Voon Wong, recipient of the 2012 President’s Design Award “Designer of the Year”, returns to the Lion City from his London studio for Art Stage Singapore. Iliyas Ong writes.
15 January, 2014
Voon Wong doesn’t so much as straddle art and design as he folds the two unto themselves. As one-third of London-based multidisciplinary studio VW+BS, the 50-year-old uses his background in architecture to design products, furniture, lighting and installations for such brands as Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Fontana Arte and Royal Selangor, among others. Now, Wong is back in his native city to design the VIP lounge for Art Stage Singapore. And just like his other projects, this one is sleek and restrained, with an ounce of quirkiness for good measure.
We had a chat with the man about the lounge, his thoughts on art, and its indelible mark on VW+BS’s output.
Tell us about the Art Stage Singapore VIP Lounge.
It’s there for people to talk, meet and network. And it’s a small refuge from the rest of the show. The brief was mainly technical: number of people to accommodate, sponsorship requirements, and so on. The people at Art Stage were very open to all of our ideas. The idea was that the space had to be a backdrop so that people can enjoy the show—something visually interesting but not overpowering or intimidating.
Why the emphasis on white space?
The client wanted a calm and restful space, and white works well for that. Also, our design response, with the use of shadows and lines with the wall strips, makes white an obvious choice.
What are the crucial points to take into consideration when designing a space such as this?
The space must not get too busy with design. It should not be too clever. We want to create a space that has interest and texture, but not one that does not allow people to relax.
How does Art Stage compare to other international art fairs?
The exciting thing for me about attending Art Stage is that I get to see work from a completely new group of artists who are not, at this stage, so well-represented in Europe. The show has great buzz and has a real freshness that cannot be matched in the more mature art markets. In London, I attend Frieze, which is a fantastic show and attracts the most important international galleries and collectors.
How would you characterise the relationship between art, design and architecture?
There is a clear interplace between these areas; many architects are frustrated artists and have produced great works of art. It is difficult, when faced with a building such as Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame Du Haut at Ronchamp, not to see this as a great work of art.
However, design and architecture have work to do beyond just satisfying the soul. Architecture can never really exist in just a conceptual form, and design has to be more than just an idea. Art can, however, define itself. Thomas Heatherwick’s design for the pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 managed to combine something very conceptual with a very strong concrete presence.
Are there any artists or art movements that inform your work?
[Yes]. There are so many to name: Isamu Noguchi, Harry Bertoia and many Latin American artists. In the studio we have an amazing library of books—we are very old school like that—and they are a great reference for all our work.
Voon Wong / VW+ BS
Art Stage Singapore will be held from 16 – 19 January 2014 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Hall D, E & F. For more information, visit artstagesingapore.com
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