Today we speak to Holycrap, an art collective by Claire, Renn, Aira and Pann from Singapore.
Yanda: Tell us about yourself and what you all do.
Claire: I was a designer before I became a full time homemaker after Renn was born.
Renn: I am going to be 10 at the end of this year and I am studying in Primary 4. I hope to be an archaeologist in the future.
Aira: I love going to school and I am in Primary 1 this year. I love playing hide and seek with my friends and I dream of being a vet in the future.
Pann: I am a visual, audio and ideas junkie. I love what I do as a Creative Director at Kinetic Singapore. I love taking pictures from time to time, you can see them at pannlim.com
How did it get started?
Pann: I have been active giving talks and lectures in school and I meet young designers and art directors who will show me their work and I always take a lot of heart to share with them my thoughts and insights. Same for the team I have at Kinetic, I will try my best to impart my ‘tricks’ of the trade to them. One night, it suddenly dawn upon me that I have been imparting my knowledge to designers and students that I have only met once but I have not officially shared these things with my kids. So together with Claire, we came up with the idea of starting Holycrap (CRAP stands for our names, C for Claire, R for Renn, A for Aira and P for Pann) as an art collective and this name also suggests that our work will make people exclaim ‘HOLYCRAP!’, when they see it. Hopefully in the positive way.
Which work (so far) has been your favourite?
Claire: It is truly rather hard for me to pick a favorite from the kids work because I’ve been seeing them draw and doodle from the very beginning and most of the drawings tell a story or hold much meaning to us. I’ve seen their progress from casual sketches to them working on canvas with acrylic and ink. If I really had to pick, I’ll choose their sketch books from their early years, Renn’s painting ‘Stealing Mom’s Coke 2011’ and Aira’s ‘Vincent 2012’
Renn: I love all my old sketches exhibited during my solo exhibition in 2011 and my Amorphis skull painting. For Aira’s, my favorite would be ‘Vincent’
Aira: My April Calendar Girl is one of my favorite and I love my brother’s ‘Mama I don’t wanna be a soldier. I don’t wanna die’ by John Lennon because it is nice and cool.
Pann: For Renn’s work will be the Three Walking Guitars in 2011. I saw it happen in front of my eyes. Renn completed it in 15mins. He was giggling to himself when he drew it, that sense of fun and mischief made my heart melt. As for Aira, my personal favourite will be the Yellow Submarine Series. Somehow the illustrations spoke to me in a profound way. And the patience and effort for a 6 year old girl to go through the hair line by line was something commendable.
How does everyone juggle between their day job/school and play and leisure?
Claire: Yes, we all can be pretty busy trying to get everything in order all the time or trying to get things done. For me its mainly with some home affairs and settling the kids in with their homework and studies. But getting play, relaxation and art into the mix is pretty much part of all that we do too because we view these areas with as much importance as anything else.
Pann: It is indeed a juggle at times because I can be very busy with work at Kinetic and we can only focus on this at night and over the weekend. But we love this family bonding and time spent together. It is like no other project that I have done to date, to see the kids have a sense of discipline and duty to finish what they have started and having fun while doing it is just great!
How do you set the benchmark?
Claire: The good thing is that Pann and I have very similar taste in terms of design aesthetics and appreciation. And we admire and look up to most of the same design heroes so when we share and educate Renn and Aira in this aspect there is little or no conflict. However on top of just learning about all these, I do set very high benchmarks in terms of attitude and discipline and in their approach to their work.
Pann: My benchmark is simple. The idea/art must be interesting, beautiful and heartfelt. And out of X amount of work done, maybe less than half are good enough for exhibition.
What is the best advice ever received?
Renn: Stand up for your work.
Aira: Stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid of rude girls.
What do you think about the education here in Singapore as compared to the best?
Claire: I am not so sure who is or what is considered the best but I do know that the education system here in Singapore is in dire straits. Simply because so much emphasis is put on academic excellence and chasing those perfect scores that everything else is thrown down the gutters. I do want my kids to study and do well in school and be proud of their studies, but I also want them to be happy and excel in what they love. But here in Singapore, the system and many parents are creating this vicious cycle of only wanting the best results, turning tuition centers into money making machines not intent of helping the weaker students do better but to make the already bright students even smarter because they can afford it.
The Dangerous Book for Boys. Holycrap for Browswing Copy. 2013
Renn Lim by Renn Lim Art Book. 2012
Does doing the extra things they are doing now makes them stand out?
Claire: I do not think that doing the extra things, and in our case, art, make them stand out nor has that been the intention anyways. We do all these because we love art and it has always been part of our lives.
Pann: I really don’t know about them being a stand out, but I feel exposing them to different subcultures are important and that might just let them understand the many options in life and not just going the main stream.
What do you think about the kais-uism and the pragmatic society we have in Singapore?
Claire: Haha definitely too Kiasu and too pragmatic for my liking but life goes on and the world still spins. So I believe it is very important for Pann and I to teach Renn and Aira to the best of our ability what we feel is right or wrong and how we should live our lives in relation to ourselves and to the people around us.
The younger generation seems to be more pampered and spoilt. How do you make sure it does not happen?
