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.
30 Jun 2013:
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.
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.
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.
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!’
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.’