Singapore exhibition features an unexpected star

Singapore exhibition features an unexpected star
Artists Shubigi Rao and Lucy Liu at 'Unhomed Belongings'. Courtesy National Museum of Singapore.
Leading lights  -   Artists

What do a series of books featuring cut outs and found objects, the National Museum of Singapore’s exhibition ‘Unhomed Belongings’, and Kill Bill have in common? Well-known Hollywood actress and TV start, Lucy Liu, that’s what. The Charlie’s Angels star isn’t new to the art scene, either, but we’ll get to that. First, let’s talk about her newest contribution to the art world.

Liu has collected found objects for years, which she dubbed ‘unhomed.’ According to South China Morning Post, the actress has developed somewhat of a reputation for taking in unwanted, and sometimes seemingly pointless, objects. ‘It has gotten to a point when I’m filming, people will hand me stuff in a ziplock bag,’ said Liu. ‘I’ve been criticised for picking things off the streets – without gloves – and putting them in my handbag, but I find it abhorrent to pollute and waste.’ Since 2012, she has been bringing these objects together to create an art series called Lost and Found. Having salvaged a number of handmade books bound in beautiful Italian fabrics that were due to be disposed of, Liu cuts spaces into the book pages and puts the things she has found into them. ‘The idea is to find a home for things that have been discarded. Once they were placed in the books, they seem to have found a place. They become quite pristine, almost framed,’ said the actress cum artist (or should it be artist cum actress?).

The series, which consists of over 200 books filled with the items Liu has collected, is a prominent feature of ‘Unhomed Belongings’. The exhibition is a joint project between the National Museum of Singapore and the Ryan Foundation, a non-profit arts organization, bringing together works by Liu and Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao. Through 15 artworks, the two artists are shown side-by-side and highlight the overlap in subject matter despite radically different backgrounds and lives. The show hinges on themes of loss, identity, and self-discovery.

As I mentioned, this isn’t Liu’s first rodeo in the art world. She became interested in art around age 15 while growing up in New York. Liu would go on to have her first solo show in 1993 at the Cast Iron Gallery. She would later exhibit in international shows in Canada, the UK, and many other locations. Thus, her career as an artist predates her success as an actress. Liu’s Twitter feed has shown her exploring various mediums over the years from sculpture to printmaking, but she hasn’t always exhibited her artworks under the name the world knows and loves her by. Instead, when displaying her works, she exhibited under her Chinese name, Yu Ling. She didn’t ‘come out’ as an artist, as she puts it, until she published a silk-screened book of her ink-on-paper works titled 72 just a few years ago. Her reluctance to share this side of herself with the world is understandable, too. ‘When I act, I play a character. But when I show my work, it is terrifying because it is so intimate,’ Liu told South China Morning Post.

‘Unhomed Belongings’ is free to the public running between January 12th through February 24th and the National Museum and Ryan Foundation hope it reaches out to visitors that would not normally visit a museum. The goal is simply exposure and working with Liu and Rao is a great way to do just that.