In one drop of water, all the secrets of the ocean | Essay by Daniela Beltrani

Secret Ingredient, Nicola Anthony, Artist, SPR MRKT, SPPRMRKT, Singapore, Art, gallery exhibition, burned paper
Dream Place, (Atlas Series), Nicola Anthony, 2015. Rice paper and ink in embroidery hoop.

Secret Ingredient | Curator’s Note:

by Daniela Beltrani

“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.” Khalil Gibran

The principles in SPRMRKT’s philosophy of blending art and food are perfectly embodied by the latest artist invited to present a solo exhibition. Nicola Anthony’s Secret Ingredient opens on 14 October 2015 and will stay at the gallery-café until 30 November 2015. It promises to be an exhibition with a difference: the artist will bring the space alive with an installation that will morph the see-through glass windows into a giant writing pad.

From a distance, seemingly innocent lines will build up at intervals during the exhibition. 

On closer inspection, the passer-by will realise that the lines are constituted of words in an endless and spellbinding flow that will link up with the artworks exhibited inside. These words are the authentic secret ingredients: public confessions collected by the artist in a meaningful call-out for non-judgmental engagement with a virtual or real, signed or anonymous public.

Secret Ingredient: Window installation artwork, Nicola Anthony, 2015
Secret Ingredient: Window installation artwork, Nicola Anthony, 2015

Words, spoken and even more so when written, are powerful tools in our hands.

Nicola’s artistic practice has been informed by them since its very beginning. Her fascination leads her to focus not only on objects that carry them, such as books (David Copperfield, 2013), but also on inviting a young audience to share their aspirations (Ouroboros, 2015) and anybody to relieve their minds of any thoughts (The Word Collection Project, 2009-now).

With Secret Ingredient Nicola invites us to sensitively skim through the surface of the words, go deeper into their darkness, connect them with our own life meanings and courageously bring them up, out, in the open, to melt under the forgiving power of light. From her own personal knowledge of the power of secrets kept and secrets released, she invites the public to liberate such burdens in a process that could very likely open doors to a cathartic experience and thus to acceptance, forgiveness, hope and regeneration.

Sui generis

The words on the window are not only raw material Nicola brings to the surface in a sui generis collective artwork, but they are also the meaningful present connection between our life past, which when brought to light, allows the process of renewal for a different future. It is about each individual, long journey brought to a halt through awareness and self- reflection, until it uncovers a novel direction.

SPRMRKT’s belief “Things Shared Are For The Better Good” truly corresponds with Nicola’s site-specific installation: intangible, not sellable, not priceable, yet invaluable, because dealing in the only and true currency of our life, our awareness.

Material symbolism

Upon entering the front door, the viewer is welcomed by a series of artworks created in response to the rich history of the surrounding area, which blends in harmonious syncretism elements from diverse cultures, religions, languages and food traditions.

Nicola explores rice paper, packing paper, incense and materials carrying meaningful symbolism of life coming into the newly established and immediately thriving port of Singapore. Encapsulated in embroidery hoops, her research takes the shape of a myriad of inner journeys representing abstract and figurative (Shore, 2015) alike. The hoops echo irregular mandalas that expand on tri- dimensional levels (The only constant is change, 2015) to reflect the current complexities of our life, struggling to make sense of an intricate present from a complex past.

'Atlas', a collection of drawings in embroidery hoops, Nicola Anthony

Burning paper with joss sticks

The most interesting character of the hoop works is perhaps the method of burning paper with joss sticks. Rather than adding, Nicola empties, thus generating void spaces that collectively create the final image. When these voids come dangerously close together, (Sea of forgiveness, 2015), they seem to recall the bubbles and echo the sounds of nearby waves before the land expanded further south. Ships, shells and undulations allow us to offer our gratitude to the auspicious sea, which has allowed Singapore to flourish.

Geographical extrapolation

Some of the larger drawings, from afar, appear as a series of lines, but again Nicola has brought indoor the concept employed on the window: words and meaningful mélanges of letters and numbers (a reference to the exact latitude and longitude of the exhibition space) are the essential elements of the lines, literally adding a layer to the entire work.


Finally, walking to the inner sanctum of the space, the viewer is presented with the very beginning of Nicola’s artistic journey. Constellation (2015) was the initial series that spurred Nicola to reflect on the multiple and ever-changing concepts of home. Ironically, the debut of these works was in London, her birthplace, but she travelled to it from her current home in Singapore on a journey that was a movement in space, but also a reconsideration of the essential concept of home. Thus, the embroidery loop became the symbol and material for this endless passage and return, akin to the incessant movement of the sea waves. And as Constellation made her travel from Singapore to London, Atlas brought her back to Singapore and to the place she now calls home.

'Atlas', a collection of drawings in embroidery hoops, Nicola Anthony


15 October – 30 November 2015

Mon and Tue: 0800 to 2100, Wed to Fri: 0800 to 2300 Sat and Sun: 0900 to 1800

Live installation: 17 October, 15 November and 27 November 2015

2 McCallum Street, Singapore 069043

Find visiting info, see catalogue, or to purchase contact or SPRMRKT Gallery 



About the curator

Daniela Beltrani (b.1968) is a professional independent curator and performance artist based in Singapore. She holds a Master of Arts in Contemporary Asian Art Histories from LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore.

Since 2010, Daniela has curated solo and group exhibitions and written articles for art publications and catalogues with a focus on contemporary art in Southeast Asia and performance art. She has presented over 60 performances, in the Philippines, Singapore, Italy, Myanmar, Cambodia, Turkey, Indonesia, Finland and China.

Benefitting from a strong humanistic background, her efforts tend to encourage the audience of her exhibitions and performances into a more holistic experience of art as a means to cultivate their own individual aesthetic sense and to recover their humanity beyond the flimsy parameters of a decadent and commodity-driven society.

About the artist

Nicola Anthony (b. 1984) is a British artist and writer. She runs the Edible Art Movement in Asia. She was educated at Loughborough University and Central Saint Martins.

Worldwide she has exhibited at the Serpentine Gallery Project Space, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, and featured in shows around Southeast Asia, London and Los Angeles. Her artwork has received sponsorship from Tate Britain, and has been exhibited in Tate Modern’s No Soul for Sale.

In the past year, Nicola was commissioned to create a public light sculpture made of 10,000 ping pong balls for the Marina Bay Waterfront. She has recently exhibited at London’s Royal College of Art, The Substation Gallery, Ikkan Art International, The Arts House, Victoria Theatre and The National Library.

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