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Visual Arts


Creative pursuits away from the workspace


Published: 18 Aug 2020

Time taken : ~10mins

Revisiting familiar spaces

They're working from home, but on a whole new level. Kept from their studios and work spaces, we wondered what some of the visual artists whom we've worked with got up to at home. First published on Esplanade's Instagram, #nodesks is a six-part mini series featuring some of these artists and their creative pursuits in the comforts of and around home.

Cover photo by Mrydette

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Frankly speaking, it seems like I have been training for isolation all my life. Life before, during and after circuit breaker is about the same for me; the hustle never stops. Honestly, it's only going to get busier after isolation as I'm probably going to spend most of my time figuring out how to operate working/teaching online. It's challenging when my work is with the people, face to face, heart to heart.

Ah, but Isolation. He is a peculiar creature of sorts. He taught me how to sit with my discomfort and work it out on my own. He taught me the value of time, how to measure time and how to use it meaningfully. He showed me who'd stand with me, and who wouldn't. He demonstrated how being alone works to my advantage. I did many things I couldn't have done in any other normal circumstances. Most importantly, I had time to learn about myself, to be me.

I am working on a mini-series broadly titled "Love in the Time of Corona". Each mini painting is a response to an email sent to me. These emails were part of an email-chain that went on for a short time last month. In each email is a word, a quotation, a song, a poem that meant something to the sender. On the receiving end, (because I tend to romanticise things a little too much sometimes), I imagine these emails as love letters from strangers during this bizarre time. With this mini series, I would like to pay it forward; I hope to make prints to sell to raise funds for those in need.

@mrydette is an artist and a generous serving of passion, a dollop of melodrama, a dash of whimsical with a sprinkle of irony and delight.

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Danielle Tay:

I think that this pause has allowed for a lot of self-introspection, time to discover new things about oneself, space to re-evaluate life in all its complex facets and to sharpen our focus on what matters most to us. These will in turn impact the steps taken moving forward.

I am currently working on creating a couple of commissioned artworks and am also in the midst of developing a new body of personal work.

@iamdanielletay is a visual artist who creates vibrant paintings, murals and installations which enliven the spaces that they inhabit.

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Sai Hua Kuan:

I’ve been packing unpacking packing unpacking packing unpacking packing unpacking.... rediscovering some old flea market finds and making beeswax polish. As for life after isolation, I can only say, everything is ok at the end, if it is not ok, it is not the end.

@sai_studios aka Sai Hua Kuan describes himself as a living human. He's a man of few (written) words.

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Fiona Seow:

With appointments and activities postponed, I've been dealing with a stretch of unplanned time which can be rather intimidating. My attempt to cope with that feeling of anxiousness involves making works that allow me to track time and create order while counting up to the day where life can finally resume to (the new) normal.

I have been drawing and making small paper sculptures from the Stacked Object series. I'm also testing out different trapezium formations for the community wall installation.

@_fionaseow is a visual artist who creates geometric works through various meditative, repetitive processes.

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Zen Teh:

I am currently working in the trajectory of art x botany through found plants in the midst of urbanity. I am collecting (and trying to) propagate wildflowers that have recently bloomed all over the island. Often deemed as weeds, these wildflowers are rarely seen in such varieties and vitality within urban spaces because of regular grass-cutting. These chance encounters of wildflowers (at my doorstep!) in this pandemic instantly spark joy and curiosity.

This period has been a window of opportunity for us to reflect on the way we have managed nature (not just greenery but wilderness) in Singapore. Wildflowers play a tiny role in the carbon cycle, but they serve as a metaphor for resilience, which inspires hope for our planet’s environmental recovery. While grass-cutting, like urbanisation, is essential for a city, how can we achieve a balance? The act of using wildflowers and my attempt to propagate/grow/shape them into a structured installation within the confines of a historical building, precisely discusses this multi-faceted tension we have here in Singapore.

This is certainly a strange time. I don’t know what to make of it as things are evolving almost as quickly as we can adapt. Isolation feels strange as human beings are innately social creatures. Even as an artist who uses the digital medium widely in my work, the heavy (and almost sole) reliance on technology feels discomforting.

Life after this can swing either way – a race to catch up for what we feel we have lost, or a chance for changes in our lifestyles that have been cast aside. Either way, I hope that this isolation helps us to consider the intangible and be more mindful of what is truly important.

@zen.teh is a multidisciplinary artist and educator who loves the outdoors and works to investigate and activate human-nature relationships through art making.

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Mike HJ Chang:

I have been thinking about the idea of time. and how time has been stretched out into an almost unrecognisable dimension. I like this idea of time as an elastic medium. As humans, we are very used to living in a certain rhythm. It would be interesting to see how we adopt and change to the new normal.

I did a timelapse of the floor and ceiling where I work. I realise that I stare at the ceiling a lot as I paint, as I day dream. The floor is where I tap my feet in anxiousness, in rhythm, in chaos. I thought the combination of the two is a nice portrait of an artist's mental space during an uncertain time.

Recently I’ve been thinking about exploring the notion of "sight" through the metaphor of sea-sickness.

@booboatship is an artist trying to be a painter.

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