THE ART COLLECTIVE
Like the Bloomsbury Group in the early 20th century that comprised various intellectuals (think Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster), the folks here run along the same artistic lines. There’s the feminist writer Yap; the gallerists Jodi Tan (she works at the Ota Fine Arts gallery in Gillman Barracks) and Haridas (Gajah Gallery in Tanjong Pagar Distripark); and the curator Andrea Fam (who is assistant curator at the Singapore Art Museum and couldn’t make it to our shoot).
Of course, there are the artist artists, all rising stars in the local scene: painters Heng, Khairullah and Chan, and Melissa Tan, who traverses mediums. And rounding up the group: former graphic designer Ban who staged “Click Candy”, an installation – and her first solo show – that explored desexualising the role of women in clickbait advertising last October.
It’s a rich and optimal mix to have. Yap, who founded the feminist art platform Bubble Gum & Death Metal with artist Stephanie Burt, regularly contributes exhibition essays for her artist pals, while Ban helps with the catalogue design. The group matriarch is Fam, whose skills have come in handy both in terms of advice and promotion – she curated Melissa’s paper and metal installation (“If you can dream a better world you can make a better world or perhaps travel between them”) for last year’s Singapore Biennale. Haridas, meanwhile, can be considered the group’s unofficial arts management consultant, giving his two cents on draft exhibition proposals and securing government grants.
How the friendship started
CH: “Most of us are Lasalle College of the Arts graduates from different faculties – Fine Arts, Arts Management etc – though we met through other circumstances beyond the school’s network.”
KR: “Luke and I did our degree together back in 2012 at Lasalle. For the past year, we have also been studio neighbours at Goodman Arts Centre along with Melissa. Since most of us already knew each other from college, it was almost natural that we bonded.”
VB: “Andrea basically put us all together and it took off from there.”
What ties them together
SY: “Always food and conversations – never one without the other.”
KR: “These are some of the people who understand my practice inside out... (Also) do not discount our more casual conversations – the gossip.”
On their creative chemistry
SY: “I’ve written pieces for Khairullah and Vanessa’s solo exhibitions. The process of writing is always prefaced by many conversations and questions. I think being close friends enables an easier exchange of ideas and concerns.”
MT: “I was very lucky to have been able to work with Andrea and the Singapore Art Museum team for the Singapore Biennale 2016. Andrea knows what I’m usually interested in, but at the same time, she pushed me with questions that led to shaping my work in a significant way.”
How they influence one another
VB: “It’s refreshing to see many different artistic practices, and ways of thinking, making and working. It breaks the monotony of work, which I feel is necessary for creative growth.”
VB: “Personally, I think it would be interesting to map all our individual practices in 10 years’ time, documenting the changes in perhaps a show, essay or publication.”
From left: Samantha Yap (SY), Jon Chan, KhairulLah Rahim (KR), MelisSa Tan (MT), ChristiaAn Haridas (CH), Jodi Tan, VanesSa Ban (VB) and Luke Heng