Time Out Singapore: ‘Moving Light, Roving Sight’

Moving Light Roving Sight

26 Jan 2015: Since it formed in 2000, Tokyo-based collective teamLab have aimed to make ‘the border between technology, art and design more ambiguous’. Local viewers may have seen their quirky digital works at Art Stage, the 2013 Singapore Biennale or Ikkan Art Gallery; the latter will host a group show that includes a new teamLab installation. Only this time, it’s going to be even more of an impressive visual feast.

The work, ‘Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – Dark’, will see ‘the floor, the walls and the spaces in between completely transformed into art,’ says Toshiyuki Inoko, founder of teamLab. Musician Hideaki Takahashi has created an accompanying soundtrack to make the whole experience even more immersive and visceral.

Inspired by cherry blossoms in the mountains of the Kunisaki peninsula in Japan, the piece explores the relationship between mankind and nature. ‘The boundary between the work of nature and the work of humans is extremely vague,’ Inoko explains. But rather than creating a painting or sculpture to dissect this notion, teamLab chucked technology – a product of man – into the mix.

‘Digital technology allows us to express ourselves in ways that weren’t possible before,’ he continues, adding that technology also brings viewers closer to both natural and digital landscapes. ‘By creating an interactive relationship between the viewers and the artwork, viewers become an intrinsic part of the artwork,’ he concludes. ‘And by turning physical space into art through digital means, the space can form a strong relationship with the people within it. I believe that this potential allows for a stronger connection between people and the space around them.’


Time Out Singapore: Tan Ngiap Heng

Tan Ngiap Heng - Body of Works

17 Oct 2014: One of the most well-known and sought-after performance photographers in Singapore today, Tan Ngiap Heng has long held a fascination with the human body. His next exhibition, aptly named Body of Work, comprises three series shot over three years. He hopes his photos ‘go further than just creating a beautiful image, like I have done previously with my dance photography work’. Among the three series, ‘Portraits in History’ especially caught our eye. The images here consist of portraits with a twist: Tan asked his subjects to bring their old, personal photographs, which were then projected onto their bodies.

‘I experimented with a combination of poses and photographs on the bodies until I was satisfied with the images,’ he explains. ‘I was exploring portraits not only by what the subject looks like, but also the events in the subject’s past.’

One of the resulting images is of actor Michael Tan, pictured above. ‘The picture projected onto him is from his youth and it shows his sister, whom he was very close to and who has passed away,’ he tells us. ‘I met Michael while I was documenting [Nine Years Theatre’s 2013 play] Twelve Angry Men. For most of my ‘Portraits as History’ series, I had shot relatively young people – dancers and actors whom I knew would be open enough to pose naked for me in portraits – but it was wonderful when he accepted my invitation to be in the series. He and his photographs are older than those of my other subjects, but his presence lends a gravitas to his portraits.’

‘Starlight Sonata’ and ‘Dancing with Light’ are the remaining two series. For the former, which he created in a workshop in Tuscany in 2010, Tan mounted the camera on a tripod, hit the timer and took ‘a long exposure of me prancing around in my birthday suit’, he recalls. Long exposures were again employed in ‘Dancing with Light’, but Tan didn’t feature in these shots. Rather, the photographer captured the whirl of dancers with LED lights in their hands.

Time Out Singapore: Safaruddin Abdul Hamid

With his signature muted colour palette, local artist Safaruddin Abdul Hamid’s layered paintings depict iconic buildings and characters. Gwen Pew takes a closer look.


31 Jul 2014: At first glance, Safaruddin Abdul Hamid’s art looks almost digital, as though a bunch of photographs had their contrast level jacked up to 100 and flatly re-coloured with just a few shades; but squint harder and you’ll see the layers of acrylic carefully spread over their canvas frames. It’s partly the visually arresting painting style and partly the instantly recognisable local buildings in his works – his previous pieces have depicted The Cathay, the dome of the Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore’s old playgrounds and more – but it’s impossible to walk past the works and not be drawn into their vivid worlds.

‘It all started when I was still in art school doing my diploma. I was experimenting with different styles and was particularly interested in flat colours, hard lines, and amorphous, camouflage, pattern-like shapes,’ explains the locally born and based Hamid, who also goes by the moniker Dyn. ‘I was very strongly influenced by computer graphic art and imagery; one of my objectives back then was to create art pieces that looked as if they were computer printed but were actually hand painted and one-off.’

