Return to a loving dream by Alexandra Kehayoglou
7 September – 18 November 2019
541 Orchard Road, Hermès Liat Towers
The window installation will be on display at Hermès Liat Towers till November 2019.
Known for her handwoven tapestries that capture the beauty of nature and native landscapes, Kehayoglou was invited to create a unique installation that celebrates Singapore's identity as a Garden City.
Exploring the relationship humans have with nature and our surrounding landscape, Kehayoglou took inspiration from Singapore's landscape history – a city built alongside mangrove forests. She was captivated by the beautiful chaos of unedited nature found at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve: a greenery so lush that one loses track of time and place. It's like being in a dream.
With that, Kehayoglou transformed the windows at Hermès Liat Towers into a portal to another reality that gives us a different perspective of the nature around us. Kehayoglou spent ten years depicting fading lands and ecocides through her works, documenting decimation and speaking about lost lands in a bid to draw attention to the harm that we do to earth and in turn, ourselves. In Return to a loving dream, she explores a more magical aspect of this realm, finding beauty in the ordinary and bringing attention and awareness to the importance of nature
"We really don't know what can happen in the future. Planet earth has had cycles, we must learn how to live in harmony with ourselves and each other, and that will be reflected in the way we relate to the earth" – Alexandra Kehayoglou
A reflection on the work presented by ALEXANDRA KEHAYOGLOU in Singapore
How did your working relationship with Hermès begin? What were some of your thoughts when you were approached to design your first Hermès windows installation? How did you feel about working on such a project/collaboration?
I was first invited to make the widows for the Athens store. I was very excited since working in Athens meant to me an opportunity to reconnect with a city very close to my family. I was always amazed by the greek landscape, I was able to explore this landscape with this first project with Hermes. At that time investigating I came across with the poem by cavafy Ithaka, so I started with work with that. It was a nice start because greek culture is familiar to me. I was inspired by its culture and by the landscape.
Can you explain a little more about your interpretation of the Hermès 2019 theme, In Pursuit of Dreams and how did you try and capture it via your installation?
Return to a loving dream. I tried to build a portal to perceive things differently. I spent some time with my work being focused on documenting decimation, and speaking about lost land. This was very necessary for my process but it was sad and exhausting.
In pursuit of dreams gave me the possibility of exploring and going deeper into this idea of a more magical aspect of this realm. I believe we have come to a point where we must connect with the good dreams, with those of hope. Negative dreams will always exist and our mind can focus on them by means of vicious thoughts. Art can be a shelter, a portal to perceive things in a different way. I like to offer that possibility, that is the intention while creating this work. We have to believe in a positive dream. It is something for us to train, to maintain ourselves focused on good dreams. Climate change and nature decimation is something that we have created, we must now forgive ourselves for the creation of such a nightmare, in order to move on.
My intention was to create a portal from a random place in Singapore’s natural landscape. I am interested in portraying pieces of nature that tend to be in blind spots, that can be taken for granted, and give them a different perspective. I created this tapestry that weaves trees and plants and mangroves. I intend to build a bridge a place to feel hope. Trees and nature are here to bless us.
What were some of your dreams and aspirations as a child? Has it differed much from your life now?
As a child I wanted to be surrounded by many animals. We had 6 dogs in our house, and 3 cats, there were also turkeys and chickens in my parents house. Apparently my father told me that I wanted to be a carpet maker when I was 7 , 8 years old. When I was a child the thing I enjoyed most was to draw and paint.
Now I also have dogs and I make carpets, which are not just carpets, and also I draw quite a lot for many of the projects I make. In a way it differs a lot the sensation I have towards life, when you are a child most of the time it is pure happiness, now everything is a bit more complex.
Take us through your creative process for this project with Hermès Singapore?
Well the process was very unique since when Hermes Singapore approached me, I was 5 months pregnant, and was impossible for me to travel to Singapore to get inspiration from the places I wanted to visit.
But I really wanted to work with this landscape and with Singapore, so my partner traveled to Singapore and took images from the Sungei Buloh Wetland which I choose from some previous investigations I started to make from Buenos Aires.
Once there, he started to send me images of the manglars and I said yes this is what I want to represent, and using photographs and videos I proposed to make a patch of manglar jungle in a tapestry.
What was the appeal of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and what sort of inspiration did it give you for your window installation?
