Culture

Meet The Latest Generation of Singaporean Creatives

... and get familiar with their work, inspiration, hopes and dreams for our sunny island.
Reading time 11 minutes

"There is a lot of magic in Singapore if you look around," so says art director and illustrator Aida Sa'ad, on how our pristine city-state has influenced her creatively.

During a period of immense disruption, we found some of the local rising talents who remain inspired and hopeful for our sunny island in a post-pandemic world. Ahead, we speak to Aida, independent creative studio Tell Your Children and fashion designer and artist Rachael Cheong, who talk to L'Officiel Singapore on their work, inspiration, hopes and dreams for the future. 

Tell Your Children

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Image: Tell Your Children

Tell Your Children, an independent creative studio made up of Deon Phua, Russell Ong, Lydia Yang, Kevin Too, Denise Yap, Jialing Hoon and Bane Tan

 

Tell us a bit about the work that you do.

We are an independent creative studio based in Singapore. Most of the work we do is centred around certain narratives and stories that we are interested in. We are constantly looking for new ways to translate our ideas into physical art pieces and products. We do have some really exciting projects and collaborations lined up, and will be announcing them soon!

 

How has Singapore influenced your works?

One of the biggest advantages being born and raised in Singapore is that we are a unique blend of East meets West. Growing up, we were exposed to a lot of media from the West that has inspired and mostly stuck with us through our creative journey. At the same time, there is so much more we can learn and draw from our multicultural society and local cultures. 

 

One of our favourites is an artwork we did for local musician FAUXE in 2016 that showed him with G-preme and the boys from Mediocre Haircut Crew, sitting at a table in a traditional coffee shop setting. The artwork was an homage to US rapper MF Doom’s Mm… Food album artwork, reinterpreted in a local context.

Given how the pandemic has upended our usual ways of engaging with the world, what's inspiring you right now?

Many of the creators we look up to have started to use social media in more creative ways since the pandemic and that has inspired us to rethink the way we communicate our ideas. There are so many things happening in the world right now as well, and we just want to be able to spread a bit of positivity through our art.

 

What do you hope to see in Singapore, moving forward in a post-pandemic world?

That people will be kinder to each other.

 

Find them on instagram and facebook at @tellyourchildren

Rachael Cheong

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Image: Viktor Naumovski

Rachael Cheong, fashion designer and artist 

Tell us a bit about the work that you do, and what exciting new projects you've been working on.

I am a fashion designer and artist, and am currently developing new work for my label and practice Closet Children. I am testing the waters now – making products that are in my own style yet wearable for every day. I've mostly made “unwearable things” in the past purely for artistic expression, so this time, I am looking to do a collection that will merge both artistic expression and wearability. I'll be continuing research from my previous collection about dolls to expand into the wider topic of the artificial body. 

I am also working on Awkward Party, a collaborative studio practice between me and Sheryll Goh that explores our fascination with bad taste and a desire to put forth high-quality work validated by social norms. We explore notions of awkwardness through parodies of cultural kitsch, evocative of nostalgic family gatherings and festive celebrations. Currently, we are doing a year-long residency with Dance Nucleus researching kitsch aesthetics in Singapore that focuses on the aspect of communal dining and celebration. We are hoping to do a show next January!

How has Singapore influenced your works?

I grew up going to Chinatown very often to visit my relatives. Obviously, as a child, I wasn't really aware of "auntie fashion" but I was most definitely subconsciously influenced by the eccentric style of aunties in the area. My relatives also liked covering their furniture or shelves with colourful fabric. The fabrics seemed very random and very much "make do" with what they had. Somehow it all just came together visually. I'm sure that that was also an influence because in my own work as well as my work with Sheryll in Awkward Party, I love mixing prints and colours that may not seem to go together at first glance. 

 

Image: Rachael Cheong. Image credit: April Lee

What's inspiring you now? 

I've always been inspired by corsets and historical garments. I recently joined a community that specializes in historical replicas so I have been doing more in-depth research into construction, shapes and techniques. It's really amazing how the body was shaped in the past and it is totally a myth that people used to have "different bodies". The historical body presented in fashion plates was all about illusions created by padding and corsetry. I think that the techniques used in corsetry and tailoring can definitely be applied to sculpture, even if it doesn't revolve around the body. 