Ever since he earned his Diploma in Fine Art from Lasalle in 2003 – he went on to receive a Bachelors from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia and a Masters from Open University in Lasalle – he has been making the rounds in galleries both here and abroad, including the Singapore Art Museum, the former Valentine Willie Fine Art and Utterly Art. This month, he returns to Chan Hampe Galleries with a collection of new works under a series entitled Everyday Heroes. As the name suggests, Hamid had decided to move away from buildings as his subjects, and instead shifted his focus to people.

‘My work basically deals with nostalgia, and I feel that architecture is a good subject matter and trigger for that, but I began to realise that people also play a big part in creating nostalgia,’ he says. ‘I recently went back to the old neighbourhood where I grew up and the place brought back a lot of memories, but I realised that something was missing. The people I grew up with played a big part in my experience as well, and without the people, the experience felt very different. That became one of the key reasons why I started working on painting people.’ The resulting pieces feature a collection of people who played an integral role in the shaping of Singapore, from Samsui women to the candy and satay men. As with his older pieces, the new paintings are largely based on old photographs from his own personal collection, many of which were taken by his dad. ‘He used to be a photography buff when I was a kid and my childhood was well documented,’ he tells us, but admits that he eventually had to turn to archives and other outlets for the images to have a wider range of perspectives and angles for his works.

By combining a relatively muted colour palette with a poster art look, his subjects turn into vintage memories, just as the physical presence of his characters have now faded into silhouettes of the past. Through these images, Hamid invites viewers to take a break from the city’s dive into the future, and instead travel back in time to remember the local heroes who helped take us to where we are today. ‘To me, Singapore is moving at a fast pace and is ever changing; at times, things and people get forgotten easily. I believe that our past plays an important part in determining who we are now,’ he insists. ‘Even though some of these characters were not from my personal childhood – I only saw them in newspapers and television back then – I feel they played a part in helping to create this nation.’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Chap Lau Chu’ Preview

Student Aurial Lee speaks about a new show ‘Chap Lau Chu – The Re-Opening of Commonwealth Drive’ by students of NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media which features the area’s resident karang guni Mr Chua.

Chap Lau Chu

30 Jul 2014:

With Singapore undergoing constant change over the years, a group of students from NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media decided to explore HDB’s Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) and its effects on people displaced from the evicted estates. They chose to focus on the recently evicted Tanglin Halt area, and when visiting, stumbled across the area’s resident karang guni, Mr Chua, who inspired them to feature him in a series of staged photographs depicting the ‘reopening’ of the estate. Here, student Aurial Lee, 23, explains more about the show.

‘We have been prescribed a generic way of looking at the past, but it is important to understand that history is plural. This project explores the lesser-known narratives that veer away from orthodox versions of how we remember Singapore, and we want more people to uncover these stories.

‘We focused on the Chap Lau Chu (which means ten-storey estate in Hokkien) in Tanglin Halt because of its historical significance – it was where some of the first ten-storey HDB flats were built in Singapore. The flats signified a period of rapid modernisation in the ’60s. It was also adjacent to the KTM railway – the umbilical cord that connected Singapore to mainland Malaya.

‘As our initial aim was to uncover stories from the ground, we explored the area hoping to talk to ex-residents, but the estate was already mostly evicted – its emptiness was jarring. While walking, we spotted piles of recyclable materials that led us to Mr Chua’s corridor/ living space. We found out that he had been a karang guni man for more than ten years, and he sees his job as one that helps save the environment. He had a certain presence in the estate – often the target of complaints among the residents due to the clutter he was responsible for. He kept the corridor of his old house as a holding ground for his stuff, but has since had to move to a new block nearby, where he is unable to continue as a karang guni man due to space constraints.

‘But Mr Chua remains unfazed. He told us very matter-of-factly that he would “just get another job”. His tenacity with regards to finding a new home or a new job was what inspired the satirical approach for the project – we asked for his involvement as the central figure in our photos, and after understanding his role in each shot, he even gave us some input as to how he should stand or which props to utilise.

