If you’re a fan of the reality TV show Project Runway, now showing on Discovery Travel & Living and Channel 5, you must be familiar with the vocal and confident Santino Rice from the show’s second season. This six-foot-five designer was recently in town to promote the show, and is unsurprisingly, as chatty as ever. We talk to Rice about God, music, and of course, fashion.

What is your current state of mind?
In great spirits, as this is the first time I’m in Singapore and I truly love the culture here.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Luckily, I’ve always known that I wanted to be a designer. I’m also inspired a lot by music as well, but no, I’ve never wanted to be a full-time musician.

What is your biggest achievement?
Being able to do what I want to do day to day. I’m the master of my own fate!

What inspires you?
God. Music. I feel like I’m a part of His creative subconscious…and have the psychic ability to know what’s going to happen to me next. You always want to outdo your last efforts. I want to be a conduit for a bigger message and achieve something from a higher place.

What personal trait do you appreciate the most in others?
Honesty. Loyalty.

Do you have a cause or do you support one?
If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. Which is why I believe in the freedom of speech, especially in relation to issues like war.

Which living person do you admire most and would like to invite for dinner?
A lot actually. But I really admire Oprah Winfrey. She’s really an affectionate person who’s created an enterprise for herself and does good things with her money.

What are you reading?
A lot of things, but I sleep with fashion magazines.

How do you spend your Sunday mornings?
Going over my to-do list. I like to reflect by the end of each week what I’ve done and achieve. I read The New York Times. I go over my long-term goals.

What is your idea of hell?
Not being able to transcend a situation, whether it’s physical or inflicted on you by other people.

What is your guilty pleasure?
I like expensive toiletries and nice candles, things that I don’t necessarily need.

How do you recharge?
Reflecting on my to-do list.

What’s playing in your iPod/MP3/CD player?
Regina Spektor, ELO, Spank Rock.

What do you collect?
Records. Collectible books.

Where would you like to live?
LA, where I am.

What is your favorite item of clothing?
Probably the pants that I made for myself.

What accessory sets you apart?
I’m a man of many hats.

What about you that scares others?
My size before they know me.

If you had to play a character in a movie, which movie and which character?
Jimmy Stewart’s character in It’s a Wonderful Life.

What did you believe at 18 that you wish you still believed now?
That people will treat me in the same way that I treat myself. It’s unfortunate that that doesn’t happen very often.


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Malaysian Paula Malai Ali needs no introduction. The Eurasian beauty of Channel [V] fame recently joined ESPN STAR Sports as a STAR Sports presenter, and will be hosting a brand new magazine show for the channel—For Men Only.

Besides her work on TV, Paula also presented several radio programs in Malaysia, and she has also acted on stage. One of the highlights of her career was her being featured in a special episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that went around the world and profiled successful women who were 30. We had a little chat with her amid her busy schedule.

What is your current state of mind?
I’m feeling extremely excited, optimistic and chaotically peaceful at this new stage of my career at ESPN STAR Sports.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a cheese maker, seriously.

What is your biggest achievement?
If I had to choose, it would definitely be getting my former job at Channel [V] and now landing a job with STAR Sports.

What inspires you?
It really inspires me to see hardworking, passionate individuals living their dreams successfully.

What personal trait do you appreciate the most in others?
Definitely punctuality and honesty.

Do you have a cause or do you support one?
I’m still trying to find the one that I can seriously commit to. But I like causes for children and am hoping to find one that will truly allow me to contribute as much as I can.

Which living person do you admire most and would like to invite for dinner?
I have a lot of respect for the Sultan of Brunei (His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah). I think he has done great things keeping Malaysia safe and would like to find out what his plans are for Brunei.

What are you reading?
A Time To Dance, No Time To Weep by Rumer Godden.

How do you spend your Sunday mornings?
I usually jog for an hour. My Sunday morning is also filled with the guilty pleasures of TV.

What is your idea of hell?
A karaoke bar.

What is your guilty pleasure?
That’s easy: Reality TV.

How do you recharge?
I recharge by not seeing anyone and watching a DVD box set.

