Kueh Lapis Collection
Julie Williams is an artist based in the historic area of Tiong Bahru, Singapore. In September 2013, she moved from her familiar regional-Australian landscape to this tropical, vibrant and richly-coloured urban environment where the old Peranakan history sits alongside the modern skyscrapers – a gentle reminder of past traditions in the face of Singapore’s relentless push towards modernity.
Immersed in this new environment, her painting has taken a bold new direction. Julie has combined her exhaustive research of the local culture with sketching en plein air to explore new ideas in her studio on the 29th floor. From here her practice has seen the introduction of new mediums and a striking, vibrant colour palette.
Her latest body of work, ‘Kueh Lapis,’ encompasses large hand-painted oil on canvas works and incorporates the use of digital and print techniques with innovative acrylics and laser-cut stencils. Based on a historically significant 20th century Peranakan beaded table cloth (126 - 118 cm), Julie has recontexualised the motifs of the exotic birds and flowers by overlaying patterns of the familiar retro security gates found on the houses in Tiong Bahru.
Julie’s use of flora and fauna in this new series is a natural progression from her previous landscape paintings of Hill End in Australia and her process of tracing and layering continues as a theme throughout. This conceptually charged body of work speaks to the uniqueness of Peranankan culture while the symbolism of the gates reflects both the tension and evolution of life in Singapore.
My work is called 'Nyonya Identification' and shows a Peranakan lady wearing the Baju Panjang, a long shirt worn up until the 1930's when the Sarung Kebaya replaced the fashion. Her eyes are covered by another layer of history, a retro metal gate used for security from my suburb Tiong Bahru in Singapore. The gate imagery can also be seen over my paintings of an iconic, Peranakan beaded cloth.
Scenic Symbolism is a photographic image transfer of a 19th Century vase from the Hill End historical museum overlaid with peonies which are a symbol of riches and honor in Peranakan society, Singapore.
The Peranakans collected fine arts from Europe such as this vase that was also coveted by the isolated residents of Hill End. Julie explores the intersections between East and West in her work and uses photography, mixed media and oil paint.