The arts scene in Singapore is a very vibrant and engaging community.
Singaporeans are fortunate to be living in a country where our inter-mingling of cultures have given birth to a very diverse group of artists.
Today together with A List, we are going to take a look at some very talented individuals – young Singaporeans who have invested themselves into their craft, creating art for all to enjoy.
Categorised into genres that they are best known for, here’s a non-exhaustive list of Singaporean artists you need to take note of in 2017.
Photography as a means for self-expression has taken root in all of us due to the accessibility of technology. So, it is no surprise that some outstanding photographers have emerged into the limelight. Here’s three of them.
1. Koh Chaik Hong
Koh Chaik Hong is an alumnus of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and is currently serving his National Service (NS). Being in NS, however, hasn’t dulled his passion in photography, and he devotes his weekends to creating new works.
He is also the Top Winner in the Young Architectural Photographer Award for this year’s CDL Singapore Young Photographer Awards (SYPA). His win in 2016 also marks a hat-trick of awards from the same category.
With several group exhibitions under his belt, including those by NAFA and The Arts House, his journey in photography has seen him evolve from his beginnings in street and people photography, to that of landscapes and architecture – both of which he is known for today.
2. Lyn Low
She is an Avian Keeper at Jurong Bird Park by day, but an artist through and through by night.
A graduate of the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design and Media, majoring in Fine Arts (Photography and Digital Imaging), Lyn started her journey in photography while pursuing her degree.
Despite her late start in photography, she has since gone on to become one of two recipients of the Kwek Leng Joo Prize of Excellence, as well as having her works exhibited in galleries such as DECK at Prinsep Street.
She also happens to be a first-time entrant at this year’s CDL Singapore Young Photographer Awards (SYPA) where she bagged the Top Winner award in the ‘Themed Body of Work’ category.
3. Bernice Wong
So far, we have had two recent winners from SYPA, but here’s an alumnus from way back in 2014.
Bernice Wong is a Singapore-based photographer and she specialises in documentary photography.
With a keen interest in social issues, she often uses her work as visual stories to cast light on the more under-reported segments of society. Most recently, she was part of Asian Women Photographers’ Showcase 2015 hosted by OBJECTIFS.
One group of people which she has highlighted the lives of through her photography are Bangladeshi migrant workers.
Through an arts project called “Beyond the Border, Behind the Men” which she co-founded, she documented the lives of workers whom she has befriended through a photo essay that seeks to break common stereotypes faced by them.
The local music scene of late has seen tremendous support pouring in from Singaporeans.
With artists like The Sam Willows and Gentle Bones finding success locally and abroad, they bring with them hope that other home-grown acts will also be able to carve similar paths.
1. Disco Hue
This is a band billed as Singapore’s answer to popular Scottish synthpop group CHVRCHES. Meet Disco Hue and their members Zie, Sherlyn, Rush, and Billy in their 90s-throwback glory.
Their second single I’ll Be Waiting, is full of things Singaporean millennials know and love, from arcade game graphics to childhood games and memories of our first love, and makes for an excellent follow-up to their well-received debut single, Gotta Find You.
Formed in 2011, Disco Hue’s first hurdle was when their original singer left, and the guys had to leave for NS, which left the band on hiatus for two years.
However, the band’s recent revival has been described as meteoric, and it coincides with the appointment of Sherlyn as their new lead singer.
After seeing a Vine clip of Sherlyn singing on Twitter, an impressed Zie contacted her, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Made up of five best friends who play heavy melodic music not for the fainthearted, Exhibitors was formed in 2012 consisting of Christopher Thein, Zulfarhan Amin, Muhammad Adryan Maarof, Low Wei Hao and Nicholas Phang.
Since then, they have been rocking out to crowds through their haunting melodies and dark lyrics that ironically have an element of positivity.
All of the members have been part of the Baybeats budding bands programmes with different acts, but in 2015, have come together to participate in the programme as Exhibitors.
Along with their legion of diehard fans, their screaming vocals and abrasive rhythms often carry an underlying message that listeners should take home.
One of their songs, Deceased, was inspired by Adryan’s late grandfathers, and the song is one which encourages people to spend more time with their loved ones.
The band has a name similar to that of the great dinosaur, but their music is anything but prehistoric. Ahmad Khaliq, Bryan De Rozario, Axel Serik, and Junaidi Kusnong are what makes up T-REX, a home-grown, genre-bending band.
(Here’s a fun fact: the band was actually formed due to exam requirements of drummer Junaidi, while he was a student at the LASALLE College of the Arts.)
