From industrial designer to interior architect to luxury retailer to fine artist, Stefanie Hauger clearly loves to work on new techniques and push boundaries. Here she talks to us about her journey, works, VANILLA HOME and retail in Singapore.
Stefanie Hauger describes her life as an immersion into the world of art and design in one form or another. Her lifestyle emporium in Singapore, Vanilla Home, was a natural extension of her work as an interior architect. The retail space is a platform for the artists and designers that Stefanie has curated since 2002.
While Stefanie’s brush with art has been life long – her mother was a painter and she studied fine art at college – she felt that she should give herself the opportunity to explore this field in more depth. She explains it to be “a loud calling”. And in 2011 Stefanie followed that inner voice by returning to fine art. She has spent the last six years depicting many of her experiences in the works she creates, whether it be paintings or sculptures.
Her experimentation with techniques won her the prestigious 2013 UOB Southeast Asian and Singapore Painting of the Year awards, and her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions, fairs and solo exhibitions. Evidently, she is not afraid to push boundaries in any form.
How would you describe your signature style?
I have always worked with very fluid paint to see where I can push boundaries with the medium. Years of experimentation have led to a particular style which is called Biomorphic Abstract – this describes living organisms set into an abstract context in art. Much of my work now revolves around nature, texture and life on a molecular or microscopic level.
How did this come about?
Years of experimenting with differing liquidities of paint and how they react with one another led to the fine tuning of certain techniques. I always want to push to the next level, never be stuck in just one technique, constantly find new ways to move people with a work of art.
My dominant art influences are the abstract impressionists who broke through the traditional confines of painting to show us new possibilities, not without their critics, and who thus opened up new realms of acceptance within the artworld. They also invented the ‘all-over painting’ where an entire canvas is filled with the same rhythm or texture or technique which is very much the way I work.
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished / Stefanie Hauger
What’s your favourite subject to paint?
Nature, texture and living things in an abstract form. For the last 10 months I have also been working with combining the canvas with metal fashion spikes which creates a multi-dimensional, interactive experience that is a heady mixture of the fluid art and the rigidity of the metal.
What types of techniques have your explored?
I have explored many different techniques, most notably thick impasto paintings and paintings that are created purely through manipulation of the canvas instead of using a brush. In fact I generally use a brush only to mix the paint, after that it is up to my physical interaction with the canvas that determines the outcome. It is sometimes like a dance and other times like a wrestling match.
What do you do when you feel uninspired?
I am rarely uninspired, I don’t really get artist’s block. If anything I have to stop myself going off in too many different directions, I am constantly having to pull myself back to what I am currently working on and sticking to one theme and a series. But when I am stuck I read about artists that inspire me and this gets me going again pretty fast.
Adopt the pace of nature… / Stefanie Hauger
Art is a huge discipline; it is hard, hard work and requires massive concentration and perseverance. And there are many times when the results are not what one might have wished for and a ‘good artist’ will work through that with courage and determination and perhaps a small, healthy dose of self-belief. Fearlessness is another important factor in being a good artist, without that you will never make an unexpected stroke or think outside of the box.
How do you curate brands for Vanilla Home?
We select brands based on quality, craftsmanship, timeless elegance and their particular artisanal style. In other words we buy from small manufacturers and workshops who make a few products to an exceptional level, people who share our deep passion for the finest things in life that a customer will keep for life.
In your opinion, what’s the future state of the retail industry in Singapore?
For Singapore to once again become the premier shopping destination in South East Asia will require a huge joint effort from both the Government and retailers. The Government need to regulate high retail space rental costs, lower manufacturing costs in the industrial sector and address the very high number of shopping malls in Singapore all selling the same thing and offering a very similar experience.
Retailers are already doing their part. In order to survive against increased rivalry regionally, constant competition from eCommerce giants and the drastic change in demographics of shoppers they are embracing the power of digital and will be providing customers with a truly unique first-class 360-degree shopping experience. Success in the future will be had by those who provide the very best customer service, deliver a customer experience that seamlessly moves between online and bricks and mortar and by those who sell exciting, exclusive, good quality, well priced products. Sounds easy!
My advice for aspiring creatives is: fearlessness, courage, hard work, discipline and perseverance. Also train yourself to see the world through your ‘artist lens’, your interpretation and your mind’s eye, if you don’t take what you see around you too literally then your artistic self will have a chance to emerge. And don’t take yourself too seriously, sometimes when are having a real slump the best thing is to throw the painting on the floor and dance on it and see what happens next.
Nature does not hurry… II / Stefanie Hauger
How would you describe the style/vibe of Singapore?
Singapore’s style is one of constant change due to it being a young country and a truly multicultural one. Singapore and Singaporeans are constantly adapting to incredibly fast changes made both to their urban landscape and population demographic. We’ve seen this lead to constant diffusion of new styles and creative hubs that need time to develop properly to become authentic cultural markers for Singapore. There is one constant however, and that is a Singaporean’s love for and affinity with luxury branded goods! A true marker of Singapore’s style.
Where is on the top of your travel bucket list?
At the top of my travel bucket list is actually India. I have never been even though my house is filled with Indian artefacts, textiles and furniture. Perhaps I have never gone because I know I would bring half of India home with me…
In 5 years you will find me…
probably doing exactly the same things I am doing now. I truly love everything I am involved in and have no desire for change.