Geraldine Javier: Playing God in an Art Lab
Veritas Branding & Marketing, Singapore, 2012. 48 pp.
The fruit of Geraldine Javier’s 4-week residency at STPI has its roots in the artist’s fascination for natural curiosities. In collaboration with the STPI workshop team, Javier transforms the gallery into a space resembling an archaeological excavation site, employing various media like preserved leaves, paper pulp, elaborate needlework and etching in creation of a unique aesthetic world.
This world, subtly haunting and dreamlike, draws upon an array of inspirations from evolution, paleontology and natural history. Traces of the artist’s background in nursing are evident in her penchant for anatomical illustrations, particularly in works like Ptolemy’s Dog and Piltdown Man. Her Four Seasons series, meticulously composed from a combination of woodblock, lithography and screen print, thrusts into our visual field a skeleton believed to be Death himself in a metaphorical cycle of life, ultimately collapsing in a heap of bones.
Yet, it is Javier’s lithographs that decisively capture the notion of “Playing God” through her experiments in the studio. These lithographs feature a curious collection of creatures – hybrids of skeletal parts, flora and fauna – validating man’s mastery over his known environment. While their futuristic anatomy hints at life forms beyond present day, their fossilisation simultaneously suggests history and the end of life, echoing both the promise of progress and the inevitability of death. The paradox in these charming blends of botany, zoology and the whimsical invite viewers to ponder the origins of existence and one’s place in this realm of God’s making.
According to Javier, “these works were not done in an isolated environment but in a space where there’s constant stimulation, in collaboration with the STPI staff.” Adds Emi Eu, Director of STPI, “This project is extraordinary in many ways. Not only is Geraldine highly meticulous and methodical, she brought along a strong vision which she realised by combining the best of herself and the STPI team.” Hence, despite the use of organic materials and the persistence of decay in the imagery, the spirited environment in which the works were conceived naturally provides a reflection of life. What started out quickly as an exciting collaboration has manifested itself in a single grand narrative of works, celebrating life, death, quirk, beauty, and the very act of creation itself.
Essay and short story by Tony Godfrey.