‘The photoshoot had a performative aspect, which we followed up with a showcase at the Chap Lau Chu void deck that brought together ex-residents and like-minded individuals. Our previously over-romanticised presumptions on “memory” and “past” have been altered by Mr Chua’s resolve to carry on with the everyday. Each stage in our project created a new layer of meaning for Tanglin Halt – the beauty lays therein the dialogue about memory, space and progress that kept growing as more people learn about our project.’

Time Out Singapore: Annie Leibovitz

With a huge collection of renowned American photographer Annie Leibovitz’s images having arrived in Singapore last month, Gwen Pew looks back at her life and career.

Annie Leibovitz

8 May 2014: Annie Leibovitz is without a doubt one of the biggest and most sought-after names in the world of photography today, and anyone who’s anyone has likely been shot by her at some point. Whether or not we’ve been aware of it, we’ve all likely seen a Leibovitz picture: from iconic portraits such as Yoko Ono and a naked John Lennon curled up next to her (taken hours before he was shot) to a barebodied and heavily pregnant Demi Moore, or more recently, her series of A list celebs dressed up as various Disney characters (such as Taylor Swift as Rapunzel and Jessica Biel as Pocahontas) to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on the much talked about cover of last month’s Vogue.

Now 64, Leibovitz has had a glittering career that began in 1970 with Rolling Stone magazine, which was just starting out at the time. She became their chief photographer three years later, and held that post for the next decade before working for Vanity Fair, Vogue and other esteemed titles. Known for having a sharp eye for aesthetics and for being an uncompromising artist who doesn’t stop until she gets the image she’s after, Leibovitz has earned a string of awards and honours in recognition of her efforts.

Since last month, a collection of nearly 200 Leibovitz photos taken between 1990 and 2005 has been on display at the ArtScience Museum. Entitled A Photographer’s Life, the exhibition was originally shown at Brooklyn Museum in New York and features a mix of images she took as part of her assignments, as well as more private ones from her personal life. While there’s no shortage of celebrity images (such as the cover image of a young Leonardo DiCaprio with a swan draped around his neck), the more poignant images are perhaps the blackand- white ones showing the laughter and tears Leibovitz shared with her friends and family, including her three daughters and renowned essayist and writer Susan Sontag, with whom she had a romantic relationship until Sontag passed away in 2009. Here we present a selection of her more personal pictures on display.

Time Out Singapore: Nathan Coley

The Turner Prize nominated artist, Nathan Coley, brings his famous lightbox installations to Singapore.

Nathan Coley

3 Apr 2014: 2007 Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley’s debut solo show in Asia is both intriguing and unexpectedly calming. Perhaps it’s the neutral colours he uses in most of his works – black, white, grey, with a blush of purple and a shimmer of gold here and there – or maybe it’s the seemingly reassuring words beaming from two of the lightbox installations: ‘FAITH’, reads one, and the other, ‘HEAVEN IS A PLACE WHERE NOTHING EVER HAPPENS’. The words are taken from Ed Ruscha’s painting, ‘Faith’, and American new wave band Talking Heads’ ‘Heaven’ respectively, and they are the indoor versions of his famous outdoor works, where the words are spelt out in light bulbs on scaffoldings. ‘I saw Ed Ruscha’s painting and I just fell in love with it, and while “Heaven” sounds like it could be a line taken from a religious text, it actually refers to a gay nightclub in London,’ says the 46-year-old Scot.

Indeed, while the pieces seem quite innocent at first glance, they do in fact tackle some pretty complex issues, such as spirituality and protest. Take for example ‘Choir’, a group of powder-coated steel blank placards that were created in 2012. With words absent from the pure white sculptural piece, Coley shows that he is more interested in the idea of protesting than what people may be marching about. Plus, he expects his audience to ‘work a bit’ to figure out what could be there, though he adds that he likes it when his art is ‘read and misread’.

‘My worst nightmare is when people ask me what the works mean. That’s not for me to decide, that’s for the viewers to decide,’ he says. ‘I don’t make work to be understood – I just want them to be exciting, or to change your day.’

Other works on display are three black-and-white photographic images from his 2012 Honour series, showing a public square in Brasilia and Auguste Rodin’s famed ‘Burghers of Calais’, each with specific details blocked out by gold leaf and leaving the viewer to wonder what it’s all about. Together, they form a great intro to Coley’s works.