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Image: Viktor Naumovski

What do you hope to see in Singapore, moving forward in a post-pandemic world?

I think the arts community was really quick to get mad about being considered "non-essential" during a pandemic and we quickly made memes about it. I was definitely one of those annoyed about the "non-essential" label. Many people still have a huge misconception about the arts and think that artists only paint or draw. Much of what we consume in our everyday lives are produced by artists and designers. I really hope that Singapore will be more open-minded and informed moving forward in a post-pandemic world.

Find her at closetchildren.com, or info@closetchildren.com

Aida Sa'ad

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Aida Sa'ad

Aida Sa'ad, art director and illustrator 

Tell us a bit about the work that you do, and what exciting new projects you've been working on.

I’m an art director and an illustrator. I love exploring fun points of view in my work and bringing the seemingly mundane to life with humour and playfulness. A lot of my work draws from personal experiences and observations, which makes it relatable to many. 

I’ve just wrapped up painting a mural for a hospice in Singapore. I came up with the design based on conversations about death (e.g. “how would you like to spend your last days on Earth?”) that I shared with others on Instagram. The intention was to normalise talking about a topic that is usually considered taboo in Singapore, and to bring attention to quality end-of-life care that you can enjoy at a hospice, in the company of supportive caregivers and friends. The end product is an idyllic scene with nature, cats (!!!) and a glowing sunset. The whole process resembled a light-hearted conversation about a theme commonly perceived as morbid and depressing.

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Image: Aida Sa'ad

How has Singapore influenced your works?

Singapore is my favourite country in the world. I have a lot of pride for this country – for its shiny picture of progress that seeps into the everyday (I measure this in how you can push a wheelchair far from home. Heck, you can even push it up the Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay without encountering any obstacles), as well as the not-so-glamorous bits that I still find endearing and worth celebrating. 

A lot of people lament about how Singapore’s ruthless pursuit of pragmatism leaves no space for culture and the arts to flourish organically. However, I find that there is so much “accidental beauty” in our visual language of functionality. For example – in how the colourful stickers that are issued to mark a healthy individual during COVID temperature-taking exercises actually look like cheerful confetti strewn over perfectly manicured Singapore; in the excessive parading of flags around HDB estates during National Day so over-the-top they look like set designs. I find so much fascination in these everyday trivialities that get often brushed off as sterile and ugly. The tension between the two gives me a restless itch to document them somehow, and to borrow the visual vernacular in my work. 

I feel that when you create, you have the power to portray things in a different light and present new points of view, and I want to do that with my work. I want to celebrate magic in everyday things.

Earlier this year, I created a parody tour group with a full set of accompanying merchandise and conducted a tour around the popular spots in Singapore, poking fun at our glistening picture-perfect tourist facade. Currently, I am collecting temperature stickers and experimenting with creating some patterns and animations with the coloured shapes. There is a lot of magic in Singapore if you look around.

 

What's inspiring you now? 

I think the restrictions we encounter due to the pandemic has forced us to be creative in other ways and I love seeing how people work around their limitations. Creativity always finds its way, it’s in our spirit. 

Some examples of the projects I love include Window Swap, that allows you to gaze out of someone else’s window from across the world. I also really adore A Window to the World, a charming tale about being human, told through 62 artists and their windows.

Apart from that, I find myself looking at a lot of animation and stop-motion videos as an alternative to film. Being unable to do film shoots for work during the Circuit Breaker forced us to rethink our means of storytelling. It’s a positive challenge.

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Image: Aida Sa'ad

What do you hope to see in Singapore, moving forward in a post-pandemic world?

I wish for people to be kinder. Being in a challenging “slump” right now has made us realise the importance of moving forward as a community, in helping each other, and I wish for that spirit of openness and compassion to continue as the ‘new normal’ in a post-pandemic world. 

Oh, and good hygiene too!

 

Find her at yellowmushmellow.comyellowmushmellow@gmail.com

 

First seen in the August 2020 issue of L'Officiel Singapore

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