Mary Iverson Paints Container in Singapore

January 22, 2013

Last week, Juxtapoz was given a special invitation to accompany Seattle-based fine artist, Mary Iverson, as she flew to Singapore with Chandran Gallery to exhibit and complete a public mural at the city-state's Goodman Arts Centre. Perfect for the work that she has been creating over the past few years, Iverson was commissioned to paint a shipping container on the school's grounds, a unique opportunity that coinciding with an overall theme of Singapore; shipping.

Check a full look of Mary Iverson's work for the Chandran Gallery exhibition here.

Getting a shipping container in a city that boasts perhaps the busiest port in the world (any look to the Singapore Strait and surrounding waterways would show dozens of container ships on the horizon) proved to be a chance worth taking. Iverson has created some fantastic public works over the years, including a standout piece in Kent, Washington in 2007. Mary told Juxtapoz that this particular piece in Kent was a breakthrough, a launching point to her current body of work and the direction she has been in advancing in recent years. She has been consumed with shipping containers for years, and both the positive and negative aspects that a container denotes to the world. But it is the perfect shape and structure of the container that becomes a mystical, mythical figure in her paintings, juxtaposed by realistic landscapes of the last remaining American frontiers (the work harkens back to the Hudson River School movement, with the contemporary flourish of rectangular, tumbling containers and ships).

During a discussion of her work in Singapore, Mary likened her work to Pop Surrealism, an interesting categorization when she first explained it, but made perfect sense: containers ships and containers strewn about, floating above and within the natural landscape. You have nature, and then you have these UFOs that have invaded the paintings, with Mary's scratch lines indenting the canvas. The work captures the idea of frontiers; but Mary will be the first to say her work is not outright criticism. Not only does shipping trade evolve, it is currently going through its own transition in regards to new technological advances and improvements. That is why we have been fascinated by Mary's work in the past; there room for multiple interpretations, and an intelligent purpose that suggests the power of structure and uniformity.

As is the case in Singapore, driving along the port shows massive blocks of containers perfectly organized. Miles and miles of neat and tidy blocks of containers. For Mary's mural at Goodman, a container that will eventually return to rotation and be shipped around the world as any normal container would, she opted for a coherent, abstract depiction of order and connection. The result is a reflection of the port in general... blocks being moved, no impression of what might be inside, stacked for later shipment. The thought of this mural finding itself hauling across the Pacific Ocean, amongst thousands of other containers, weathering over the days and months at sea, made Mary excited. Hopefully, someone will have a camera.

Thank you to Chandran Gallery, the Goodman Arts Centre, and the good art students and community of Singapore for hosting Juxtapoz.