What’s playing in your iPod/MP3/CD player?
Lionel Richie, Corinne Bailey Rae and Wham!.

What do you collect?
Bills and rings.

Where would you like to live?
In an igloo. In Singapore.

What is your favorite item of clothing?
My pajamas.

What accessory sets you apart?
My rings.

What about you that scares others?
My bluntness.

If you had to play a character in a movie, which movie and which character?
Scarlett O’ Hara in Gone with the Wind.

What did you believe in at 18 that you wish you still believed now?
Father Christmas.


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With the launch of four new bars and two restaurants at The Cannery, Singapore nightlife is geared for even more action and fun.

First, it was mammoth dance club Ministry of Sound (MoS), which spans 40,000 square feet. And now, Lifebrandz Ltd, who brought us the successful club, is swinging into full gear to launch four new bars and two restaurants at another 40,000 square feet at The Cannery, Clarke Quay by mid-Dec. This is quite a feat, considering that they are all ambitious projects. We will be seeing restaurants Bice and Aurum, and bar chains FashionBar, Kandi Bar and Barfly, and the highly original The Clinic, which is a bar, club and restaurant all rolled into one, inspired by the artworks of controversial Brit artist Damien Hirst. We find out more about these establishments.

The Clinic

This is the brainchild of Lifebrandz’s Executive Director Clement Lee himself, and is based on the shapes of pills taken from Damien Hirst’s series The Stations of the Cross. Every room in the 15,000 square foot space is shaped like a pill, and has chemical names. Comprising two levels, the ground floor is where the main rooms are. Morphine houses the main dance floor, while Cyanide, Sarin and Amino are lounge areas, with different live music elements thrown in, and Anthrax is the main bar. Level two consists of the restaurant Aurum, a private dining room called Phobia and the ladies-only space Delusion.

Explaining The Clinic’s concept, Lee says: “The segmentations and the different rooms will draw different types of personalities who will then create different atmospheres. This will open a whole new dimension to our partying scene as different crowds are channeled to the different areas.”

But more than just that, what is impressive about The Clinic is its unconventional décor and design. Case in point: To have access to the different rooms, punters will have to find well-hidden sensors that are located at the entrances of each room before they can bar hop from one space to the other. This will ultimately create a jam at the doors, but Lee insists that this adds more fun to the party atmosphere. “By virtue of the fact that it’s so unique, clubbers will certainly be drawn to it and discover the club for themselves,” he says.

Indeed, even before The Clinic opens its door, we are intrigued by its edgy concept. Also to look out for here: Original Hirst artworks that will grace the different parts of the club, a secret staircase that leads to the ladies-only room, an area selling exclusive T-shirts and merchandise inspired by Damien Hirst, and an overall “clinical” vibe that runs throughout the club—think bar entrances that are modeled after labs and clinics—so expect to see colorful pills, syringes and test-tubes decorating the club’s main bars. You have been warned.


When it opens its door, this will be where fashion editors, stylists and fashionistas will congregate, sip champagne and pose all night long. Inspired by the TV channel FashionTV, the vibe here is very chi chi and exclusive, and if you can’t tell your LV from your CD (that’s Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, darling), don’t bother coming here. But for those who make the cut, you can expect the décor to be glamorous—think silver, black and white tones that run throughout the establishment, a crystal bar, and lots and lots of champagne cocktails and martinis, including “Sex on the Runway,” the bar’s signature martini comprising green apple liqueur and cinnamon. Ooh la la.

Kandi Bar

Fans of the CD series Hed Kandi will relish in this one. Think kitschy and groovy house music as well as chill out essentials, and what you have is this small, intimate bar that fits 180 punters. This is where it is for small party gatherings that are casual and unpretentious, as the convivial vibe here will certainly get things going. “We see it almost as an inevitable extension of MoS,” explains Lee of the space. “Kandi Bar will be the new sexy chill out destination for anyone who wants an atmosphere with the whole package of good music, drinks and surroundings. In fact, we predict that it’ll be the pre-clubbing meeting place for many as well as the venue to wind-down after a hard night’s clubbing.” You heard the man.


