United by a common curiosity, a bunch of working adults from walks of life as diverse as baking, finance, architecture and interior design signed up for a certificate programme in Western Abstract Painting.
Over the course of the year that followed, the group rendezvoused at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) for once-a-week evening classes and soon discovered that this was anything but traditional art class.
From drawing in the dark, to hurling marbles at canvases, the artists soon learnt that drawing and painting went beyond the usual definitions of line and form, colour and composition. Technique? Develop your own along the way through process painting! Every painting became an opportunity to challenge oneself and push past preconceived boundaries.
This radical approach to learning under the guidance of fine arts lecturer and artist Raymond Yap was supplemented by a heavy dose of exposure to art of all forms. ‘Cheem’ (Singapore slang for ‘deep/profound’) was the catchphrase often used by the artists in the class. Nevertheless the bewildered lot persevered and soon found themselves immersed in the world of galleries and exhibitions. Never mind the paintings, this was a transforming process for the artists!
As one of the artists, Bee Tin shared, “I learnt to celebrate mistakes and step out of my comfort zone to create something I normally wouldn’t. It’s like roaming a city. You make a ‘wrong’ turn and discover a beautiful place you would have otherwise missed.”
Providing insight to his method, Yap explained, “The challenge is more intellectual than technical. It is about losing the strait-jacket of objectivity and realising that the world has depths to it that we have to learn to appreciate.”
After just one year, he observes that the group has developed new, freer ways of thinking, and extended their technical abilities. “Their work shows confidence and competence. They can now express themselves and communicate with others in more profound ways.”
Yap also observes a differentiating factor that sets his night class students apart. “Artists need time to produce work and, as important, time to reflect. For working adults, time is a constraint but it also has its advantages because the artist can then bring intense concentration to the work. They are also able to tap a wide variety of experience and influences, which generates tremendous originality.”
Written by Geraldine Wang
Exhibition: Collective Consciousness
Dates: 10 – 13 August 2015
Venue: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429
Hours: 10am – 10pm daily
Opening: Monday, 10 August, 6.30pm, at The Gallery