The Girl with the Golden Touch
Singapore, Art –
Artist PRIYAGEETHA DIA, who created the controversial Golden Staircase, has moved on with life and on to new, exciting projects
USING GOLD FOIL, she meticulously covers a flight of stairs outside her home in a housing board block in Balestier. It takes 5 hours. It also takes one month of pre-pondering because she understands the consequences with the law. To her it is not vandalism but a work of art.
Priyageetha Dia goes ahead and transforms mundane concrete into gold. Gold because of her family history of goldsmiths. Gold to energise space. And this final- year art project of hers goes on to spark a media frenzy. There is fierce debate, the predicted run-in with the authorities, passionate support in the name of art and freedom, and vicious hate mail. Hundreds of people drop by to have a look at the Golden Staircase.
Priya has since removed the gold foil, leaving behind a tiny square. The 26-year-old from Lasalle College of the Arts has graduated with a Fine Arts degree and has moved on from the episode of notoriety in her life. New projects in her busy diary expand on her golden theme, and the use of space.
During Singapore Art Week 2018 she was invited to give a talk at the Art from the Streets exhibition at ArtScience Museum, which included artists Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Futura, Invader, JR, Blek le Rat and Vhils. She is currently working on her own public work, as well as collaboration works with other artists.
A chat with artist Priyageetha Dia
What inspired you to create your Golden Staircase?
Apart from its illuminative, malleable and delicate quality, gold’s ability to transform anything banal to sublime with just a square of gold leaf gets me all the time. The whole act of transformation and giving regard to a space that is disregarded on an everyday basis inspired me to intervene and provoke the staircase.
There have been both positive and negative comments about your “golden work”. As an artist how do you deal with these – especially the unsavoury comments?
I would regard these unsavoury comments as constructive criticism. It’s part of learning and practicing as an artist – so rather than finding myself reacting to it, I am willing to accept it. There is never one way to go about understanding a piece of artwork.
Do you have plans to go abroad to expand your horizons and inspirations as an artist? To learn and observe and perhaps expose your work to various audiences?
Yes, I do see myself pursuing art abroad and away from Singapore. There’s so much to learn and exhibit art elsewhere but, even then, the context of Singapore is still a unique one and I do not see myself deviating away from the local identity in my works even if I’m abroad.
Which 3 cities of the world would you like to go to for this?
It has to be Hong Kong, Berlin and Barcelona.
Where do you create your art? Do you have a studio or a space in your home?
My bedroom space is my makeshift studio for now. That’s where all the magic begins and happens.
What local food do you crave for after a hard day at work?
It has to be a cold bowl of tau huay (soybean curd dessert). And it’s only complete with greasy you tiao (crullers) and egg tarts.
What advice do you have for a young girl who wants to be an artist like you?
Be you. No matter how small your creation is, do it with great love.
Story by Carol Kraal. Photographs courtesy of Lasalle College of the Arts. Tau huay photograph by Hong Qiantai