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3 minutes with Jau Goh

Born in Malacca, Malaysia in 1980, Jau Goh graduated from the Architecture School in the University of Western Australia in 2004. Currently living and working in Singapore, Jau creates an entirely personal universe in her paintings by following a precise framework of formal techniques, filled with visual fields of lines and color with the intention of depicting contrasts between control and abandonment.

With a strong purpose to transform materials into art while converting energy into ever changing forms, Jau has the ability to foster a platitude of worlds filled with lasting moments of geometric exercises. Each physical stroke and motion revolves around precise layouts with pure shapes and forms, produced by techniques ranging from the simplicity of pencil drawings to layered acrylic offerings.

Her latest triptych, Wrapping. Reflections. Unfolding., is now on show at SPRMRKT Daily till 21st March.


Jau Goh, Malaysia “Wrapping. Reflections. Unfolding.” (2017) Acrylic on Timber. (90 x 60) x 3 cm.

The strong tension between time and space is evident in the stark contrasts created by the juxtaposition of boldly enabled linear lines of colour while juxtaposed against the generous visual texture of natural timber in the background. All of this ultimately comes together to provide a sense of comfort and familiarity, all set within a universe filled with layers of distance and complexity.

Emptiness and mass, familiarity and distance all work at once when the midnight blue colour fields cut through space and time.

1) Growing up, were you always interested in art?

I took children art classes in primary school and I remember considering going to Nanyang Girls School for Art Elective Programme however that did not materialise because I picked my other love Er Hu and went to Dunman High to join the Chinese Orchestra there.

2) What were some of the earliest influences and motivations which inspired you to become an artist?

When I was in architecture school, the units I enjoyed most were Art & Architecture History and Documentation Technical Resolution (DTR). DTR requires one to pick a Master Architect’s work (I picked Esherick House by Louis Kahn) and analyse it for its geometric design principles and apply to an old project and update it accordingly. It instilled a really deep appreciation for proportion, geometry, integrity of material etc. I was also deeply moved by Cubism, Constructivism and Monet’s paintings. So did these inspire me to become an artist? Not at the time, the end game was to graduate and become an architect.

Esherick House by Louis Kahn Credit: ArchDaily

Esherick House by Louis Kahn
Credit: archdaily

3) Your art works engage such a distinct aesthetic, often instilling a sense of calm, do you have a particular source of inspiration?

In early 2011, I went to a mandala art therapy class. What I learnt during the class was that the very nature of creating a mandala is therapeutic and symbolic. The shapes and colours you create in your mandala will reflect your inner self at the time of creation as though creating a self-portrait. I learnt to let my instinct and feeling guide me through the process of creation.

Alps V by Jau Goh Cosmos acrylic on timber

Alps V by Jau Goh
Cosmos acrylic on timber

4) As an architect by training, the management of space, lines and light must be such important factors, do you see these traits as significant influences on your paintings?

As mentioned above, my architecture training formed my aesthetics. I am often told that my compositions are very architecturally structured. Quality of light and how it sets off the texture and surfaces of materials is inherent in my thought processes when I paint.

5) What is your work process? Do you begin through sketches or is the process more fluid?

I have different processes for different mediums. For my colour pencil and watercolour works, the process is more fluid. I draw whatever is in my mind’s eye. Currently I work mainly with acrylics and I find myself having to plan ahead more when I am using this medium i.e. selection of the ground, is it paper, canvas or timber? Lots of preparation goes into a piece before the actual painting. So yes for my acrylic works, I almost always have sketches for them. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I have to jump up and sketch something before I lose the image.

6) What do you consider the most indispensable item in your creative process from imagination to creation?

Headspace. One has to declutter one’s mind in order to let creative thoughts come through.

7) Which was the first artwork you ever created, and which you ever sold?

I was a hobbyist for a while and I daren’t call myself an artist until more recently. The first piece I ever sold was this piece of mandala art in October 2013. It was untitled but I remember feeling the sense of Freedom when I painted it. It now adorns the nursery of my friend’s son.


Credit: Jau Goh

8) Which living artist do you find most inspiring? Why?

Carmen Herrera. She is 101 and still painting. She persevered despite being ignored 3/4 of her life. I want to be like her and to keep painting to my very last breath.  And those geometric designs and colours. I could look upon them all day. 

Carmen Herrera; Credit: Pinterest

9) Are there any artists, living or dead, which you would like to collaborate with?

I would love to have collaborated with David Bowie 🙂 

Credit: Pinterest

Credit: Pinterest

10) Are you working on any new projects?

Midnight Gold Star Project—that is the title of a series of works that I have done and plan to do. Midnight refers to the Anthraquinone Blue I used, it is a shade of blue so dark it reminds me of Midnight and a quote from James Turrell “I’ve always felt that night doesn’t fall. Night rises.” I’m a nocturnal creature and I work best, late at night. So with the theme of dark blue, gold and triangles, I want to create a body of work using different media/medium and on a different scale i.e. sculptures, paintings, animation etc. I think it would be very interesting and wide-ranging when it’s realised, hopefully end of this year. I am also currently experimenting with raw linen canvas. As a non-formal art student, there are lots that I don’t know about art and it is exciting to learn through trial and error constantly.

Credit: Jau Goh

11) If you could choose any other profession or life calling, what would it be?

I would like to be a rock star. (joking) Technically I’m still a Project Manager with Architectural training. So I would choose to be an Artist. The sense of freedom I found in Art is limitless and I want to hold on to that feeling.

12) Where do you see your career in 10 years?

I see myself as a full-time artist in 10 years with a studio here and in Berlin.

13) Living or dead, which artists will you invite to your ideal dinner party?

David Bowie, Agnes Martin, James Turrell, Anish Kapoor (I want to ask him, eh why so selfish, share the Vantablack lah.), Leonardo da Vinci, Alvar Aalto, Bridget Riley and Carmen Herrera and Le Corbusier.  

Jau Goh

Credit: Jau Goh

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