Time Out Singapore: SBTG

As local husband-and-wife art collective SBTG – consisting of Mark Ong and Sue-Ann Lim, both aged 34 – get ready to open a revamped exhibition based on works they previously displayed at FLABSLAB in 2012, they take a break to tell Gwen Pew about their childhood and their art.

Mark Ong and Sue-Ann Lim, - the husband-and-wife duo behind SBTG. Image courtesy of Galerie Steph.

Mark Ong and Sue-Ann Lim – the husband-and-wife duo behind SBTG. Image courtesy of Galerie Steph.

30 Jun 2013:

1

SBTG is an abbreviation of ‘Sabbotage’: ‘It’s a moniker that I created when I was in design school. I’ve been using it to brand all my works for the past ten-plus years and we have adopted it in our names,’ says Ong.

2

The show’s title (Acoustic Anarchy) is inspired by ‘what happens when opposite forces collide and produce positive results,’ says Lim. ‘I used that name as I felt that painting and creating art is a very peaceful thing, which relates to the acoustic version of all that rebellious spirit,’ adds Ong.

3

The works are a semi-biography of Ong’s life: ‘Growing up in the ’80s here in Singapore, I was exposed and influenced to all things American – cartoons, basketball, fast food and, most of all, the skateboarding way of life.’

4

Ong’s ‘DIY spirit’ first struck him in primary school: ‘My dad once helped me build a rocket ship out of a toothpaste box – that opened my eyes on how I could evolve beyond my surroundings.’

5

Since then, he had always put his creativity to good use: ‘When I was skating I would cut up weird patterns on my grip tape and mix colours and sh*t. In school, my bags were all decked with safety pins and my shoes had neon laces.’

6

Lim was much more of a girly-girl growing up: ‘On my fifth birthday, someone bought me a Barbie doll, and from that point onwards she became the only toy I ever wanted to play with; I chucked all the rest.’

7

Ong was predominantly known for designing and painting sneakers, which Lim used to help him on: ‘I started to get known for customising sneakers in the early 2000s, mostly in a tight community in the online forum called Nike Talk. There was a sneaker custom competition and I won. That did it for me – I got an order from Japanese shoe store Atmos, Chapter and local streetwear label Ambush to produce 72 pairs right after.’

8

The couple officially started working together as a collective in 2008, a year after they got married: ‘It was very challenging at first, but I think any couple that decides to work together must learn to separate their personal issues from work issues and find that balance,’ says Lim.

9

Despite the American rock ’n’ roll symbols in their works, the couple’s lives are ‘pretty mundane,’ Lim admits. ‘We don’t party or follow trends. Our idea of a great Friday night is watching movies in bed with our cats and a bag of chips!’

10

Rock ’n’ roll is a state of mind, says Ong: ‘[It’s about] doing what you do and loving what you love with no apologies.’

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