Of Affection’

Singapore Art Week 2024 is back in full swing, with a line-up of exciting events for art lovers of all stripes. Among the progressive concepts and interactive programmes is a special commission that marks Valentino’s second participation in Singapore Art Week—a unique body of work titled Gestures of Affection by Singaporean artist, Sarah Choo Jing, on display at the lobby of Soho Residency Singapore.

Inspired by Pierpaolo Piccioli’s vision expressed through the Valentino L’Ecole collection and key codes of the house, Gestures of Affection serves to “highlight the body in celebration of femininity and humanity”. The seven artworks feature female protagonists that reference different phases of the moon, a powerful source of feminine energy; complementing the installation is an immersive dining experience created by the artist in collaboration with Soho House for Valentino. Ahead, Choo—known for her interdisciplinary approach to photography, video and installation—tells us about this special commission by Valentino and her practice.

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Sarah Choo Jing and Rita Targui 'Gestures of Affection'
Sarah Choo Jing and Rita Targui, curator of the installation and immersive art experience.

How did you find your voice as an artist?

I grew up in quite a strict, traditional family so I’ve always preferred to take the road less travelled and challenge people or norms. Growing up in Singapore and being in a city where everything is so carefully constructed has influenced the way I see things. When I was abroad doing my Masters, my classmates made a comment that no matter how much I try to let go, my works remain highly staged and in control. I think introspection and having conversations with mentors who look out for you and who can be real with you, as well as people who are around me and close to me have helped me gain clarity on what I stand for and what I believe in.

I’m also heavily influenced by The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan; I think that the medium of the artwork should always portray what you’re trying to see—I was trained as a photorealistic painter first before I went into photography and video. I couldn’t paint very beautifully or draw realistically, but through colours, patterns, or just taking a picture using my film camera, I was able to capture moments and use that to talk to people, or use the process of meeting up to talk to people. Art, for me, has always been a form of connection. A language.

Tell us about your special collaboration with Valentino.

I was very excited about this opportunity to work with Valentino. Fashion and art are similar, but also different in their own ways. Gestures of Affection comprises seven digital videos and prints, each depicting qualities inherent in the female experience: sensuality, resilience, empathy, individuality, freedom, passion, and vulnerability. Each composition was meticulously staged and recorded at ultra-high speed, presented through the lens of slow-motion playback at seven minutes per video. Something that really resonated with me was the symbolism of the moon. All the screens follow seven phases of the moon—seven being a special number; the right number for you to see a crescent, a half moon, three quarters of the moon, the full moon, and then coming back full circle; and because I wanted the central figure to sit in the middle and be representative of the full moon. As for the colour scheme, I chose red as it’s an embodiment of the female form. I also wanted it to be in line with what red represents for Valentino.

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What was most challenging about it?

I really enjoyed the challenge of looking at Valentino’s values, and teasing them out in my work. I didn’t want to feature women who’re already on top of their game; I wanted to celebrate the everyday woman. I know all seven women personally, but encouraging them to come on board to support this cause and at the same time, not making it a situation where they feel obliged to be a part of, was challenging.

How has this collaborative experience impacted or enriched you?

I think letting go of that control and allowing the collaborative experience to enrich the world is something that I want to do more of. This entire process has been so enriching; there’s the process, and there’s also the idea of doing things that really resonate with what I believe in—I decided to take on the commission because proceeds would actually go to the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). Moving forward, I want to do projects that similarly embrace and embody values that sit with me.

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Sarah Choo Jing 'Gestures of Affection' Soho Residency
‘Gestures of Affection’ at Soho Residency Singapore.

What’s your relationship with fashion like?

I’ve always had a huge appreciation for fashion—especially in the realms of fashion photography and artistic direction. When it comes to dressing up though, I tend to select clothes and fashion items that I think are easy to put together. Instead, I take a lot of care in curating how I present myself.

What are some projects we can look forward to?

I have a project currently showing at the National Gallery’s Rotunda Library as part of the Light to Night Festival. The circular motif is also repeated there and the two works actually speak to each other. I hope that, as you take the time to appreciate the works, slow down and unpeel the layers, you’d be able to draw the similarities and differences between them.

Gestures of Affection is available in digital and print and will remain on display through Singapore Art Week until January 28, 2024. Following the period of installation, Maison Valentino will donate net proceeds from the sale to AWARE.

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