Time Out Singapore: Edward Burtynsky

As award-winning Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky makes his solo Singapore debut this month, he shares some of the best shots from his latest series, Water, with Gwen Pew.

Edward Burtynsky

3 Mar 2014: Edward Burtynsky’s photographs are not difficult to identify: the sweeping landscapes as nature is carved up by industry and other traces of mankind, all contorted into an almost abstract canvas, are presented in a larger-than- life format in galleries around the world.

Born in Ontario, Canada, the 58-year-old has earned a slew of honours and awards for his powerful works, having won the first TED Prize in 2005, being named Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006 and receiving the President’s Medal from the Geological Society of America last year. He even had a critically-acclaimed documentary film made about him, titled Manufactured Landscapes.

Instead of creating his images just for the sake of it, however, he aims to use them as a visual way to encourage people to start thinking about what we’re doing to our planet. When he made three wishes upon accepting the TED Prize – each winner traditionally has to make at least one wish, which the prize money will help them achieve – they were to work on an IMAX film, to build a website to help children think about how to protect the planet, and to create, in his words, ‘a massive and productive worldwide conversation about sustainable living’.

As a result, Meet the Greens was launched in 2007 with the tagline: ‘a site for kids about looking after the planet’, and his support for the blog WorldChanging (of which he’s also the chairman) has led to the website flourishing into one of the Top Ten Green Blogs selected by The Guardian.

While his previous projects have focused on oil, quarries and mines, his latest series is entitled Water, which will be showing in Singapore this month at Sundaram Tagore Gallery. There are 180 works altogether, around 30 of which will be shown here. He began working on the series in 2007, and it has since grown to become his most ambitious collection to date. To capture the shots, he traveled the world, from Iceland to India, and went up to heights of over 7,000 feet with planes or helicopters to achieve his desired perspective.

‘While trying to accommodate the growing needs of an expanding, and very thirsty civilisation, we are reshaping the Earth in colossal ways. In this new and powerful role over the planet, we are also capable of engineering our own demise,’ Burtynsky says in his artistic statement for the series. ‘We have to learn to think more long-term about the consequences of what we are doing, while we are doing it. My hope is that these pictures will stimulate a process of thinking about something essential to our survival; something we often take for granted – until it’s gone.’

In conjunction with the exhibition, Watermark, a feature film he co-created with Manufactured Landscapes director Jennifer Baichwal during his journey in creating the Water series, will also be having its Singapore premiere at Sundaram Tagore Gallery this month.

Time Out Singapore: ‘We Do! We Do Art!’ Preview

To celebrate Valentine’s Day this month, One East Artspace will be presenting a group show that features works from six artist couples. Gwen Pew meets them all to hear their stories of love, life and art.

We Do Art

6 Feb 2014:

Tan Haur and Loh Kit Mui

How they met

TH: ‘Mui and I met studying applied art at the Singapore Baharuddin Institution what seems like a lifetime ago. We both picked up the Graphic Design course, but were in different classes. Our passion in art and design bound us together. We’ve been married for 23 years.’

KM: ‘I got to know Tan Haur when the lecturer showed us his creative work. He was one of the top students and everyone in school knew about him!’

First impression of each other

TH: ‘Talented, observant and quick tempered.’

LKM: ‘Caring. And we have a sort of chemistry with each other.’

Works they’ll be showing

TH: ‘Six photo-media archival prints from two series that were created three months ago. They deal with issues of globalisation, which is continued from my previous series, Global Eyes. The artworks are digitally aged on purpose to show what they might look like in a hundred years’ time. All works come with a fable specially written for this exhibition.’

LKM: ‘My drawings series Eyes, Divine to the Soul, consists of new works done in 2013 and 2014. I work with Chinese ink on acid free paper and the series is a continuation of my ink drawing to convey positive energy, harmony, kindness and nature, originated from my memory, imagination and intuition.’

Eitaro Ogawa and Tamae Iwasaki

How they met

EO: ‘We met at university when we were both 20 years old. I was in the volleyball team and she came in to join the team.’

First impression of each other

EO: ‘Something about her gave me a strong impression. I still don’t know what it was.’

TI: ‘He looks like any regular guy, but I felt something very strong when I first saw him. It’s like I met him before – even though I know I hadn’t.’

