Growing up in a cosmopolitan Singapore, influences are diverse and cultures converge. Ben grew up watching Sunday morning cartoons, Anime and spends most of his time reading Manga or spreading the centerfolds of pin up magazines. This random juxtaposition of influences and visual feast is reflective in Ben’s contemporary art. I had a chance to sit down with him and talk about a variety of topics. Read below for the full interview…
You grew up watching anime, correct? What were some of the shows you tried to catch weekly and how has it influences your work?
Ben: Yes I did. I would stay up to catch Record of Lodoss War and it made me a fantasy junkie. Started drawing dragons, knights and elves. The cartoons broadcasted on Saturday mornings then in Singapore were a mix of Japanese and American. I guess this juxtapositon has been evident in my works and my thought process as well.
Your work and projects advocates artistic growth in South East Asia. Do you feel not enough attention is being spotlit from a cultural perspectice on fashion, design, and art?
Ben: In some sense, yes. In general, people tend to relate Asia to either Japanese, Korean or Chinese. But in fact there’s other cultures with rich history and heritage such as; Malay, Javanese and Thai to name a few. There’s a myraid of amazing craftsmen, designers and artists from South East Asia yet to be discovered.
We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a few people who you’ve either met at one point or another or have took inspiration from (Yuko Shimizu). As a creative, how important is it to use other peoples work as a reference? Is it important in terms of staying sharp/current?
Ben: It’s important to constantly look for inspiration from extremely talented artist such as Yuko Shimizu, not so much of keeping current but to be inspired and push harder in my own craft.
Most of your work gets exposed in shows and exhibits so I would imagine most of your work has the focus that a specific theme or clients input is in mind. How are you able to balance creative freedom with the confines of an exhibition or project?
Ben: It’s quite rare in Singapore to get commissioned jobs that gives you complete creative freedom, so a constant tug of war is pushing the creative limit. As for themed shows, I don’t think it hinders my creative process. Working on an art piece with a theme adds a layer of storytelling. It’s good practice for myself as I’ve always have a habit of overworking a piece and in the process losing the message.
I am aware you had an interest in working with musicians and use their music to create a new piece of art. I am going to name an artist and you tell me what you would create and how the music would play a part in your creative process: Kero One.
Ben: For Kero One, he speaks the truth. Hip-hop these days are mostly about the high life, being gangsta and all that. But instead, Kero raps about being true to his craft, being humble and keeping it real. His music inspires me to create things that are sincere straight up without filters [smiles].
There is a massive problem in American where people are trying to initiate anti-consumerism movements. You use this opposite philosophy to inspire your work. What is it like in Singapore regarding this concern? Do you feel Americans consume too much?
Ben: Yes. But not only Americans, most developed countries too, Singapore included. Guess we are all bombarded by main stream media. There’s always a want for big brands just for name sake more than anything else. Because of this, craftsmen at a decline, consumers are just paying for the brand rather than understanding quality.
Now that we are about to enter the 2nd quarter of 2012, has your creative process as an aritst changed much from the past couple of years?
Ben: Yeah, with the social media boom, the world has been made smaller. Sharing of ideas or a blog update is just a few clicks away. With the ease of showcasing works online, not only do you have to exhibit the art, it is has important to talk / show about the process as well. I’m learning much more through the net as well.
What the the secret to becoming an effective multi disciplinary artist?
Ben: There’s no secret, the main thing is to look at things with an open mind and the world’s your canvas. It takes 99 bad drawings to produce one good one.
Do you have any upcoming shows or work you can let out of the bag and share with us?
Ben: I’m working on a solo show end of this year. There’s more time now after the launch of my retail store called UAOF Store 同族一潮 . 店 which was conceived with local pride and South East Asian vibes. There’s also plans of a fashion label.
Lastly, how does your expertise as a designer give you an advantage in your illustrations?
Ben: I’m a big fan of old school movie posters. I’m intrigued by the use of typography as well as the composition; I’m always trying to replicate this feeling throughout my work. So I guess having some experience as a designer does play a part when executing the art.
Want to keep tabs on Ben’s work? Visit his official site below: