Tina Tsang: Psychopomp @ Mead Carney

Mead Carney presents the first solo show of Singapore born London based multi-disciplinary artist Tina Tsang. Titled ‘Psychopomp’ (after the Greek word “ψυχοπομπός” -psychopompos- meaning the one who guides the souls to the afterlife), the exhibition includes 18 sculptural pieces.

In her work, Tsang incorporates mixed media with audio and video to create medium sized to life size sculptures. Inspired by her own spiritual journey through the contemporary, consumerism orientated and fast paced environment such as this of London, the artist produces three series of sculptures: ‘Lady Psychopomp’ comprising of 6 pieces embraces a very popular figure in Roman Catholic Church, the Virgin Mary (Lady of Graces). She appears with tree roots grounding her feet and branches sprouting from her upper body. A head of an animal (owl, cat, hawk) is sculpted at the reverse side of each figure; these are the animal-Psychopomps that many religions used and still use to represent the process of soul transition on to the afterlife. The statues of Virgin Mary overlook the three life size ‘Ascension’ female figures lying horizontally as if in a state of trance, or transition. They are fully covered with symbolic objects representing life, death, esoteric battle, purification, rebirth. All figures of these two series have a transparent face. Replaced by a screen, each face becomes a projector -a vehicle- of images associated with private experiences, emotions, human struggle and dreamlike situations orchestrated by the subconscious.

The series ‘Memories of Life on Earth’ encompasses 9 seashell shaped sculptures perimetrically placed on the walls and surrounding the above scene. These are the echoes of the earthly domain, a collection of audio tales unwrapped every time we approach each of the seashells. Tranquil sounds of forest animals, sea waves and wind are juxtaposed against the human sphere divulging desire and addiction in material realm.

The application of the audio-visual element to Tsang’s visual experience generates an enigmatic, at first sight, environment. The deciphering of the given symbolism enhanced not only via religious imagery but also via private coding, brings to mind exemplifications of life and death as found in a sacred locus of a tomb or chapel. After a closer look, the viewer is soon to realise that each “object” is a living organism – an entity undergoing a transition in a cocoon like circumstance. And although the arrangement of the entire exhibition is somewhat compact, almost claustrophobic, this pronounces even further the mystical journey through the spiritual stages of catharsis.

Tina Tsang talked to REVma -/+ about her exhibition and work:

REVma -/+: Psycopomps play a vital role in cultures and religions around the world. How did you decide to adopt them in order to develop your own visual language and did this involve an in depth survey of relevant cultures?
T.T.: In 2010, I started a journey. This was to better understand my personal spiritual self – something in which I had always been interested because of my family’s clairvoyant and intuitive background – and I found a shaman and healer who helped to guide me on this path. How does one, in the face of today’s relentlessly practical and material world, touch and comprehend those inner voices? In some ways, I felt like a psychopomp: I lived between two worlds, but with spiritual guidance I managed to explore a connection. A connection to what I believe to be a collective unconscious – whether this is the source of spirituality or the force of god – to discover and to heal myself through guided meditations. The purity of Mary, firmly rooted, in some ways enabled the freedom to explore the archetypal images I saw through trans-meditation and creative thought: the animalistic sides of human nature, as well as the shamanistic power of animals. Each psychopomp has a shrine and each of these – and their colour transformations – represents a part of this journey. Interestingly, it was only after some of these images informed the work that I discovered their ubiquitous use in Amazonian cultures and religions: this furthers my interest and understanding of Jungian exploration of the collective unconscious.

REVma -/+: Your sculptures incorporate audio, video and an array of mixed media. How challenging was to create a dialogue between your chosen media to achieve a well-orchestrated visual result?
T.T.: It is extremely challenging, but the various media delicately balance and complement each other. I feel they help to create the variation of emotion which might be elicited in viewing the work: in the same way that there is a juxtaposition of very natural materials (moss, blood) with new manufactured materials, there is a juxtaposition of sound and visual images. The new with the old. Spirituality as an evolving – and an ancient and modern – process.

REVma -/+: You have actively been involved and developed a keen interest in painting, ceramics, film, photography, animation, costume and fashion design. I sense a great need for expression and personal fulfilment through these disciplines; is the current show an esoteric exploration leading towards something of a grander scale that would -perhaps- be enhanced by performance art?
T.T.: Yes, I think I always try to use a medium differently to create a new dialogue between the concepts and materiality and what they represent. Using ceramics with lace, for example, to find a new way to push technical experimentation. I like art to be an experience (which of course is a kind of performance), but I prefer to embody the experience in an object – and one that can be experienced many times over. And as a spectator brings their own reflections and inner self, this can form a new experience each time.