Works they’ll be showing

EO: ‘More than anything else, our kids are the most amazing creation that both of us are involved in. They are the inspiration for my silkscreen piece. We often fail to pay attention to something amazing that is very close to us, and instead focus on things that are much further away. I just want to bring that back to the right place.’

TI: ‘I have been creating a series of etched portraits of my two children. I have always been interested to know what makes each person different – is it the DNA, or the environment that they were raised in? Now we are witnessing two small persons growing in front of us, and we’re starting to deeply understand what forms one’s character.’

Milenko Prvacki and Delia Prvacki

How they met

MP: ‘I noticed Delia during our first days at the National University of Arts in Bucharest in 1971. However, as an “old-fashioned” gentleman, it took me almost one year to approach her.’

DP: ‘I saw Milenko for the first time in October 1971 at the university’s food court. After that, we watched each other for the following eight months. We had our first date in June 1972.’

First impression of each other

MP: ‘Beautiful, smart, talented and energetic.’

DP: ‘I was fascinated, as he was so authentic! He had an aura and I sensed he was a genuine artist.’

Works they’ll be showing

MP: ‘A group of mixed media drawings from the series Now You See Now You Don’t, which complement Delia’s installation well. The drawings are somewhere in between recognisable and abstract images and shapes.’

DP: ‘A mixed media 3D installation [of pussy willows] called “Spring”. It’s made from ceramics, metal and other materials, and is in line with themes and ideas that have interested me for more than 30 years. It’s about life cycles, transformation end eternal return to a new beginning.’

Oh Chai Hoo and Chua Chon Hee

How they met

OCH: ‘We first met each other in Secondary Three, but only started dating when we were studying at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). The most romantic memory I have from then is the times we spent together, making art.’

First impression of each other

OCH: ‘Honest, but quite gong gong (blur).’

CCH: ‘No special impression. The relationship was developed naturally as we made art. There were lots of outdoor sketching activities in groups at NAFA, and we gradually developed into becoming a pair.’

Works they’ll be showing

OCH: ‘“Grow up” is inspired by our own family, and it’s about how the family has grown and how one has to balance career and family life. The work is done in black ink on silver rice paper. Black and white is a symbol of things being pure and simple – I wish to take it back to basics.’

CCH: ‘“Layers of nature” is also created on silver rice paper, but it’s a monoprint that was inspired by nature – especially when I see fallen leaves, the mountains and the seas. It is through selfpursuit that we discover the true meaning of life, including human relationships.’


Kamal Dollah and Ye Ruoshi

How they met

KD: ‘We met in 1992 at an illustrations course in NAFA. The professor used a lot of Chinese – and I’m Malay – so I roped in Ruoshi to be my translator. ‘We were dating for three years before she told her parents though, because they’re very traditional Malaysian Chinese, and didn’t want her to date a Malay guy. We even ran away – but thankfully her parents got worried, so after one day they persuaded us to come back and decided to finally meet me in person and give me a chance. It was her mum who talked her dad into letting me come to the house, but in the end her dad and I had so much in common that we talked deep into the night, and her mum had to tell me to go home!’

YR: ‘I’d just broken up with my ex-boyfriend when I noticed Kamal being really nice to me – he even helped me source for materials for a project I was working on at the time – and we slowly became closer. ‘But yes, my parents are very traditional and they tried to make me break up with Kamal before they’d even met him – my dad was treated quite badly when he lived in Malaysia and had a very bad impression of the people there – and I was so heartbroken. He managed to win them over with his wit and charm though, and now he’s the favourite in-law of the family!’

First impression of each other

KD: ‘She is such a goody two-shoes! We are completely different people, and really quite incompatible. I’d want to go out and play all the time while she’d sit there in class, all perfect; she’d eat cake and there would be no crumbs! Like, what?! But we bonded over our love of art.’

YR: ‘Yeah, Kamal was the opposite of my type of guy. He’s quite arrogant, rude and rough, but when we got together, he made me realise that I have another side to me – a more rebellious side – that I never knew about. It’s exciting.’