Also a further extension of sorts from MoS, the equally chic bar-restaurant Barfly, aims to draw in a sophisticated crowd. The vibe is sexy and chilled, but with a twist. Punters not only have the opportunity to gyrate at the dance area, they can also dip into the superior bar food, with sushi and seafood being staples. But if you’re feeling a famish, there are also luxuries such as Pacific lobster noodles and seafood ravioli with XO sauce to choose from. Since when did bar food get so decadent, huh? We simply can’t wait.


Located within The Clinic but accessible by a separate entrance, Aurum is strictly for the initiated. The décor is clean and stark, with no tables and chairs. But before you flip over, hear us out. Before dinner time, Aurum poses as a pre-dinner bar. Come dinner time, gold wheelchairs, steel tables and exclusive tableware will be whipped out for an ultimate dining experience. The menu is limited strictly to a degustation menu of 13 courses, specially prepared by Executive Chef Edward Voon and Pac Roncero. Only 60 diners are able to feast at any one night, assuring a quality and absolutely decadent night out.


For something more low key, Italian eatery Bice is a real treat. Think a homey setting reminiscent of a small and intimate Italian bistro that serves yummy and familiar range of pastas and pizzas, and what you get is Bice. We reckon that this is the perfect place to grab some grub before all that partying later on, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the extensive range of starters, mains, and Italian desserts (we hear that its ice mandarin parfait with almond biscuit is absolutely delicious). And with a cellar that stocks 80 old and new world wines, what more can you ask for?


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It’s not just about style for these three environmentally conscious fashion labels.

We all know style is important, but for those who are more environmentally conscious, these three labels are worth checking out. UK streetwear label Maharishi creates its line of clothing using hemp and natural fiber materials, while Singapore-based UK designers Belle and Dean and the O Line by Dorothy Perkins use mainly organically farmed cotton. I-S brings you a lowdown on these labels.


The fashion conscious must have heard of Maharishi, the über cool (and ultra luxurious) street wear label that was founded by Creative Director Hardy Blechman back in 1995. This must-have among London’s hipper and trendier folk still reigns as the one of the most sought after fashion brands today—its combination of sleek cuts and even sleeker embroidery designs (featuring images of skulls, dragons, mountains and just about everything in between), with hemp and natural fiber materials, make it hot even after all these years. No other label can attest to being environmentally conscious and high fashion all the same.

In an exclusive interview with I-S, Blechman states that “the label has always been about bringing positive change within the fashion industry with our products. But not forgetting the style aspect, we also try to collaborate with various artists such as Futura and the Andy Warhol foundation to come up with exclusive products that are highly desirable all the same.”

While Maharishi and its sister line, MHI, have been coveted the world over for their edgy designs, few realize that the label was the first to use recycled materials and military surpluses. Organic cotton, which helps to lessen the amount of harmful chemicals used in cotton production, is also one of the staple materials in Maharishi garments. For its Autumn/Winter collection this year, look out for recycled pieces as well as sweatshirts that are organically farmed, further solidifying Maharishi’s status as one of the most influential, environmentally conscious and progressive fashion labels ever.

Maharishi is available from Blackjack, #01-10 Forum The Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Rd., 6735-0975.

Belle and Dean

Based in Singapore, Belle and Dean was founded by Brits Dean O’Sullivan and Issy Richardson. Their men’s, women’s and baby wear are made to last and of designer quality, tagged with surprisingly affordable pricing (with baby rompers starting from $15, and men’s and women’s tanks from $24 and $22 respectively). The duo started their label here because they believed in the benefits of organic clothing and wanted to spread the word. They aim to see change in Singapore, as “we’d like to see Singapore catch up with Japan or the UK in terms of eco-living...where organic food, energy-efficient homes and sustainable clothing are established and growing,” says Richardson. “We think that it is only right that people who are in a position to do so like us, should support protecting our environment.”

