Top Singaporean artists spill the beans on what art really means to them

Top Singaporean artists spill the beans on what art really means to them

Wonder, awe and delight – these are some of the things the arts inspire in audiences. A new 30-second filmlet (above) directed by popular Singaporean film director Royston Tan aims to bring this point home by shining a light on the evocative charm of the arts. 

The filmlet features seven Singaporean artists from different disciplines, including theatre, music and visual arts, and it offers a glimpse of how art is everywhere and has the power to touch lives. The seven artists are: dance pioneer Santha Bhaskar, actress Siti Khalijah Zainal, novelist Isa Kamari, visual artist Farizwan Fajari, dancer Kwok Min Yi, singer Joanna Dong and composer-sound artist Darren Ng. 

The filmlet is commissioned by the National Arts Council (NAC) as part of NAC’s #SGCultureAnywhere campaign to highlight the unbridled creativity of Singapore’s arts community. 

We ask the featured artists what art really means to them and how they have embraced the arts in their lives. Read on; you might find yourself surprised by their answers. 

What does “art” mean to you? 

Isa: Art is about discovering the quintessential amidst chaos and disharmony in human experience. It entails a keen engagement in life, with life and for life.

Farizwan: It is anything that moves me to be a better human being. 

Ng: Art is an honest reflection of, and a teacher of life. It is ubiquitous, evanescent in space, time and nature. It is a way of life, expressed and distilled through expression.

What rituals do you practise before you start creating a work? 

Farizwan: I take coffee, a lot of deep breaths, and hope that the work will turn out okay. 

Bhaskar: I practise what many creative artists do – I first take time to contemplate before searching for the relevant materials. Music plays an important role in this process; it always inspires me to choreograph.

How do you know when you are finished with a work of art? 

Dong: Everything I do is my “work,” and the cumulation of that work is my “practice.” It is not me but my peers, the audience, or society that decides if, and when, my work and practice become, and are completed as art. 

Siti: I’m very particular about my work, used to never be satisfied and was too critical, but have learned to trust and let go once I feel I’ve done what I could to the best of my ability.  

Isa: I don’t. I have never regarded any of my works of art to be finished, or a product, for that matter. It has a post-creation life, so to speak, when it continues to engage readers.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far? 

Kwok: My journey of growing from an aspiring student to a practising professional. From watching performances by the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) when I was an aspiring dancer, to graduating from the English National Ballet School, and now being a part of SDT as the principal dancer – the process has just been surreal.

Dong: I am most proud of how I am consistently growing in understanding about myself and my relationships with others. This might seem like false humility to some, but I honestly think it is a big brag to make. 

Siti: Being awarded the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council in 2014 and having my family with me that evening as I received it.

What is your motto? 

Ng: Be simple, sincere and honest.

Kwok: Hard work and determination will take you where you never thought possible.

Bhaskar: The culture, values, traditions and bonds that I have inherited across generations are my treasures, but they also belong to the community. My motto is to make sure I make these available for future generations, so that they may also benefit, appreciate and respect these treasures.

Replies have been edited for clarity. 

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