Interview by Charlene Chan
Photographs courtesy of the artists
Between honing their craft and seeking opportunities for showcase, pursuing the arts can be something of a fine balancing act for young artists—one that is not often achievable. But where past practitioners have had to forgo passion in favour of pragmatism, today’s youth have carved out a unique position for themselves: one that involves financial support, mentorship, and a sense of community backed by a dedicated following on social media.
A big contributor to that is Noise Singapore, an initiative launched by the National Arts Council to give young artists a space for showcasing their work in the fields of art, design, photography and music. Today, it has become the most prominent youth arts event locally, boasting notable alumni such as Inch Chua and Tim De Cotta. With a host of emerging creatives to look out for at upcoming showcases, we got in touch with both past participants and this year’s fresh faces to find out how being a Noise artist has helped them further their craft.
—Fernanders tells us more about what it takes to bring stories to life through images, and why the Nordic culture fascinates him.
The series of images in Home is so different from what we know in Singapore. What about the Nordic culture do you find appealing?
I have been in love with the Nordic culture and landscape since I was young, partly because I live in Singapore—it makes me appreciate their nature and climate. I love the snow and trees, especially between the autumn and winter seasons when you can see a drastic change in the environment.
Each of your series of images seems to capture a story. Do you begin each project with a story in mind?
I am quite flexible when it comes to generating ideas. For the majority of my work with clients, I tend to start out with a general idea of what I want the end product to look like, and then work on different thumbnails for them to choose from. Once they have decided on a particular thumbnail, I then focus on style. Lighting and composition also play a huge part in storytelling.
—Known for his distinctive, black and white photo collages, Wei Jiang shares how traditional art influences the work he does.
I have been intrigued with your work since I came across them on Instagram last year. It must take a huge amount of planning to ensure your photos line up just right; is that something you were going to do from the start?
It started as an exploration to create collages from photographs that could work individually, yet come together to form interesting compositions. The idea developed as I created more works, but I did not consider how far I would take this style of image making.
Do you decide on what you want to shoot before going to take the picture? Or do you get a bunch of shots before lining them up to see if they fit?
I usually have an idea of the subjects I want in a collage and how they should be shot for the eventual editing, so I picture what types of images are needed before going out to see what my surroundings can offer.
—Despite having photographed numerous iconic locations around Singapore, Jon reveals one elusive place he hasn’t had the chance to shoot yet.
An MRT station would not be an obvious choice for most to photograph. What about this spot in Rochor MRT station jumped at you?
Back then, the Rochor MRT station had just been completed and being curious, I decided to check it out. As architectural photography is my pet subject, the first thing that struck me about the design of this station was its sleek and glossy interior. The staircase was especially iconic since the lines on the ceiling gave the entire scene an ultramodern look, which is rare in other stations.
Light plays a big part in Wonder Room, but is a running thread through your other work as well. What is it about light that fascinates you?
Besides composing a scene, light adds dimensionality and depth—without light, any scene would look flat and unappealing. Light gives a scene mood and provides an atmosphere in what would otherwise be a very common scene.
—Since winning the Noise Singapore Award in 2013, Stopgap has released their first album, Totems, and gone on tour in India—they tell us more about how that went.
Congratulations on your debut album! The five of you have been playing together for a long time. Do you find it hard to keep things fresh?
YJ (Y): As a band we like a lot of the same music, but at the same time there are lots of guilty pleasures and each of us has a different taste and approach to music. Having played together, we know each other well, and can sometimes guess what the other person’s gonna play even before he plays it. It’s hard because although there’s all this chemistry, there are expectations before we even start writing. Sometimes the way around it is to really just have fun and push ideas through the room.
You recently played in Chennai and Bangalore. What was that experience like?
Y: It was our first opportunity playing overseas. We kinda faced the reality of it, and I think we coped with it really well, dealing and managing our own expectations and personalities as a group. But it was a lot of fun, I think we always have fun as a group of boys together especially in a country like India.
Adin (A): Being on the tour itself was way fun, we got the whole experience, diarrhoea and all. I think because it was our first overseas tour we had lots to learn on the logistics end.
Read more in The U Press N˚12 (Singapore edition).