In 2017, Priyageetha Dia struck a match of discourse. The hot-button topic? The Golden Staircase: a flight of gold-foiled steps on the 20th floor of her Jalan Rajah residence. Much like one of Dia’s muses, the Greek gorgon Medusa, the artwork continues to be simultaneously celebrated, mythologised and on far corners of the internet, demonised. It has also immortalised the 29-year-old’s place as not only as a revered interdisciplinary visual artist, but a revolutionary conversation starter. “I would say I like to give a little push to the most mundane of things. Just so our perspectives and conditioned thoughts change along the way.” In person, Dia is soft-spoken and striking – with glints of quiet mischief and charm. A start in design and technology eventually led to a career in contemporary arts – a path she credits her creative consciousness for. “If it wasn’t art, I would have been working as a mortician,” she shares over e-mail later on. “I love anything biopic that has crime and mystery in it. I invest my time in googling for more information on specific crime scenes and criminals.” Intriguing interests aside, Dia’s demeanour hints at an unshakeable self-assuredness and calm – one that is testament to her experiences as a brown artist.
Four years on and a series of gold-centric works have since continued to infiltrate the former LASALLE College of the Arts fine art student’s body of work. She describes her work with the precious metal as “an ancestral honour to my lineage of goldsmiths, bringing the culture into my art practice and setting the tone of it as a material to subvert and enquire.” To date, Dia has materialised and been a part of a series of high-profile projects which include: Absent - Present, The Golden Flags (2018), The Earth And Her Skin (2020) and ‘An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season’ (2020). She was also named the Visual Artist winner of the IMPART Art Award in 2019. With overarching themes of identity politics, censorship, race and class infiltrating each piece, Dia continues to push important conversations forward. Here, she speaks to us about her inspirations and reclaiming power.
Tell us about your lived experiences as an Indian woman navigating the art world in Singapore.
It’s a process and it’s something that I honour. It shapes my thinking and who I am as a woman. It’s the amalgamation of experiences and epiphanies that influence the passage into the art world and it’s a challenging one. Apart from gold, the female body is also something that’s integral to what you do and a point of interest for you now.
How powerful is the body as a means of expression?
The body is a site of endurance, vulnerability and authority. It allows for the construction and performance of gender that’s not only feminine. The relationship to the form of the feminine and our immediate environment is an agency to transform social reality.
Are there any other precious metals or gems you foresee working with next?
Not at the moment.
Who are some of your inspirations?
My conservative mother, Medusa, Ana Mendiata, Miss Vanjie Mateo and Miss Jujubee. You’re no stranger to facing controversy or backlash head on.
How do you navigate these often uncomfortable experiences?
There’s no one way. Navigating it in the beginning is very hard – when you’re overwhelmed with feelings of anger, despair and a sense of loneliness. But over time, you honour these feelings as a way to understand the world around you and you as the main character.
Photography Joel Low
Styling Gregory Woo
Hair Junz Loke using Kevin Murphy Singapore
Makeup Wee Ming using Laura Mercier
Photography Assistant Alfie Pan
Subject Priyageetha Dia in Tiffany & Co. and Versace.
This article first appeared in the March 2021 issue of L'Officiel Singapore.