by Joyce Er (15A01A)
Photos by: Seet Yun Teng
Last Friday was a night for the arts. Despite sheeting rains, throngs of Rafflesians swarmed the amphitheatre in anticipation of The Poetry of Movement, while Raffles Photography Society’s Anamorphosis and Raffles Art Club’s Up had taken over the adjacent walkways. In a corner of Block A, a warm glow unfurled from the usually disused art exhibition space. This was Crossing, a joint showcase by the most recent batch of graduated art students encapsulating their progress at a point when they are about to embark on their respective university educations.
Although the space was only meant to open at 7.30pm, a steady stream of alumni and students from other schools began trickling in beginning from 6pm. Walking in, William Batara Jeremiah Samosir was seen animatedly talking to two J2 art students about his coursework boards: “That’s the good thing about art – you can never have something perfect.”
Seet Yun Teng articulated its significance thus, “For us, this showcase tracks our progress, letting us see where we are now. It’s a milestone in our lives, tracking how far we’ve come and where we’re going, which is very important especially for those of us who might not be going down an art path in future. For our batch, it’s like closure.” Of the ten students, four will be attending a fine arts education, including Yun Teng and William. Two others hope to study architecture.
Pursuing something as demanding as art demands a great deal of passion, which these alumni did not lack. Asked what her most valuable takeaway from JC art was, Yun Teng said, “What I like is that art here really opens the mind up and encourages experimentation and independent work, which you don’t really see in other schools […] Art here showed me that it is possible to do art beyond JC. There’s a perception that it’s not possible to study art at a higher level, but my time in art convinced me that this is really what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Yun Teng is currently interning at the National Arts Council.
Similarly, for William, art was clearly something both tied to the self and indispensable: “Art is a language in itself, you use it to express things language can’t really express. It’s like a religion and a philosophy […] a real and total reflection of your life and experience. And I think art is meant to be shared.”
Share it they did. The artworks on display at the exhibition that day spanned a wide range of materials, from oil on canvas to mixed media to illustration to video to installation, and grappled with various subject matters ranging from social identity to spirituality. Since a coursework concept is developed over the span of up to a year, many of these artworks were extremely personal, offering an insight into the artists’ worldviews and what they held dear to their hearts. Yun Teng’s work, An Open Call for Memories, was a ten-month process. She collected memories from over a hundred people in pictures and text which they either wished they remembered or wanted never to forget. The images were printed on tissue paper to symbolise fragility, mounted on the interior of a Styrofoam space, backlit with small lights and the anecdotes painstakingly handwritten in gaps in the Styrofoam. The resultant immersive installation was a cosy space suffused with warmth, allowing one to literally get a glimpse of the fragile, precious memories of all contributors. Said Yun Teng: “It’s a very personal work for me, but at the same time it’s very universal because it speaks to a wider audience.”
In addition to their coursework, each artist also displayed samples of work they have done since graduation, which were more experimental in nature. William featured Clouds ‘n’ Thoughts, a popular ongoing instagram-based project dedicated to illustrating pithy quotes that anyone can submit here. Another student, Ahmad Nazaruddin, submitted a glass and charcoal-on-paper work addressing the prickly subject of religion. Eugene Tan, whose trompe l’oeil triptych oil painting drew considerable interest from exhibition-goers, also submitted a photoseries exploring the sinister nature of seemingly innocuous candy, aptly titled Die-abetic Me. Having been liberated from the constraints of the A Level system, each of them evidently seized the chance to explore their interests and take more risks. When comparing each artist’s past courseworks to their present experiments, one can clearly see how their skills and conceptualisation abilities have progressed since their graduation, as well as their flexibility in dealing with a diverse range of topics of interest.
Mr Chia Wei Hou, their teacher and mentor throughout their H2Art journey, commented on the artworks exhibited, “Overall, their coursework was very high in standard, but the works that they do now are very organic – in a way they’re more engaged and open. There’s the sense that there is no longer a need to come up with a solution [to a question]… They’re full of potential, and I hope they can use their knowledge and make a difference in whatever they do and continue the passion. This exhibition is site and context-specific, so before we take it all down, I hope that as many people can see it as possible.” Yun Teng said, “Not everyone could make it, but I’m proud we put it together.”