Made from the long staple variety of organically farmed cotton, the result is soft unbleached rustic white plain T-shirts, ribbed cotton tanks and also T-shirts that come with hand-drawn screen prints of endangered plants and animals. As a former archaeologist, Richardson specialized in animal remains and injects some of that experience into her designs. Detailed illustrations of mystic looking peacocks, grizzly bears, funky doe-eyed giraffes, wild rabbits and soulful Catalan donkeys have proved popular, and are printed on the tees using dyes free of lead. The cuts are flattering and as the tops are kept very basic, so they go well with almost anything and will live long in your wardrobe. Belle and Dean is celebrating its sixth month of success in Singapore with a Christmas sale.

Log onto their website www.belleanddean.com now to purchase, or call 9389-9132.

O Line by Dorothy Perkins

While not popularly known to be environmentally friendly, the UK female high-street brand Dorothy Perkins boasts a little known O Line that should be a hit among the fashion and socially conscious. Don’t believe us? Just check out its T-shirts and tank tops that boast lines and logos such as “Recycle,” “Plant More Trees,” “Save Energy” and “Turn Off The Taps.” Made entirely out of organic cotton that is grown without pesticides or genetically modified seed and ripened by the sun in a natural environment, the tops have a soft vintage washed look to them, and simply paired with jeans or a cropped jacket, you’re almost good to go.

Tops from the O Line are now on sale for $13 or less, and available from #01-007 Suntec City, 3 Temasek Blvd., 6336-2761.


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With the launch of the design campaign “10TouchPoints,” DesignSingapore hopes Singaporeans will care more about the importance of design in their everyday lives.

Let’s face it. Singaporeans generally care about “design” as much as they do, say, foie gras, in their everyday meals. After all, “design” is generally still seen as something of a luxury, and only associated with those who actually have the means to care about it. But following last year’s mammoth design conference DesignEdge and the inaugural Creative 2005 series of events that features talks and seminars focusing on the relevance of design in contemporary Singapore, DesignSingapore Council (the design arm of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts), recently launched the design campaign “10TouchPoints” to bring design to the everyday folk. By bringing the public, designers and service providers together to collaborate in a process of redesigning everyday items or services in the public realm through its web component www.10touchpoints.com.sg, what DesignSingapore Council hopes to achieve is that Singaporeans will finally play an active part and make a conscious effort to have a say about anything and everything about design.

Touch of a Button

To get an estimated two million Singaporeans to actually participate in the campaign, DesignSingapore Council hopes the website will act as a user friendly voice box of sorts for opinions from the grassroots level. Simply log on now till Jan 11, 2007 and nominate what you think needs to be redesigned. “The concept of design is still not very well understood in Singapore, and that’s where ‘10TouchPoints’ comes in,” says DesignSingapore Council’s Director Milton Tan. “We plan to bring design to a broader level...and get the public, designers and major organizations to collaborate on ideas on how they can make change and be part of the growing design scene here.”

“10TouchPoints” is, simply put, the easiest way for the public to advocate change in design—ever thought of a an overhead bridge that is as eye-catching as it is functional, or more contemporary looking public toilets in shopping malls or MRT stations? Now’s the time to do (and say) something about it. As echoed by Richard Hassell, chief architect at architectural firm WOHA, “I think the ‘10TouchPoints’ program is an excellent concept, as it will give people the power to improve their own daily environment in a very direct way,” he says. “Often end-users do have very good ideas for improvements, but there is no obvious place for them to give feedback—the design and procurement process for part of the urban environment like a street light or public footpath is quite mysterious to the man on the street. I am sure there will be a huge response to this brilliant program from the public, and it will be very exciting to see real improvements happen as a result.”

Drawn Up

And more than just a public forum of sorts, “10TouchPoints” should also be lapped up by established and aspiring designers. After nominations end Jan 11, the Top 10’s most-voted items or spots (hence, 10 touch points), will be announced by the DesignSingapore Council’s. A call out will be made to designers who wish to take part in the redesign process that will get them to be in touch with users as well as item owners. “We’re hoping to see younger designers getting involved and participating in “10TouchPoints” as part of our vision is to get more people to carve themselves a career a design,” says DesignSingapore’s Milton Tan. “We want them to be enthusiastic...and to challenge conventional solutions, and to come up with ideas that can improve our lives and raise the state of affairs. The younger generation, especially those who have traveled the world and have access to culture and knowledge far from our shores have a greater interest and are more passionate in design,” he adds.

