Playing With & For The Community
This humid June, we have Wong Tze Chau as our featured artist. Melanie Chua catches up with Tze Chau (also an SCYA member) as he explains his work thus far and his determination for truth.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Teaching is the only job I have done upon graduation from NUS. I guess teaching is among the few jobs that allow me the free time to find ‘my way’!
Reading, writing and traveling used to be my major passions (they still are) and I have written travel articles for Chinese newspapers for some years before venturing into visual art. I have always been interested in modern art but strictly speaking I only started painting one and a half years ago. I stopped teaching for 8 months last year to focus on painting
medium-sized canvases and competed 50 pieces so far.
How did art get into your life? What kind of artist are you?
I attended some watercolour and drawing classes since young and Art has been among my ‘strong subjects’ in primary and secondary school. My architectural training in university also provided me some opportunity to experiment with various visual techniques
and design skills.
I started to explore visual art rigorously in 2007 after studying some art theories in my part-time BA Philosophy course with UOL. I was intrigued by the BIG questions asked in modern art such as ‘what is art’, ‘how to evaluate the quality of art’, ‘why can art liberate human spirit’, ‘should art be beautiful’ etc. Through philosophy I began to understand some
fundamentals of modern art.
At the beginning I attempted various art forms including graphic design, paper clay sculpture, abstract painting and Chinese calligraphy. With the help of various art books, art museums, art shows I began to teach myself to paint on canvas in December of 2009.
I regard myself more like a conceptual artist working with acrylic paint and canvas. I am influenced by the belief of conceptualism: concept is more important than execution. I remember Joseph Kosuth said something like: art can exist just as an idea! Concept is the soul of every work. A painting needs to be intelligent before it is anything. I hope to intrigue the mind more than the eyes.
Who or what is your inspiration?
My childhood hero is the surrealist master Magritte and I learnt from him some visual techniques such as juxtaposition, transformation, paradox etc.
Paul Klee is another role model of mine. Influenced by his approach to art making, I treat each canvas as a brand new experiment and I always want to try out new possibilities. I am not afraid to pursue new styles and techniques.
Beside these two I have a particular penchant for daring artists from Picasso, Duchamp to Warhol and Hockney. Their conceptual approach is what impacts me most.
In fact anything can be my source of inspiration, be it traveling, reading (mainly literature, philosophy, sociology, travelogue, Buddhism and art history!), writing, daydreaming or just everyday life itself. I always have a small ‘idea book’ in hand to scribble anything down for future reference.
How do you see your place in the arts and what are your main aims and hopes for yourself as an artist in the arts scene?
I am very new in the art scene and I give myself a couple of years to get familiarized with the ‘survival skills’ of a visual artist. I am working hard to find a direction that speaks to me.
The greatest joy of art-making is the communication with other people. I want to see how others think of my ideas and images; whether my works have changed their way of looking at certain things.
I hear you are also an architect by training. Has this influenced your art or your goals in life in any way?
I studies architecture at NUS for 3 years but I have never practised it. The life of an architect doesn’t appeal to me at all! I am now teaching Smart Architecture at RP which is an opportunity for me to revise those concepts and skills learnt years ago.
The way I construct my painting is somehow ‘architectural’ in nature. I always start with a main concept and then brainstorm about essential elements to be included. Those pictorial elements are then laid out rationally in the pictorial space. More importantly the studies of philosophy gave me the power of critical thinking which is crucial in modern art.
Being a passionate writer at the same time, my biggest dream is making a living out of painting and writing. I am currently writing a book on travel and hope to complete it by next year. Similarly I wish to showcase my paintings to more people and hope I can have a show soon.
All in all I don’t really label myself as an artist or writer. Painting and writing are merely the means to search for the TRUTH about myself and the world. I believe all ways eventually merge into one.