Candle Coils

Media: wax and strings. 1200 x 1200 mm (W x L x various heights)

A large candle coil made from wax and incense was produced as an intersection between two burning activities and their ideological causes. It was made in a circular form with ten spirals, the largest of which spreads out to about one meter in diameter. Suspended from the ceiling from its centre point, it dropped down into a cone shape. The circles of the coil were connected with red strings. A piece of white cotton thread could be seen coming out of one end of the coil. 

This artefact contains the possibility of referencing things other than themselves, histories that the viewer may be able to bring to them. The material features of this work act like phantoms casting memory and knowledge, implying how the object should be perceived. However, its opaque formal genesis intervenes in the reading. It is both a candle and an incense stick but it is neither. The hybrid material form interrupts the usual trajectory of cognition because the viewer cannot perceive the whole. 

The candle coil presents the attempt to generate a dialogic site between different cultural practices through material manipulation. The amalgamation of the material forms of incense and candles, acknowledges two burning rituals that are practiced for different ideological beliefs within the same object. By attempting to perceive the object as either candle or incense, you are perceiving either one and not the object in its entirety. What then occurs, is an optical dissection the whole structure. However, in the process of one or the other, the viewer perceives the joints between the two components. This allows the viewer to position themselves at the material openings and see the composition process of a physical form. Through the fracture, different signification relationships of the components become visible and conflictual. The process of cognition turns into an invisible activity of seeking for a compatible point among the different value systems. The Other is indicated through this process. This Other represents the new perspective position and proposes the possibility of forming a new relationship between human and the material world.

For the candle coil, the incomprehensible material form indicates different ideological beliefs in which different burning rituals have been developed. According to the Taoist belief, the purpose of burning is to mediate the path between the human world and the supernatural world. The smoke of burning incense creates a threshold between a corporeal human world and the world of spirits, gods and the dead. Hence, a coil form is designed to serve this belief for having an elongated burning period and a long term of connection. Whereas, the candle burning is, especially white candles, used in the Western culture for remembrance and symbolised as the light of God or Christ for Protestantism and Catholicism. Often the long vertical flame of the candle is rhetorically interpreted to reflect a transcendent spirit, and a pure and uplifted soul.

Within the form of the candle coil, these two burning rituals are literally merged into one. In the imagination of the burning: the candle burns along the spiral path of the incense, and these two ideological positions are requested and placed together for comparison and analysis. From the candle coil, we begin to see common responses towards death, gods and the world of unseen, a shared emphasis of the spiritual practices in everyday life, and the similar approaches used to relate to the non-human world. However, the impracticality of the structure is apparent when the burning is imagined. With a basic knowledge about the laws of physics, and a general understanding about wax material, it is not difficult to foretell the hazards of burning a wax candle coil: the candle flame will melt the candle structure above. Instead of having one slow and consistent flame, it will develop into a mass of fire. In compressing materials of two cultural signifiers together the hybridised design sabotages the objectives of both rituals with its material structure. This envisioned dysfunction turns the candle coil into a sign that represents and enhances the cultural difference. In another case, the manipulation of the material form of the artefact changes the product relationship with human. Through the alteration, while the functionality of the artefact may not necessarily change, the signification of artefact is changed. Thus, the artefact now draws a different social group and echoes a social convention different from the original social practice. The new form of the object appears hybrid and becomes a sign that sits in the middle of the two cultural practices and relates to both cultures.

The installation view of the work at Upside Down Feng Shui, Changing Places. Linden New Art. 2017.

The installation view of the work at The Context is Complicated. FirstDraft. Sydney. 2017.

Chandelier. 2017

Using Format