Their music has been described as eclectic, bombastic, and multi-textural, covering genres such as post-rock, to progressive metal, to jazz.
Known for their seamless switching and swapping of instruments during performances, they have developed their own niche amongst a sea of local bands.
In the recent Mosaic Music Weekend, they were chosen as the last performance to close off the festival in style, rounding off a year where they have also appeared at Baybeats. Furthermore, they’ve been confirmed to play at Laneway Festival 2017, so fans won’t have to wait long to see them again.
Visual arts are an ever-present component of our arts scene. From sculptors, painters, and installation artists, these artists are a staple in our arts festivals, creating awe-inspiring works.
Here’s two that we think you should keep a look out for.
1. Fyerool Darma
Singaporean artist Fyerool Darma is a familiar name within the local arts circle.
For many years, he has been a part of exhibitions in galleries and museums in Singapore, most recently being a part of the 2016 Singapore Biennale with his work entitled, The Most Mild Mannered Men, from the “waking from an amnesia that we had no history before Raffles”.
Working primarily with paintings as a medium, he is a graduate from the LASALLE College of the Arts and has been featured in a multitude of media outlets for his artworks which often blend Southeast Asian history with his own fictional fantasy.
Described as using a methodology of creation and obliteration for his art, he often observes the relationships between symbol, text and image.
His first solo exhibition titled ‘MOYANG’ at Flaneur Gallery Singapore in 2015 represents a collective of his own paintings that dive into his ancestry, something that most Malay Singaporeans are hesitant to do.
2. Joo Choon Lin
Joo Choon Lin is a visual artist with a preference of installations as a medium. The undertones of her art stems from her philosophical interest in the nature of reality, and serves as an exploration of it between the appearance and essence.
She is based in both Singapore and Glasgow, Scotland where she attended the Glasgow School of Art to attain her Master’s in Fine Art.
Her journey as an artist has taken her across continents, into all the major art capitals of the world. She has exhibited in the galleries of not just Singapore and Glasgow, but also Hong Kong, Tokyo, Toronto, Stockholm, Copenhagen, New York, and many others.
It is not uncommon to see remnants of old school technology being used in her works, which invokes instant nostalgia to anyone old enough to remember them, apart from her usual experimentation of different industrial materials, transforming them into surreal installations with a touch of zen.
Last but not least, Singapore is also home to our very own community of literary artists.
From writers, to playwrights and poets, we have them all. Here’s two whom you should take note of.
1. Daryl Qilin Yam
Based in Singapore, Daryl Qilin Yam is a writer of prose and poetry who has recently published a novel, titled Kappa Quartet, under local publisher Epigram Books.
With a Bachelor in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Warwick in the UK, he won the Second-Year Prize from the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies as an undergraduate there.
Back in Singapore, he has co-edited SingPoWriMo: The Anthology for both its 2015 and 2016 editions. SingPoWriMo is short for Singapore Poetry Writing Month, and is a collective of works by Daryl himself, as well as other local writers and poets.
Outside of writing, he also had a hand in being the director and administrator at Sing Lit Station, and a stage-play producer at the non-profit collective Take Off Productions.
2. Nuraliah Norasid
Just last month, she won the $25,000 Epigram Books Fiction Prize for her unpublished novel titled The Gatekeeper, that tells the story of a young girl who has powers similar to Medusa. The novel derived influences from both Greek and Malay mythology, and will be published next year.
In spite of her being a first-time author, she is anything but new to the world of writing, having had some of her works published in the Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore.
Her fascination with the mythical started at 15 when she first played the computer game, Heroes Of Might And Magic III, and was awed by the in-game Medusa. In fact, it soon even became an embodiment of strong womanhood to her.
From young, she was instilled with a love for reading by her parents, and her unexpected journey into English Literature came with her entry into that very course in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), after taking a mostly science route in junior college.
Her journey came full circle when she attained a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing at NTU, of which the beginnings of The Gatekeeper had already been written then.
Who Says Singaporeans Aren’t Artistic?
These are but a few of the many talented Singaporeans with a passion for their craft who have answered the calling of the arts.
Lend your support to our local artists by attending events such as Singapore Art Week, Baybeats, Noise Singapore, Singapore Writers Festival, and the Singapore Biennale.
These events are very much open to anyone, and if you like what you see, purchasing their works would also be a great encouragement to keep them going.
Don’t know where to start on your local arts adventure?
Then be sure to check out A List. They have something there for everyone, with event listings and highlights of the best arts and culture happenings all year round. You might just find a niche that you didn’t know you’d love.