Works they’ll be showing

KD: ‘Probably some of my new ink doodles. They’re not the kind of doodles that you’d likely have in mind, though – my doodles often don’t look like spontaneous doodles, as they look quite structured and very intricate. They are inspired by my background as a caricature artist, but I would usually just sit down and draw whatever is on my subconscious. I think that the subconscious is the true reflection of how one feels.’

YR: ‘A collection of paintings from my Hua Dan series. The hua dan is the female character in Chinese opera – which I love to perform in my spare time – she is a constant figure in my works. Sometimes they represent me; sometimes they’re more figurative. Almost everything else in my paintings represent the males – like Kamal, sometimes – and the works are an exploration of love, relationships and what it means to be part of a couple. There are always challenges and temptations, but it’s about how we overcome them and stay together.’

Suwong Kunrattanamaneephorn and Joey Soh

How they met

Joey: ‘Under the pitter-patter of welding sparks when working for Universal Studio’s project in 2009. We were the sculptors who helped to create the Lost World and some other parts of the theme park.’

First impression of each other

Suwong: ‘Who let this kid come and play in the production factory? Oh sh*t, she’s my supervisor!’

Joey: ‘Oh my gosh, are this guy’s arms toned… but he’s super lame!’

Works they’ll be showing

Suwong: ‘It’s a light installation called “Two White Fish First Met Each Other”, where two parts of a white epoxy resin sculpture cast a shadow that resembles a pair of lovers. It was created specifically for this show, and we were inspired by everywhere and everything – the exploration of materials, just having fun, looking at fishes at home and talking to each other.’

Time Out Singapore: Alain Soldeville

French photographer Alain Soldeville’s images of Bugis Street in the 1980s show a glimpse of the area’s colourful past. Gwen Pew takes a trip down memory lane.

Creatures of the Night

24 Jan 2014: Armed with a degree in Economic Sciences but a passion for photography, Alain Soldeville, now 56, decided to take a trip to Asia from his native France in the early 1980s. Having read about the transgender community that used to gather around Singapore’s Bugis Street, his curiosity led him – and his camera – to the fascinating underbelly of town.

After spending a few months in Singapore, he went on to become a photojournalist for a range of magazines, including The New York Times, Vogue Homme and the French edition of National Geographic, before quitting the commercial side of the art form to focus on taking images centred on the themes of memory, identity and globalisation. Amidst the many projects he immersed himself in, he had completely forgotten about the photographs he took in Bugis Street for almost 25 years, until he reencountered them by chance and realised how incredible his shots of the long-disappeared scenes are.

As the works finally make their way back to Singapore for an exhibition at Objectifs at the end of this month, Soldeville shares his memories of yesteryear’s Singapore with us.

What first brought you to Singapore back in the 1980s?

I left Paris for Bangkok in December 1980 to make a long trip across Asia to take photographs wherever my mood would take me. I never studied photography at school, as there were not a lot [of arts schools around] at the beginning of the ’80s. I ended up in Singapore to buy photo equipment as it was cheaper there than in France.

What brought you to Bugis Street? And how did you first become acquainted with the people in your photographs?

I read an article about Bugis Street in a travel book, and I was interested to see it and make some photos. I met two Swiss guys in the hotel I stayed in and we went together to visit the area at night. I quickly met Anita, a friendly transgender of Malaysian background, who introduced me to her friends. I carried my camera everywhere and everybody knew it. I made portraits of them in the street, sometimes with sailors when they arrived from the harbour. They liked having me photograph them and they often posed for pictures.

What were some of the surprising things you discovered about the community?

I found out that they had a strong sense of community: they were living in a communal apartment building far from downtown. In doing so, they could defend themselves against the attacks of aggressive clients and neighbours. As Anita told me, they were rejected by people close to them, but they were tolerated by society and could live upon their trade.

Why did you decide to start photographing them? Did it ever feel awkward?

Before going to Singapore, I knew that I wanted to photograph Bugis Street and the girls there. I was interested by transsexuality and I had read about the subject a long time before [going to Singapore], when I was in France. I was curious about people living on the edges of society and those not accepting its codes. It was not awkward to photograph the Bugis Street community, but sometimes I had to be cautious, as I was close to some girls and not to others – they considered themselves as women and jealousy was a part of the game – but most of them permitted me to make photos. [One of the few refusals] I got was from a girl who was modeling for fashion magazines and didn’t want casual photos made of her.