I wanted to reflect the beautiful chaos of nature in one tapestry, and also explore the idea that you can lose track of where you are in the jungle, you don't know if the roots are going down or up, where is the ground, and I think this is very interesting and unique from the Singapore landscape… it is so rich on vegetation and it grows in an expanding way, and the manglars seem to be opening but actually they are going into the water to attach to something… I believe that the idea of floatation also appears, everything seems to be floating and suspended, like in a dream.
But mainly the choice comes from my idea of finding beauty in the ordinary, and I don't mean ordinary in a negative way, but in a common scene than normally would go unnoticed. I decided to portray an unedited landscape and put it in a special place, a portal to another reality, one in which we treasure every last bit of nature.
How would you describe your artistic practice and aesthetic? What are you trying to explore through your works?
I am not very fond of tags. I am an artist that makes tapestries, carpets, I am a textile artist or a painter or a sculptress. All of these fit my description.
I don't like routines so I try to make thin
gs different each time. Every work we make at the studio has behind hours of drawing, planning and deciding colors. I like to take my practice to its limits, I like working with a team and exploring their limits as well. There are no recipes. I am quite obsessive, and I really love working.
Nature and landscapes feature very strongly as the main subject-matter of your works. Has this always been the case? Is there a reason behind this?
Our relationship with nature and with the landscape that surrounds us has been what ignited every project I have ever worked on. The approach changed though as did my work. Singapore and it’s landscape history. A city built in a manglar. The beautiful chaos of unedited nature was what attracted mostly my attention. I was drawn to working with nature since I guess is what I enjoy most doing, being in nature. My work is a reflection of the love I hold for nature.
It is mentioned that your work has become renowned as an outcry against deforestation and devastation, and a call for environmental awareness. What are your thoughts about the environmental issues that we have today?
I spent 10 years depicting fading lands and ecocides mainly from my country. I created hundreds of works that represented the pampas pastizales, an ecosystem that disappears as the transgenic farming goes forward. I have gone deeper into specific ecocides like the two hydroelectric dams that are being constructed in Patagonia, which will kill a river cutting its free flow and violating all regulations.
My main intention was always to bring attention and awareness of the beauty and importance of such landscapes, and as I said before, I now understand that this outcry must be done from a place of love and compassion for ourselves for having created such a nightmare. That is the main reason for which I make art, to share a loving point of view of the situation.
I think the harm we do to the earth is a reflection of the harm we do to ourselves. It will be difficult to change this if we continue to harm ourselves and each other. I think it all resumes down to love, love for ourselves, love for each other, love for the earth. Nature will prevail, always. But we are involved in vicious cycles of consuming and owning not deeply realizing that this resumes in own our hatred. Our lack of self respect. It is not much of nature needing to be saved, but more of us being saved.
We really don’t know what can happen in the future. Planet earth has had cycles, we must learn how to live in harmony with ourselves and each other, and that will be reflected in the way we relate to the earth.
What was your fondest memory living in a family with the traditions of rug and carpet making?
This is a very sensitive matter since that family tradition is coming to a crucial point. My father, from whom this legacy I learned is very ill with a devastating disease, ALS. So suddenly every memory becomes special. I have in a way tried to cherish this love for carpet making taking it back to the craftsmanship.
Today I miss discussing future projects with my dad, telling him about from where they contacted me from or trying to solve crazy ideas for strange carpet projects. He has been a silent member of my team, always helping me taking my work further, being critical and supportive at the same time. He used to keep clipings of magazines and press I shared with him and he would go and show them at his factory. I guess today one of my fondest memories are walks with him in his factory, trying to learn as much as I could.
Tell us more about the materials used (surplus materials etc.) and technical skills you have adopted in creating the textile pieces for this window.
I am still working with surplus material from my family's company. This tapestry is made with that wool. Hand tufted and hand trimmed. I Have been using for all of these years material that comes from the factory, wool that exceeds from production or has a color variation and is discarded. This is something that I don't know for how long will be, since my father got ill and the other side of the family that is running the company and myself we are not quite aligned in our values and ideas.
The mangroves sculptures where done by Jose Huidobro, my partner, who besides working with me in the studio has his own studio. He is a sculptor and an engineer and we often collaborate in specific projects. He created these metal structures that where later covered in carpet.
Photographs by Francisco Nocito
Alexandra Kehayoglou all rights reserved