Interview by Elizabeth Tan
Photographs courtesy of HOKO, Kitchen. Label, Holycrap.sg and The Letter J Supply
Besides commemorating the courage and creative journey of independent artists and authors, publishers, distributors and retailers, the Singapore Art Book Fair (SABF) is also a sweet blend of other offbeat art-related activities such as film screenings, workshops, and talks. Since its launch just last year, SABF has made its mark in Singapore, being a rallying point for all—whether you’re an art book enthusiast, or a design aficionado looking for creative inspiration. Gathering 50 vendors, both local and international, SABF is a platform to showcase creatives in the Asian world to art book buyers.
From the poetic melodies of Kitchen. Label, to experimental art by the family collaboration of Holycrap.sg, these exhibitors allow us a glimpse into their world. We had the privilege to hear from four of these artists as they tell us more about their creative journeys and struggles, the highs and lows, and the ups and downs that have made them who they are today.
—The intuitive duo, Alvin Ho and Clara Koh shed light on how design is more pervasive in our life than we think.
Please share with us how HOKO started.
We met while studying at Temasek Polytechnic between 1999 and 2002. After collaborating on a project, we discovered that we worked really well together so HOKO (derived from Alvin HO and Clara KOh) was established right after graduation as a way to continue working on non-commercial and fun projects. It was also a way to delay reality and continue doing what we enjoyed in school.
What has HOKO Studio been busy with recently?
We were busy preparing for the exhibition The Fab Mind at 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo, that is happening from 24th October to 1st February 2015. We are also working on a couple of publications and exhibitions under the series Science of the Secondary for 2015.
—Bubbling with passion, this family shows us that happiness follows when you follow your heart.
Please share with us, what have you guys been busy with recently?
CLAIRE + PANN: We’ve been crazy busy since June. Renn and Aira were very busy with their art exhibition for the Singapore Art Book Fair while juggling revisions for their exams. Pann’s work at the office has also been at its busiest. So basically the whole family was going mad (in a great way) rushing out Rubbish Famzine Issue 3 for the book fair.
The idea of an entire family dabbling in art together is quite unusual and pleasantly refreshing in Singapore—how did you get this idea of involving your kids in creative endeavours?
C + P: As suddenly as it was decided! That’s how Pann works. One night before hitting the sack, he suggested we start an art group with the kids. We decided to get the family together to pursue art and all things ‘creative’. We wanted to do this with as much craziness as there is seriousness. Pann and I grew up loving many things like art, design, music, cooking and etc., and we believe there is no better way to teach Renn and Aira about life than through all these. Moreover, we get to spend time together creating even more memories.
—Ricks Ang cooks up a storm in this kitchen as boundaries are pushed in the music scene.
Do tell us, what is Kitchen. Label busy with at the moment?
Hello there! This year has been pretty exciting and busy. I’ve been working on a piano ensemble album by Japanese composer Haruka Nakamura. This is a live recording in Tokyo and we have just finished mixing the album. I can’t wait to finally release it this December! For SABF this year, we displayed our entire catalogue of records and art books, label merchandise and limited edition zines by related artists and collaborators. We have also specially brought in a compilation Mixtape for Dawn by our Korean collaborator, Your Mind.
So, what prompted you to create Kitchen. Label?
I am involved in a band called Aspidistrafly and in 2004 we self-released our album with our own design and album packaging. This led us to our first tour in Tokyo in 2007 where we met our current Japanese distributor and started promoting our music in Japan. Before I knew it, I started receiving demos from other artists and a greater demand for our releases. At this point I became aware that I was already running a serious record label. There is this unstoppable drive in me to see how far I can go with it. Besides, I really love the physical format and there’s something quite magical about owning records you can touch and feel.
—With a swift movement of the hand, Joanne Lim of The Letter J Supply paints the beauty of words and language.
Please share with us, what are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on products for Christmas and revamping my room so that I can use it to photograph my work.
How does one get started with calligraphy—clearly it is more than just ‘writing’ words?
Yes calligraphy is more like ‘drawing’ shapes. One can get started by taking a workshop. I also know many who learn from YouTube videos. Most of all it takes a passion to keep you going because it requires quite a bit of practice.
How then did you get into calligraphy and how did The Letter J Supply start?
Three years ago, a good friend gave me a gold-plated pen nib she bought from Japan to cheer me up. That was the first spark that got me really intrigued. I never knew anything about calligraphy before that. I tried playing with it but had no idea how to really write properly, until I was on holiday in New York last year and attended a calligraphy talk along with other calligraphy teachers and enthusiasts.
I met Eleanor Winters and took private classes with her, and that changed the course of my life. When I came back to Singapore, I felt like I didn’t want to use the computer as much and just wanted to make things with my hands.
I believe that words are powerful and art can change the atmosphere of a place. The Letter J Supply started because I wanted to make art pieces with words that would go into different homes and spaces.
Read more in The U Press N˚8 (Singapore edition).