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Arts Preview: Movana Chen shows off the pick of her knits

Edmund Lee




Movana Chen knits every day. In fact, the artist known for her signature approach of knitting with shredded paper does so for anywhere between five and 16 hours a day, seven days a week. She does it at home and she does it while travelling overseas. Knitting has become a big part of her life.

"It's OK, I don't get tired," Chen assures me, "because I've been doing this for years. People tend to worry that my hands must be suffering from some kind of ailment by now - but there's actually no problem at all. They're perfectly fine."

For the next few weeks, visitors to Chen's retrospective at ArtisTree will be greeted by a wide-ranging collection of works which she has presumably not sacrificed her hands for.

From the wearable "magazine clothes" she made when her knitting projects started in 2004 to her latest works, the exhibit demonstrates the subtly evolving conceptual framework that underscores Chen's monotonous and monumentally time-consuming practice.

A 1997 graduate from the London College of Fashion, Chen happened to be working in the accounts department of a shipping company when she was looking for ideas for an art project. At the time she was studying for a part-time degree at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), which she graduated from in 2005.

"The company was then planning to move to mainland China, so there were a lot of confidential documents that I had to shred," Chen says. "All the cargo numbers and miscellaneous colours made by highlighters inspired me to create artworks out of [the shredded paper]."

Chen used random recycled magazines early on, but she soon moved to introduce a personal dimension by creating her work with her favourite books, maps and even her personal diaries.

Apart from her recognisable "body container" sculptures, each of which Chen has worn in a specific setting as a performance piece, Chen's most eye-catching work at the show has to be Knitting Conversations, a 15-metre-long collaborative piece that took more than 300 friends, students and strangers from around the world two years to finish.

"I wouldn't describe this as just a daily ritual," Chen reflects on her knitting practice. "It's a very pleasant sharing process between me and other participants and viewers."


ArtisTree, 1/F Cornwall House, Taikoo Place, Island East, daily, 11am-7pm. Ends October 19. Inquiries: 5621 8631