With so many skyscrapers and shopping malls shooting up across Singapore, it’s hard to believe there’s still a pocket or two of untouched greenery and charming black-and-whites so close to the city centre. One such pocket can be found just off Portsdown Road. Wessex Estate is an artsy enclave where all sorts of international and local artists come to work and live in its cluster of colonial homes, studios and walk-ups. Though it’s not quite as dormant as it once was, Wessex still maintains a relatively untouched and tranquil feel, and continues to inspire the many talented artists that inhabit it. On a recent tour of the artists’ studios, we asked them what inspires them, and took a look at their diverse work.
FRANCES ALLEBLAS, Dutch
Media of choice: Charcoal and pencil drawing, printmaking and watercolours.
Artistic style: Her drawings have what she calls “disquieting, dreamlike qualities in figurative and narrative atmospheres,” and show “a world in which often-expected relations between different elements confront the viewer with unclear feelings and certain confusion.”
Inspiration: Personal experiences, different cultures, anthropology, mythology, literature and photography.
MILICA BRAVACIC, Former Yugoslavian
Media of choice: Painting, drawing, textiles and local ornamentation, applied to canvas, rice paper and silk.
Artistic style: “In Singapore, my work revolves around the existing Peranakan tile ornaments and motifs taken from iconic, historic places. While cultural conservation happens in museums, my work could be understood as an aesthetic conversation with the past.”
Inspiration: “What’s trivial because of our habitual perception is what can suddenly become inspiring and new, if we change our point of view. The idea that we shouldn’t become mentally lazy inspires me; reality offers continual excitement.”
VALERIU SEPI, Romanian-German
Medium of choice: Charcoal on acrylic paint.
Artistic style: A combination of expressionism and realism.
Inspiration: “I can translate everything that gives me an emotion into visual art. I start with an energetic background, draw the subject, and then let myself get inspired by the result.”
DICK LIM, Singaporean
Media of choice: Acrylic painting.
Artistic style: His black-and-white paintings feature both real and imaginary scenes of old Singapore, in areas like Chinatown’s Keong Siak Street – works that, he says, contain “hidden acts” and offer “loads of conversational values”.
Inspiration: “The tranquil surroundings of Wessex Estate and, most of all, a need to imprint many long-forgotten images in my mind before they, too, are gone forever from my memory.”
PATRICIA CABALEIRO, Brazilian-German
Medium of choice: Acrylic on canvas paintings and prints.
Artistic style: Mostly abstract, often vibrantly coloured, paintings and print silkscreens.
Inspiration: “People, inside-out.”
MARISA KELLER, Dutch
Media of choice: Printmaking, painting, video and installation.
Artistic style: “Symbolic and impressionistic.”
Inspiration: In addition to natural history, philosophy and trips abroad, she says that, even after so many years in Singapore, she is still inspired by the colours and textures of nature, and the tropical flora and fauna. “In fact, some of my works are created with collected natural materials like grass, leaves, seed pods and bark.”
CLEO LIM, Singaporean
Media of choice: Acrylic and mixed media on canvas and Japanese rice paper.
Artistic style: Abstract expressionism with Pan-Asian mystical creatures and Qing Dynasty themes. She uses drip-and-pour techniques and layers of transparent hues to “complete her fantasy world.”
Inspiration: “The flow of matter and ‘happy accidents’ are a great source of inspiration for me.”
KELLY REEDY, American
Media of choice: Mixed media, including collage, acrylic paint, assemblage and printmaking, as well as paper cuts using natural dyes, fabrics and handmade papers.
Artistic style: “Symbolic, figurative works that integrate signs, materials and memories to blur the lines of time and place.”
Inspiration: “Having lived in Southeast Asia for more than 15 years, my art has been inspired by Asian folk art rituals and the rich symbolism embedded in their mythologies.”
JOYCE LOO, Singaporean
Medium of choice: Ceramic sculpture.
Artistic style: “My artworks display a strong affinity toward nature and earth. Many of them also express various intimate embraces and sensual postures of loving couples.”
Inspiration: Flora and fauna, and love.
ALISON WILSON, British
Media of choice: Watercolours and printmaking, with a focus on etching and lithography.
Artistic style: A fairly limited colour palette with tonal contrasts and an emphasis on detail.
Inspiration: “Nature and landscape – anything from the tiny details of a shell to large earth formations like volcanoes. I’m really fascinated by patterns in nature, and Wessex Estate has magnificent trees, great bird life and lots of interesting plants to inspire me.”
RASHA ELEYAN, Palestinian
Media of choice: Oil and acrylic on canvas.
Artistic style: Life-sized realistic figures against pop-art backgrounds.
Inspiration: “My art is almost exclusively inspired by my two homes. Works depicting conflict and social unrest are inspired by Palestine and the Middle East, whereas my second home, Singapore, inspires the visual beauty of nature in my works.”
CHIN MUI SIANG, Singaporean
Medium of choice: Watercolours.
Artistic style: “Naturalism and impressionistic realism.”
Inspiration: In addition to the New Testament’s Philippians – particularly passage 4:8 – she says many of her works are influenced by “the colourful splendour of exotic plants in tranquil settings like those of the black-and-white residences at Wessex Estate.”
CHIN OI TOW, Singaporean
Media of choice: Black ink, charcoal and coloured pencil, pastels, watercolours and oil paint.
Artistic Style: “Creative realism and creative lyricism, with a tinge of abstractionism.”
Inspiration: “Life itself is inspiring, especially if one is in great health – the senses sharp and the mind crystal-clear. Being in touch with nature is important.”
CHEN XING, Singaporean
Media of choice: Pen and ink, and watercolours.
Artistic style: Meticulously detailed, with attention to accuracy and realism.
Inspiration: “Any endeavour that’s skilfully and accurately executed, whether it be a painting by Holman Hunt or Canaletto, a groundbreaking scientific discovery or an inspiring talk.”