French artist Marie Madeleine Gautier orbits into Asia once again after an absence of seven years since her last exhibition in Singapore in 2016. A sculptor extraordinaire with an enviable fan base in Asia, MMG is also an avid traveller with decades on the road cum volumes of travel tales. TNA catches up with the free spirited bon vivant over refreshing afternoon delights at Portman's Bar just as a heatwave sizzles through Singapore. Photography by TC
1. Do you find much inspiration for your work in your travels?
In the sense that travel allows us to change our habits of thinking and upsets our routines, it is obvious that my travels in very abstract ways shape in my creative process. I am very sensitive to body forms, which is one of the main components of my work and in Asia where I travelled a lot, there are plenty of sculptures on display, say for example the different positions of the Buddha in Cambodia, can inspire me directly in how I craft my sculptural contours. I created several sculptures presenting feminine nudes with these same positions imbued with serenity that can be universally understandable. I mean that even without knowing Buddhism we are touched by these soothing and introspective positions and without the benefit of travel I may never have conceived these forms.
2. What is your creative process? Usually how long does it take for you to finish a piece from conception to finish?
Time does not exist when you create, I can take two or three months to make a sculpture but I do two or three at the same time because after a few hours I no longer objectively see my sculpture so I move on to another one that I see with a new eye, and so on. But sometimes it takes me several months and even years to find the composition that best suits my idea, but obviously during this time I create other sculptures.
3. Where do you like most for travel?
I am interested in the whole world, perhaps a little more in Asia with its rich and different cultures. I have travelled a lot to China in several very different regions, several times in Japan and also Indonesia, particularly Java, and of course Bali which is a paradise for sculptors. Being someone who prefers the vibes and energy of cities, I also like to revisit Hong Kong and Singapore very much.
4. What do you like most about Asia?
What I appreciate most in Asia is the culture that is so refined and so different, the cuisine so tasty and varied, and of course the warm and respectful welcome I get from the people I meet. The cultures of Asia are so enigmatic and captivating and deep rooted in traditions and wisdom I feel that I learn something new each time I visit and re-visit countries in the continent. Everything can be so similar and so different it feels like a big jigsaw puzzle of what happened in the past. The same can be said of the cuisine across borders here - every national dish is so different yet if you compare the tastes and flavours across the region, there seems to be a common thread, or perhaps a few common threads, tying these flavours together. It's simply wonderful to make more discoveries and friends as I go, even after so many years of exploring the region.
5. Where would you recommend someone to visit on their first trip to Singapore?
First time visitors to this fascinating country must visit the cultural enclaves of Chinatown and Little India for they are the very representations of the multiracial social fabric of the country. The zoological garden here is exceptional and I find the night safari very captivating but also a bit very confusing to explore, maybe it is a bit ambitious to try to show so much over so little space. A new discovery is Garden by the Bay which is a futuristic garden with wonderful floral attractions that is just mesmerising to behold. The restaurants and hawker centers are also the tiny nation's star attractions. Over this trip alone I've enjoyed sizzling local cuisine at a famous 'tze char' coffeeshop at Alexandra, Peranakan cuisine at Violet Oon, wonderful afternoon tea and lovely cocktails at Portman's Bar at the beautiful Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay Hotel and a wonderful modern Indian gourmet dinner at the Mandala Club. No trip to Singapore is ever complete without the customary overeating.
For more info on MMG and her works, visit - https://www.mmgautier.fr/