Talking Textile’s DEBORAH MCKELLAR tells us about her new nature-inspired triptych artwork. Her most recent mixed-media artwork, The Sage Forest, comes in three striking panels. It measures 165cm in height and just under three metres across when hung (as it should be!) as a series together. Creating this piece has been a personal journey of discovery and recovery. Inspired by the green spaces around her, Deborah focused on the hue as the symbolic colour for hope, new life, rejuvenation, restoration, healing, health and vigour. She tells us where her inspiration comes from and talks us through her creative journey.
Tell us about the creative process behind The Sage Forest.
As an artist, it’s essential that you are growing in your visual expressions and are continually challenging yourself to move into new creative spheres. There are periods in your artistic career where you may find yourself reworking and re-exploring the same subject matter for quite some time. And then there are the times when a whole new vision opens up. Once you are painting, the initial ideas take on a life of their own, and in doing so the artwork emerges. The key is to let go, be free and be confident that the years of painting and skills developed will carry you along the way.
You then pause and take time to consider. Does this combination of marks and the colour palette take me back to the source of my inspiration?
Which Singapore green spaces inspire you?
I love walking in all different areas of Singapore. Closest to my home would be East Coast beach where there’s a lot of beautiful foliage. For this particular artwork I was focusing on MacRitchie Reservoir. When you enter the different trails there, you basically are entering into the forest space, and for long periods of time you can actually be completely immersed by forest. Every now and then you’ll get this dappled sunlight shining through the leaves.
What I find exciting is that once you’ve been walking through these pathways surrounded by greenery, you get a little glimpse at the end of the trail, where you can see the sky shining through and there’s an opening. I love walking towards these openings – there’s an anticipation of what’s going to be there. Often with MacRitchie, with an opening you’ll see a beautiful expanse of water where the reservoir is. So you’re surrounded by leaves and foliage but then you get to see a different perspective of the expanse of the rainforest. It was really that experience that I had, just being completely immersed in nature in this green space that I wanted to capture in The Sage Forest.
Is art your own personal therapy?
Art has always been a space where I feel alive and inspired. I love the process of creating. It’s very rewarding, having an idea, and then seeing those ideas visually realised. It’s kind of like a visual journal. The Sage Forest, in particular, has been a process of therapy of healing for me. When I walk through the rainforest, it’s a spiritual experience where I sense God’s healing presence. So yes, it is a form of therapy, but it comes from beyond myself, so I would say it’s not completely personal therapy.
What do you hope viewers will gain from this artwork?
This is a semi-abstract piece, and each viewer sees the artwork in their own unique way. An area of paint that has been sprayed down with water and then blurred out with a brush still looks visually wet. For one viewer, this was her waterfall. From a distance and viewed as a whole there is an impact created by the sheer size. Come closer and the experience changes as textures and marks are visually explored.
Interior designers have always loved to “bring the outdoors in”. In the same way, I love the idea of bringing colour stories into a living space. As the fresh life of green enters the space, it is my hope that the viewer entering the space feels rejuvenated, healed and hopeful as they take a visual walk through The Sage Forest.
What are you planning next for Talking Textiles?
The next colour that I’ll be exploring is blue. Blue represents sky and sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom and imagination. It also represents heaven and the healing power of God. For this series, I’ll be looking at expanses of water, the sea here in Singapore. Under the layers of blue watery splashes, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of porcelain patterns. Every now and then, there will be a large container ship on the horizon, putting these artworks back into a Singaporean context.
This article first appeared in the November 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!