From Jan 25, 2007 onwards for two months, designers can submit their ideas and designs in both the “Students” and “Professional” categories, where they will be judged by selected local designers, item owners and community representatives who will also act as advisors and spokesmen. Such interactivity and filtering of the best ideas will not only aspire designers to come up with for more effective (and more experimental, one hopes) designs, but will also set those designs apart from existing facelift or upgrading projects. So log on now and nominate something, anything. Who knows? Your vision of actually seeing more advanced designs and items might actually come true.


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Filipino artist Elaine Roberto-Navas turns the popular Blythe dolls into hypnotic works of at in the exhibition Plastic.

Fans of Blythe dolls will not want to give this exhibition a miss. Rather than just buying another $500-900 limited edition doll, why don’t fans just splurge their hard-earned moolah into one of Elaine Roberto-Navas’ paintings of the dolls instead? After all, these artworks are all one-offs, and Roberto-Navas depicts these dolls in a certain likeness never experienced before. Painting them in thick, bold strokes using antipasto, these works engage viewers in a somewhat unsettling way, as we are drawn to its dark, psychological undertones. Roberto-Navas shed some light on her works in this exclusive interview.

Why Blythe, and not other dolls like Barbie?
I chose to paint Blythe because she looks the most human of all dolls.  Her eyes have a lot of soul.  There’s also a certain vulnerability in her aura. Other dolls, like Barbie or Bratz dolls, have a particular plastered expression on their faces. They don’t transcend their plasticity.  I don’t see as much soul in them as I see in Blythe. 

What dark underlying themes are you trying to reflect through the dolls?
I think the intrigue for me is having to paint serious portraits of these dolls, trying my best to render them as realistically as possible, as if they were portraits of actual people. It’s a paradox that even though it looks lifelike, it’s not. Secondly, it’s the theme of everyday objects (in this case, the dolls) that can become art. Because of the labor and attention invested in these objects, it becomes a social thing and assumes a transcendental nature far greater than its mere use-value. Thirdly, it’s the concept of the “uncanny” I am intrigued with. I had mixed feelings when I first saw the book on Blythe with all her photographs.  I felt it was attractively eerie. What is “uncanny” is frightening to most people precisely because it is not known and familiar. When a thing/object is placed in an unexpected context, to the audience it could mean many things, depending on his/her own circumstances.

Why antipasto?
I like seeing the sensual way the colors blend in to each other to form something understandable, or otherwise. 

Are you obsessed with Blythe?
I only paint things that I obsessively like.


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The busy director takes time off to talk about the film, which is a travelogue, documentary, political satire and musical all rolled into one, and that succinctly tracies the history of Communism and its perpetrator in Malaysia Chin Pengin one bite-sized 90 minute tour de force.

Malaysian filmmaker Amir Muhammad has come a long way since his debut flick Lips to Lips (2000). Acclaimed for his biting documentaries and experimental projects such as last year’s The Year of Living Vicariously and Tokyo Magic Hour, Muhammad has come up with his best film yet, The Last Communist, now available on DVD.

What triggered the movie?
The experience of working on my previous documentary, The Year of Living Vicariously in Indonesia. The film ended up being at least partly about Indonesian people’s memories, and perceptions of the Communist era of the ’60s, so it made me curious about the Malaysian equivalent. Also, Malaysian communist leader Chin Peng’s memoir, My Side of History, was out at that time. It was an interesting read and gave (as its title would suggest) a different account of the Malayan Emergency. The book, strangely enough, also made me curious about the towns he lived in, from his birth to national independence. I had, shockingly, never spent time in any of those towns. I wanted to visit them. So both these things together made me want to do The Last Communist as a semi-musical road movie.

