Portalis Collaborator Interview – Sze Wan

Sze smiling at the camera

What influences did you draw on for this project?

In the exhibition Hollow Earth, I read the information from one of the sections about caves being known as the oldest art studio in history. Before that, I actually never thought about that, but suddenly it made so much sense. I then thought about sitting in my bedroom, aka working space, which I feel is my private cave. I realised caves can have lots of different meanings to us.

What processes did you use in your work?

When we visited the City of Caves in Nottingham, I took charcoal and graphite sticks to rub the textures of stones and rocks onto paper. After I scanned the sketches onto the computer, I zoomed in on details and inverted the colours. It reminded me of galaxy photos and outer space images taken by the telescopes. I imagine the caves like an alternative universe buried below.

Sze working on an iPad

Did you try new approaches for this exhibition that led to new discoveries?

We selected a unique paper stock to print on for this project that has a special sandstone-like texture. The material reminds me of the texture in the caves and offers a unique touch sensation to the visitors when they pick it up and hold it in their hands. I thought how great it was to offer a different sensory experience for visitors.

What feelings or meanings do you imagine your work conveys?

The slow-moving visual projection is inspired by the interpretation ideas generated by another collaborator, “Offering a contemplation…” and also the notes I made during one of our meetings when we listened to a music track. In caves, time feels slower underground, than the pace above ground, so I aimed to create a kind of calm in a dark space, to help viewers experience feelings of a different dimension.

the Portalis catalogues next to a rock

How does your work for Portalis relate to your past work?

In many different ways for ideas generation. I‘ve always liked analogue methods to start with as it allows me to feel the touch of the subject that we are studying. Sketching, rubbing and creating patterns with natural materials are often the basis of my design process.

Will this project influence some aspect of your future practice? If so, what and how?

This experience has certainly broadened my knowledge of what identity design is. Instead of poster design and brochure design, it’s made me question what else could be part of identity design. It can be expanded to many different aspects and levels, such as lighting, sound and smell - anything that conveys a message.

the Portalis exhibition catalogue
a projected cave onto fabric

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