At just 22 years old, out lesbian artist Genevieve Chua is staging her first solo exhibition, As Brutal As from June 1-10 at the La Libreria Gallery. Through her pencil drawings, she explores the "themes of psychological horror and sexuality" and wants to "invoke viewers to rethink their perceptions and conjure new experiences." Genevieve speaks to Fridae about her art and taking a sabbatical from University this year to pursue her art practice.
Genevieve: Watching some horror films got me started on this series of work. I like a lot of the tension that goes along with it. Not one which is dark and morbid but something smaller, silent and unpredictable. Like standing beside someone you like and getting unnerved over whether you should hold her hand. Intrinsically reflective of life, not just mine per se.
æ: When and how did you discover your inclination for art?
Genevieve: When I was three, I started drawing tits and pussies on the walls - by that I meant birds and cats. The impulse to do more art came up when I decided to take that inclination seriously and enrolled into Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts' (NAFA) School of Young Talents program at 13, where I started a weekly program of intensive honing of pencil, charcoal, watercolours and traditional mediums. I let it consume me so much that art school came as a natural choice after.
æ: When did you first realise you wanted to turn that into a career and when did you actually consider yourself as an artist?
Genevieve: The Nokia Singapore Art Show in 2001 had a substantial impact on me. I saw the works of the installation artists, sculptors and painters and realised there was a wealth of ideas and issues that could be brought across through images and forms. I was very much drawn into art making from that point.
æ: What challenges do you face in pursuing art at this age?
Genevieve: It's rather complicated to juggle school and my art practice at some point. And I had to take a sabbatical from University this year to follow through with these burning ideas and plans that I had. It's the hurdle of getting over the initial self-doubt and having lots of discipline to make sure one's decisions work out in the best possible consequence.
æ: Tell us more about the different periods in your art career so far.
Genevieve: After being in NAFA as an impressionable kid for fours years part-time, I had embarked on a fine art foundation in printmaking in 2001. That had an enormous effect on my work methods for technical skill and precision, which I brought forward as a painting major in LASALLE in 2002. I started out doing representational paintings of film-stills and nudes of women in different states of the human condition. Drawing was an overlap period during the time I was painting, which started in 2004 and which I am still working with at present.
æ: We heard you have garnered quite a following of your work since you started on your nudes in 2004. Tell us more about that. Any crazy fans?
Genevieve: Just great (and crazy) friends, mentors and peers who support what I'm doing : ) I'm more than thankful that people collect my work.
æ: While there are a number of out gay male artists in Singapore, there seems to be significantly fewer out lesbians. Any thoughts on that?
Genevieve: Perhaps the artists who are lesbian don't exclusively do lesbian/gay themed work aside from other issues which they dabble with. It's common for an artist to say that her art comes before her sexuality, because it can be limiting.
æ: What is the biggest misconception about you and/or about artists in general?
Genevieve: That being an artist makes me 'arty-farty'. Like, ew, horrible term. I can control my gas very well thanks. What I mean is, not all artists are flighty; exude angst; have tortured souls; or dress like collage paintings. I know of respected art-makers who are very grounded and idealistic.
æ: Who or what inspires you?
Genevieve: Amongst numerous things, reading a good book. Maybe something by Haruki Murakami; Anne Sexton; Anais Nin; Kazuo Ishiguro; or Hanif Kureishi and having a cup of chamomile tea to go along. No sugar.
æ: Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Genevieve: Wordsmiths. They string meaning together differently from image-makers and it intrigues me.
æ: If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
Genevieve: I shouldn't have had so much carbs at lunch. And this bimbotic answer.
æ: What was the most important thing that happened to you in the last 12 months?
Genevieve: I met this sparkling gorgeous and intelligent girl and she became my girlfriend. Go self-esteem!
æ: Tell us about a cause that you support?
Genevieve: Advocacy of the local arts scene! For obvious reasons!
æ: What's your vision for the gay/lesbian community in Singapore/Asia?
Genevieve: I wish to see more cohesion between the gay community and the lesbian community. Such that a cause like repealing Section 377A would garner strong support from the women as well.
æ: What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Genevieve: Not doing work for days to watch whole seasons of Little Britain and Grey's Anatomy in bed.
æ: Tell us one of your fantasies?
Genevieve: Two butches making out with each other. Props involve two starched white long-sleeved shirts, boy briefs, 1 dildo to pack, 1 dildo to strap, binders, belts, black tie, and two butches. Okay, that will make a new drawing.
æ: Who would your dream date be if you were straight for a day?
Genevieve: Takeshi Kaneshiro, after 25mins of ploughing through images of men's faces on the Internet. Ugh.
æ: Tell us something even your mother doesn't know.
Genevieve: I hold my breath to eat carrots because I really don't like it.
The exhibition runs from June 1-10 at the La Libreria Gallery at 64A Queen Street, Bugis Village, 2/F. Gallery opening hours Tue-Sun 11am - 7pm. Fridae readers are invited to the opening on June 1 at 7pm.