Is this is the direction that you had originally wanted to take to begin with—a semi-musical format?
In researching early Malayan documentaries, I was charmed to find that many of them had songs. These early documentaries, made in the ’40s, were taken to villages as they contained song-and-dance routines to keep the target crowd entertained. Even till today, that type of song would be familiar to anyone who watches Malaysian public TV. So the choice seemed appropriate.

How did you decide on the actors and collaborators for the film?
I’d worked with music composer Hardesh Singh and editor Azharr Rudin before. I felt comfortable with them because they are both such creative young guys who added a lot of their own personalities into the work. Singh introduced me to Zalila Lee, the main singer in the film. She is not well-known yet; so we were hoping this would launch her recording career. All three seemed to fit well into the mix. This was my first time with the director of photography Albert Hue, but we have since worked together on the sequel to The Last Communist, which is called Village People Radio Show. His enthusiasm and humour were absolutely essential for the shoot.

What’s your personal take on Communism and how it has shaped Malaysia today?
Communism is a beautiful ideology in theory because it assumes that people want to share. But in practice it tends to descend into dictatorship, no? But I still believe there is bound to be a better system than global capitalism. Even though the Malaysian Communist Party was never big in terms of membership, I would say that it has shaped Malaysia greatly. Why? Because our government has for decades needed to resort to the Communist bogey to justify its own undemocratic actions such as the continual implementation of its Internal Security Act.

What was the most difficult part of making the film?
We deliberately shot a lot of footage. We followed the path of Chin Peng’s life, chronologically, but other than that we didn’t restrict ourselves in theme. The biggest challenge was then in trying to reduce the 55 hours of footage to 90 minutes.

What has response been so far at film festivals?
The response overseas has been pretty good. The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in Feb and has since been in over 20 other festivals, including London, Hong Kong, Seattle and Vancouver. It can’t screen in Malaysia as it has been banned by the Home Affairs Minister Dato Seri Mohd Radzi. It had been passed earlier by the Censorship Board but Radzi overruled it after a Malaysian newspaper ran a daily campaign against it without even seeing it. Radzi’s final reason for the ban was that the documentary “was not violent enough.” The period of the ban was a very intense one in terms of media publicity and I chronicled a lot of it on my blog http://lastcommunist.blogspot.com. Luckily the DVD can be bought in that bastion of democracy, Singapore, and also on www.amazon.com.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
A sense that history operates in the present tense. That is why I refused to use archival footage, but kept to present-day images and testimonies.


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Stand out in these one-off, hand-made local accessories.

1. This delicately conceived "Kiku Neckpiece" from Kwodrent is eye-catching and beguiling. $550 from Asylum.

2. Purple reigns in this Moondust pin, and you will too when you put it on $46 from Eclecticism.

3. Bring out the animal in you with this pendant from Vice and Vanity, featuring a cow motif. $69 from Fling.

4. Look pretty and dainty with this classy yet girly bracelet by Twinkle from Front Row. $130

5. Coffee, tea or me? Put on this Vice and Vanity necklace with a teapot motif to find out. $115 from Fling.

6. See red (and then some) with this bold and chunky Pinc necklace. $49 from Oppt Shop

7. Channel your inner drama queen with this absolutely droll brooch from Pinc. $45 from Oppt Shop.

8. Quirky and outstanding, this bracelet by Missy's Possesions featuring a Lego toy us perfect for the young and young at heart. $55.90 from C.O.L

9. Shine in the dark (or anywhere else for that matter) when you wear this Pinc earring featuring a gorgeous moon motif. $35 from Oppt Shop.

Address Book

Asylum, 22 Ann Siang Road, 6324-2289
C.O.L, #04-140 Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road, 6735-0887
Eclecticism, #03-22/23 Mandarin Gallery, 330 Orchard Road, 6735-7290
Fling, #04-05 The Heeren Shops, 260 Orchard Road, 6732-0067
Front Row, 5 Ann Siang Road, 6224-5502
Oppt Shop, #04-36 The Heeren Shops, 260 Orchard Road, 6733-9406


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Young multimedia artists are breaking new ground with their traveling, cutting-edge artworks.

