Have you ever stared hard at an artwork in a museum, trying to figure what its story is?
What if an artist told you that the artwork has no story? Or that the story is incomplete – and he wants you, the audience, to complete it for him? Ee Shaun does – even though it may be a tad surprising, considering one of his many stunning works include the mural “Move” at Bishan MRT.
As a Public Communications student in university, his entrance into the artistic scene was not art school, but as a graphic editor of the Nanyang Chronicle. Creating illustrations that support stories, he took an interest in illustration. It wasn’t long after an internship at Nickelodeon, when he started developing his own characters and working on his art style.
Navigating around the hybrid space of illustrative art – a slice of design and art, he appeared in the arts scene, out of nowhere.
As random and spontaneous as his entry sounds, his work is also riddled with the flavour of improvisation and open-endedness.
“It’s a bit like Jazz, there’s still structure in my work albeit the playfulness and humour going on.”
He differs from artists born and bred in art schools. Conventionally, making art is a lot of thought and process driven work. He does the opposite – citing himself as “random and aimless” in his art-making. To him, he probably unsettles people with his randomness.
You may notice that Ee Shaun’s works do not centre on social commentary, something common in the artistic scene. Art is more of a therapeutic thing for him, a space where he investigates his own emotions and ideas – and less for him to respond to what is external.
The abstract Happiness Bench at National Gallery which he did was originally supposed to be an illustrative piece. As a response to Singapore’s pledge, Ee Shaun figured that progress and prosperity had already been achieved. What about happiness?
To him, happiness is the phenomena of wanting less, the opposite of progress and prosperity. Using what is concrete to grasp happiness was not going to cut it. Instead, he used Tibetan colours and waves to capture the essence of happiness in a spiritual message. Talking about spirituality, did I mention that he is a firm practitioner of Taichi?
Singaporeans nowadays want a concrete footing in everything, including the “answer” and meaning to artwork. Ee Shaun’s style of improvised, open-interpretative art goes the other way altogether – and that is what makes him admirable.