How long did you spend with them?

I spent about six weeks in Singapore from February to May 1981 before I left for Australia, where I worked for six months in order to continue traveling. I returned briefly to Singapore after Australia in 1984, as I was traveling to Indonesia to photograph stories for magazines, and [made a brief stop to] stay a few weeks at some friends’ house. I met the girls I knew again and made new photos of them.

Did you find that the photos you took on your first trip were vastly different from the ones you took on the second one?

Looking at the photos, I would say [the latter ones] were maybe technically a bit better, but [they were all] made in the same spirit, as that work was, to me, a continuing series. From 1985, I became a photojournalist and worked for magazines until 1999. The kind of series I am doing now, 32 years later, are very different. I changed a lot and my photos did too. They are more conceptual and [more of a] mises en scène (set up or staging) between fiction and reality. I explore the edges between documentary and mise en scène. That said, the Bugis Street series contains a lot of set up photos, too.

What are some interesting stories from your time with the transsexual community?

In 1984, as I was going back to Singapore for the second time, a friend of mine took me to the notorious Thief Alley behind Bugis Street at night. Transsexuals were selling their charms in a park; nearby, the dimly-lit alley was full of people walking along, and we could hardly move. I was taking photographs of girls posing inside houses and trying to get clients in – my friend told me later on that the houses were used a long time ago by opium smokers. As we reached the end of the lane, I felt hands along my body searching for my wallet and my money – a thief in Thief Alley!

How many photos did you take in total, and how many will you be showing at Objectifs?

I made a few hundreds photographs altogether, and 50 [out of those are especially interesting]. I will show about 27 prints in both colour and black and white at Objectifs.

Are you still in touch with anyone from the photographs?

No. Unfortunately, I lost contact with them after 1984. I would be happy to find and meet them again after all this time, though.

What do you think when you look back on the photos today?

I forgot about that work for almost 25 years. It felt strange the first time I looked at the photos again – it was like watching excerpts from the film of my own life, my youth. I was trying to find a way as a photographer and to discover the world through it. I am rather touched by these photos as they illustrate the way I always used to represent people in my work: in respecting them, showing their fragility and their humanity.

Time Out Singapore: Randy Chan and Philippa Lawrence

Gwen Pew catches up with the two artists of this year’s Artist-in- Residency Exchange Programme (AiRx) to hear more about their thoughts on the residency.

Randy Chan and Philippa Lawrence talking through their ideas.

Randy Chan and Philippa Lawrence talking through their ideas.

6 Jan 2014: Now in its third year, AiRx is an annual initiative by Singapore International Foundation and the British Council, where a Singaporean artist is paired with a UK one to create new solo works as well as a final collaborative piece. The participants of this year’s programme are local architect Randy Chan, 43, and Bristol-based artist Philippa Lawrence, 45, and their resulting joint venture is a piece called ‘Angles of Incidence’. It comprises reflective multi-faceted steel pods placed beneath the canopy of the Kapok tree, and will be displayed at the Singapore Botanic Gardens before moving to the UK to be showcased at Inner Temple Gardens in London later this year

Have you previously done a collaborative piece before?
Randy Chan: Yes, many. Notably with Grace Tan for ‘Architecture as body’ at the Substation under the Future-proof show in 2012 and ‘File not found’ at Palais De Tokyo Paris with Joel Yuan, Zach [Zaki Razak] and Lee Wen.
Philippa Lawrence: No, but [the programme is] supportive and excellent, and the partners are very warm and welcoming.

What’s the most difficult thing about the residency?
RC: Time management – the ability to work on your feet and meet many interesting creative people in such a short, limited time is an art. In terms of work, we have a challenging site. We needed to think of a work that responds to Singapore Botanic Gardens and Inner Temple Gardens in London.
PL: Being on the other side of the world and the time scale made communication difficult. It was a very short, intense working period from meeting Randy to making the work. The project is at a point in what could be a longer conversation and it could have so many other permutations.

And what was the most important thing you learnt?
RC: Collaboration is a craft. Through the process, it hones your humility and makes you realise that creativity in collaboration is to understand the human condition, and to listen to nature.
PL: I learnt much about another part of the world, about land, about what I would like to do in my practice – and the need to be more open to risk.