The local art scene is finally catching up with the rest of the world, if the latest influx of young artists, who dabble in multimedia art forms such as videography, vector art illustration, graphic design, motion graphics and Internet art, is anything to go by. Over the past year these emerging artists, namely design collectives Momorobo, :Phunk Studio, fFurious and tsunamii.net, and wunderkind Brian Gothong Tan, have been making waves with their modern and cutting-edge artworks that have been lapped up and showcased not only in Singapore, but across the world as well. :Phunk Studio and Momorobo’s works recently traveled to Dublin and Shanghai, as part of the Translate art program that aims to promote local talents alongside established international ones, while Tan and tsunamii.net have held solo and group exhibitions in Melbourne, the Netherlands and Tokyo.

But these showpieces are more than just traveling artworks—they are extremely progressive works that have won international acclaim too. I-S finds out why these young local artists choose to create edgy artworks with the use of multimedia, and how collaborations and international art platforms are propelling their works to the next level.

Sign of the Times

Certainly, today’s breed of young local multimedia artists and creatives are bolder and more tech-savvy in their choice of mediums, compared to artists working purely in fine arts. Utilizing not just traditional art tools such as paper and pen, multimedia artists embrace technology with open arms and minds, and work with various tomfooleries to create utterly modern works.

Brian Gothong Tan (www.briangothongtan.com), whose works include an amalgamation of photography, videography, compositing and various 2D and 3D works, says that it is inevitable that most artists today dabble in multimedia. “The reason why I use different media in my works is because I’m constantly searching for the perfect form to encapsulate my ideas,” he says. “I cannot fully express myself by using one medium. Besides, people these days are bored with just seeing paintings, and they’re always on the look out for something more exciting.”

Alvin Tan, a member of :Phunk Studio (www.phunkstudio.com), one of the first few design collectives dabbling in design and multimedia works, agrees. “Technology has always been a tool for us...as we are living in an era where design is progressing to be appreciated as an art-form, and it cuts across various fields such as vector art illustrations, product designs, motion graphics, interactive media, etcetera,” he says.

Still, local artists and collectives like Tan and :Phunk Studio are not just exploring the various multimedia mediums simply because these tools are more readily available, but because technologies really do help them speed up their work and lessen mistakes in their final artworks. “The advantage of multimedia art is its flexibility to incorporate changes before its final execution,” adds :Phunk Studio’s Tan. “For example, multimedia artists can make many changes before they decide to print an artwork on canvas, or render a motion graphic movie or cast a screen to silkscreen on fabrics. With more traditional art forms, like acrylic or ink or any other mediums, artists are usually working right on the final execution, and that doesn’t allow them much leeway.”

Little Ong from design collective fFurious (www.ffurious.com), who recently organized Pause, an art event that featured solely Net-based artworks, adds that multimedia art allows more diverse and remarkable works to be created. “Back in 1983, when I first had my computer, I could only draw in large pixels using programming software,” he says. “Animation and network access were limited, and the screen color was green. Today, personal computers are a giant leap ahead of those times. With larger processing power, these machines are able to produce much more amazing art, whether it’s digital paintings or interactive animations. When you paint digitally, it is possible to mix different kinds of painting mediums in a single artwork, such as water color with oil paintings, as well as manipulate photos and video imageries.”

The result: Sleeker, bolder and more colorful artworks—from digital prints to other various multimedia art forms. Adds Tsunamii.net’s (www.virtual-marathon.net) Founder Tien Goh: “As technology becomes more affordable for the general public, more artists will see this as a medium and area which they can explore. The video camera, or the computer, is fast becoming the paint brush of the future.”

Innovate and Collaborate

More than just being able to criss-cross over different media, artists dabbling in multimedia are also able to collaborate with other artists working in a similar capacity, creating more cutting-edge works that were previously unachievable. :Phunk Studio recently collaborated with famed Irish artist Aiden Kelly to work on a silkscreen artwork “Electricity,” where both artists conceptualized an elaborate graphic design before translating it onto canvas via silkscreening. Ditto tsunamii.net’s fun Internet artwork “Virtual Marathon,” a piece that functions like a Realtime, multi-player interactive running game, involving 10 artists and designers from the US, Sweden and the Netherlands, and video artwork “Strap It On,” featuring local design collective Momorobo and Thai rock and design group Futon. Collaborations allow these talents to expand their ideas and capacities as artists and image makers.

