Multi-hyphenate Kelley Cheng reflects on the launch of her solo exhibition tracing her 20-year journey in design.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The last 5 months went by so quickly as I was preparing for my 20-year retrospective exhibition Proportion & Emotion: 20 Years in Design with Kelley Cheng at the National Design Centre. And after one month of run in December, it closed on 5th January.

To condense my works of 20 years within a few months was an emotional roller-coaster ride for me, the toughest part was opening up the archives for curating.

Works are tied to people, places and time. And looking through 20 years of work brought back memories of staff who have worked with me and who have left, staff who have helped me and staff who have broke my heart; clients I have fought or became friends with; collaborators whom i have shared tough moments and beer with, places that the projects have taken me to - so much memories came flooding through my mind as I opened up drawers and harddisks of past works.

In the one-month run, the emotional ride continued as some acquaintances and friends that I have lost touch, and people whom I did not expect turned up at the show, and new connections were made. These are truly moving moments for me as I thought that I have been forgotten.

Surprising visits that moved me included William Lim, argubly one of the most prominent post-modern architects in Singapore, who turned up at my opening despite being wheelchair bound, just to show his support for me as a client and a patron; Ong Keng Sen, whom I interned with as a university student, paid a surprise visit one night to show his support; as well as Chan Soo Khian, the first architect I interviewed for the now-defunct architecture and interior magazine ID when I was a young journalist (and somehow our story made it to the cover), who came by with his son.

I was also moved when one afternoon I saw the wife of the late photographer Jeremy San - someone I have worked with since my days as editor at ish coming to the show with his son.

What made my day, was when a few of my old RGS secondary school friends whom I have lost touch with turning up at my guided tour.

It is often in these little moments of love and support that makes a tough journey worthwhile, and an affirmation that you must be doing something right to have such friends.

Hence, my biggest reward of doing this retrospective was really the love that I have gotten from all the friends, clients and acquaintances who reminded me that there is more to life than just work, and the most valuable thing that I have earned in the 20 years are all these friendships and relationships that made my journey so meaningful.

On the other hand, this is also a point where I am reminded to eliminate the people who have made my life painful or hurtful, and to treasure the ones - old and new - who have been shown me the right proportion of emotion.

"Kelley Cheng Editor, Curator, Designer, Video Director, Educator, Entrepreneur"