Sơn ta on iron bricks, stacked. 315 bricks, 22 × 12 × 6 cm/ unit.
Obelus is a sculpture that looks like a construction site brick stack around which the pedestrian must navigate on the way to their destination. Composed of 315 individual “bricks” made of steel and represented realistically with lacquer painting, this stack forms a human sized obelisk.
Bricks are a common reoccurring motif within my work. Symbolically brick to me represents the most basic unit of material from which human culture and habitat is constructed. Small but dense, each brick at rest is a monument to potential. In a time when walls and cities are being erected rather than taken down, this sculptural composition urges each of us to consider how we should exercise our will to power.
In terms of medium, I also use bricks to explore and reiterate the specificity of Vietnamese lacquer and its capacity for mimesis of surface essences. By painting bricks, I am reminded that the possibilities of the medium of lacquer as painting is not about how it represents matter like an optical trick but rather how it performs a becoming of matter.
For those accustomed to seeing lacquer as a “precious” material, this way of representation creates an unexpected contrast. For the casual passerby who assumes they are crossing yet another construction site, the rich materiality of the lacquered surface will hopefully make them stop and look and perceive the unit of bricks symbolically.
This is accompanied by an upgraded version of the iconic red, white, and blue “construction tarp”. Sewn together by with higher quality awning material this tarp serves dual functions—shading the lacquer from direct sunlight and marking this as a site in construction. This work is modular and can be readapted to other spaces.
Originally commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore for Lock Route, a public art showcase at Gillman Barracks, January - June 2017.