“Collaborating...is all about merging different ideas from different collaborators and making it into one great piece of work,” says Momorobo (www.momorobo.com) designer Morris Lee. “The whole experience gives us a new insight to the whole art-making process...the freedom to gel and experiment with ideas from other collaborators, and along the way, we share, learn and refine our ideas and works. The knowledge and experience we gain in the process will definitely push our future works to the next level.”

Tsunamii.net’s Goh also states that collaborations by way of multimedia allow him “to build that sense of community among artists. I am interested in communication and the process of working with people to develop a project together, which is especially true in my projects that involve technology.” He adds: “I don’t fancy being an artist who locks himself up in a studio and painting away all day and all night. I believe art is much more than that. That is why all my projects are never done by just me, but involve a team of people.”

Collaborations also allow these artists to consistently bring new ideas to their works, assuring that their final pieces remain cutting-edge. “The different collaborations...place an importance on being radical because every artist has a desire to experience new things,” says fFurious’s Little Ong. Phunk Studio’s Alvin Tan agrees. “Trying new mediums, collaborating and exploring new ways to present an idea has always been a part of how we work, as we are living in a generation of cross-genres, where the lines between technology, art and design have been fused. Certainly, experimenting, collaborating and pushing the boundaries of any new art medium remains essential for artists to always be one step ahead.”

Have Art, Will Travel

Multimedia artists are also savvy not just in terms of the media that they use, but in terms of finding platforms to showcase their works, especially on an international level. Brian Gothong Tan has had shows in Sydney, Venice and California, while Tsunamii.net will present “Virtual Marathon 2” at the new multimedia festival Impakt Festival in Utrecht, the Netherlands, later this year after its successful first installment in Tokyo.

But more importantly, it is traveling art platforms like Translate, which features local artworks by :Phunk Studio and Momorobo alongside world-renowned artists such as Rostarr (US) and Faile (US) in cities such as Auckland, Copenhagen, Dublin, and Shanghai, that will further propel our talented multimedia artists forward. “Showcasing artworks is most important if you want the rest of the world to know about it, or else the works will just be sitting in your studio, no matter how good they are,” says :Phunk Studio’s Tan. “And with platforms like Translate, the art has a chance to travel. It’s important that the works have the ability to move, reach people and cultivate awareness among art lovers.”

Lizzy Johnson, founder of Translate, explains the appeal of our multimedia artists. “We’ve carried out extensive research into worldwide trends and found that consumers are eager to know more about contemporary Asian art across various mediums. It was important for us to include multimedia, animation, music and film artists in our lineup, as they represent what is distinctively contemporary about our art world today.”

Momorobo’s Morris Lee echoes both sentiments. “The exposure generated from Translate is beneficial to the artist as it gives them a new arena to display their works and at the same time, gain valuable interaction and ideas from a whole new group of audience,” he says. “This exchange results in a new combustion of ideas and could elevate the artist’s talent to a whole new level.”

For sure, getting works showcased on an international platform can only be a good thing, as :Phunk Studio and Aiden Kelly’s “Electricity” is rumored to be worth more than US$25,000 ever since it traveled, and its value is still rising. Other traveling art showcases such as the annual multimedia arts festivals Resfest and onedotzero, and the recent Fiction@Love at Singapore Art Museum, also allow works from artists like collective fFurious to be showcased and travel, and further gain them international recognition and exposure.

But more than anything else, multimedia artists should remain at the forefront of what’s bold and relevant in today’s art world if they continuously challenge themselves to create edgy, innovative works that will set them apart. And only by consistently creating impressive works will they be able to take their concepts and ideas to the next level, and travel even further. Momorobo’s Morris Lee concedes: “Our main objective has always been about dealing with new media and expressions, and bringing our ideas to various platforms. At the end of the process, all artists want to create great works that communicates, and the new (multimedia) medium will be the transporter for us to do so.”


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