Words of hope for young artists
Art educators (from left) Celine Ng Mei Ling, Noor Effendy Ibrahim, Kimberly Shen and Charlene Hoon Pinyi offer young art school graduates words of encouragement.

Words of hope for young artists

Uncertainty, excitement, possibilities – these words describe what some young graduates face as they leave art school and look to enter the workforce.

To encourage the graduating class of 2020 as they embark on their journey, we sought out words of wisdom and advice from arts educators and practitioners from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. We spoke with curator and arts practitioner Kimberly Shen, 34; interdisciplinary arts practitioner Noor Effendy Ibrahim, 47; furniture designer Celine Ng, 29; and fashion studies lecturer Charlene Hoon Pinyi, 32. Read on for what they have to say, from one artist to another.

What was the most important lesson you learnt in art school?
Shen: It is necessary to be comfortable in uncertainty, to be adaptable and self-driven, and to embrace multiple roles so that art practices do not function in silos.

Effendy: To celebrate differences and otherness, and to have the courage to protect spaces that enable and nurture diversity.

What was it like for you, as a fresh art school graduate?
Effendy: The anxiety I remember feeling was about how I would continue with my personal art practice without being interrupted or distracted by the urgent need to make a living, to find a job. Should I find jobs that are in, or related to the arts, or jump into a non-arts sector where, presumably, there would be greater financial security? Of course, I remained in the arts. It wasn’t always an easy ride, but I made my decision, and I am committed to it. I need to be true to myself, as much as I can.

Hoon: The first two years after leaving art school were unfavourable; losing the art school community and a sense of purpose frustrated me. I did not embark on an art career immediately – my first job was as a merchandiser for an American fashion label, and I moved on to be a fashion buyer for a local company. Art was pretty much absent during those years. But I realised that I didn’t have to stop learning when I left art school, it was simply a different kind of learning with my full-time job. As a matter of fact, art should not be seen as a job. The moment you think that being an artist is a job, you not only misunderstand what being an artist means, you also kill its full potential.

Given how volatile things are with the pandemic, what can young artists do to get through this difficult period?
Shen: The art world is in constant flux but trends emerge to shape the way we approach artmaking. As a young artist, keenly observe the art industry, be informed of all available resources and proactively seek out opportunities. During these uncertain times, it is important to stay grounded, calm and focused – an artistic journey is a marathon that requires motivation and willpower.

Ng: I encourage young artists to approach companies with ideas for collaboration, to be proactive in marketing themselves, and to create social media content to engage with their target audience. They should also take this time to learn new skills and programmes that will give them an added edge.

What is one piece of advice you have for young artists from the Class of 2020?
Shen: We live in unprecedented times and you have the power to transform this into an opportunity, so be brave and have courage!

Ng: You are a sum of your reactions; stay grateful amidst difficult situations.

Effendy: Continue to be true and truthful, as a person as well as in your art practice. That truth will be a compass for many, and for yourselves, especially in these unprecedented times.

Hoon: Keep yourself engaged and excited; constantly developing personal work will eventually help you build a good name.

The replies have been edited and condensed. Explore the works by the graduating class of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts here.

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