Dan Wong, artist and illustrator at A Good Citizen
Wong’s dual role as a commercial artist and provocative illustrator gives him an edge to reflect the controversial realms of politics, religion and gender issues through social art and satire.
When I was young, I enjoyed doodling and ‘vandalising’ my textbooks to kill boredom. My parents were unhappy with me as we had a culture of treating books with respect. Authority was huge in school back then and I reacted to that by drawing vulgar pictures. After (GCE) O level, I realised that I could carve a career by drawing and tapping into my artistic side so I went on to take a design course at Nanyang Polytechnic. I am fortunate to acquire practical skills as an illustrator. In the day, I apply my trade as a commercial illustrator. My day-to-day humdrum has nothing to do with A Good Citizen. I create them at night instead. My bosses were encouraging and supportive when it comes to me doing works for A Good Citizen.
My goal is to get a snigger and a chuckle from my audience. I’ve discovered that I like to entertain people—telling stories, inducing laughter and pulling at their heartstrings. For A Good Citizen, it’s all about poking fun at institutions and public figures in power. Social hierarchies and structures are included too. I love it when the audience identifies with my work and responds with laughter. The worst experience to have as an artist is when you draw a picture full of details and place it in a museum, but the audience takes a brief glance and walks away. If it evokes a huge emotional response, be it positive or negative, they are invested enough to debate and engage. I hope my illustrations will resonate with people on that level.
I did an artwork titled ‘Emmohee’. I am fond of using acronyms and I spell out the actual acronym. In this series, there are ‘Haytchdeebii’, ‘Peeayhpee’ and ‘Emmartee’. I was proud of this as I was able to illustrate the most of my childhood in this piece. As mentioned, the experience of authority in school was powerful to me. My next exhibition in Chinatown will focus on the army. I felt a series of negative emotions when I fulfilled my army duties and I couldn’t show it. I know that every Singaporean son feels that way to a similar extent. As I’ve served my dues and ben posted to the MINDEF Reserve, I wanted to have closure by having an exhibition and teaming up with a few illustrators who have strong feelings about National Service.
My hopes for the industry don’t fall much on the practitioners, but are more towards the general public instead. From my travels, I’ve realised that education plays a part in shaping a framework or lenses to view art. In France, going to a museum is a family affair. But in Singapore, it’s probably not as common. The awareness of the arts and culture sphere is intrinsic to their lives. I would like something similar to occur in Singapore. As long as the public can engage and critique them, our sensibility and tastes will increase.
Right, from top: ‘Emmohee’; ‘Haytchdeebii’; Dan Wong.