Claire:Yes from what I can see, the younger generation do seem more spoilt and pampered but I’m glad to say it does not mean everyone is. Nevertheless it is a worrying trend and this is another aspect of life that I hope Pann and I can teach our kids well. We do not lie to the kids and we tell them the truth, the truth that we are very fortunate and are living better lives than our parents did or even us in terms of environmental or material circumstances. But we also tell them that all this came about because of hard work and discipline etc. We also share with them how life is in other parts of the world, how we can all help in little ways and to live our lives with love and compassion.
Pann: Every older generation will say that of the younger generation. I have peers of my age group complaining about the young designers these days and I have friends who are older than me complaining about designers from my generation. Seriously, I have no issues with how the younger generation are, it is what it is today and we just got to live with it. However that said, a few things I hold dearly and I believe should not change with time will be Respect for others, Integrity, Responsibility and Pride in doing what we do. Work done from the heart will always be felt.
Can taste be taught or nurtured?
Pann: Taste cannot be taught but can be nurtured to a certain degree I believe. I have always shared with people about capabilities. Everyone have a cap at what they do. For me, I have always used David Droga as an example. He was one of the youngest ECD around and working on ground breaking projects then and fast forward 14 years later, he is founder of Droga5, and he is still working on groundbreaking projects. This can’t be luck or coincidence because his consistency has proven that he is of a different breed. So back to the question, yes taste cannot be taught like how a tone deaf singer will never get the notes right but if you try your best to nurture, it will get better but likely, we will not get another Droga from just nurturing.
What about hunger?
Pann: Hunger is born out of wanting to do more. Hunger is a response from the brain telling you that the previous project can be better. Hunger is a call to action to get cracking without delay. Sadly, like taste, hunger cannot be taught. And both Claire and I, we are very clear that Renn and Aira are not at the age where they know what hunger for art is yet, but they hunger for the ipad and iphone, lol!
bLAh bLAh bLAh at Phunk. 2012
What is the challenge so far?
Claire: There is always a little challenge in everything that we do in our lives. Only difference is whether we view this challenge as negative or positive. Be it coming up with interesting ideas for our work or getting the kids to be more discipline, we make sure there is love and laughter. Nothing is too daunting when I see the kids laughing.
Renn: Using finer brushes to paint more details on my paintings is becoming more challenging and I would like to try harder.
Aira: I am learning to draw more portraits of important people and I am finding it very challenging.
Pann: Getting a project idea going where all 4 of us can participate in the coming exhibition. Renn spearheaded Holycrap’s first exhibition, then Aira and Renn did the second one, we are thinking of all of us doing some stuff for the coming year end exhibition.
Do you think Internet and the gadgets are more of a help than time waster?
Claire: There is definitely a little too much of technology going around than what I would like but this is the new life and there’s no point resisting. Again, this is where discipline comes in handy, to let technology work to our advantage but not over take our lives. If we can control it well, it will be more useful and necessary that being a time-waster.
Renn: I like the internet and I love Youtube. But mommy and daddy says we cannot watch or play too much on the computer.
Aira: I like to watch Youtube and now I am sticking to this show called Monster High. And iPad games are so fun.
Pann: Definitely more of a help although I believe the correct answer should be both. The internet and gadgets have increased our productivity by more than ten folds and we are doing more in a day than what we did years ago. But it also make us colder and more robotic. Which is why doing analog stuff is good like painting and drawing on paper etc. It gets our hands dirty, we feel more and that will bring another dimension to any project.
What would you do if the kids one day tell you they want to be a pilot or an air stewardess instead of being in the creative line?
Claire: Ah, this is one question that many many friends, families and strangers have asked Pann and I over the last couple of years, and our answer has always been the same since the beginning. Getting our kids so involved in the arts have always been a natural progression of our love for the arts and its was never with the intention to turn them into something they are not…..or to harbour thoughts of them being artists or even being in the creative line. From young they have always shown a deep interest in drawing and doodling and all we did was to support and encourage them. All we want is for them to be happy and if they were to find another passion outside of art that makes them so, we will be happy too.
bLAh bLAh bLAh. Drawings of Words & Music by Renn & Aira Lim. 2012
What is your favorite day of the week and why?
Claire: Everyday is the same to me but if I had to choose, it’ll be the weekends because then the kids can have more of daddy with them!
Renn: I like Fridays because it is the end of the school week and I can also “fry” my day!!!! (That is Daddy’s humor in him!!)
Aira: My favorite days are Saturday and Sundays not just because there is no school but because Daddy is at home with us!
Pann: My favourite day is my day off (any day) with Claire. She is the reason why we have kids in the first place. Without her, there will be no Holycrap!
What are you having most fun at right now?
Claire: Having Renn and Aira at this age now is quite crazy because of all the weird and wonderful conversations we can have.
Renn: The most fun right now is bullying Aira!!! Hahahahhaha…….and with art I also find it very fun and relaxing.
Aira: Right now I am having a lot of fun in school. I also have fun doing art although it can get very tiring.
Pann: Listening to vinyls and reading stuff that excites my brain, watching good and bad movies and scanning 35mm negatives!
What’s your definition of happiness?
Claire: I dun remember ever waking up sad or disillusioned (tired definitely!!) So happiness is this life that I am having.
Renn: Bullying Aira and doing art makes me very happy…….but of course playing with Aira makes me very happy too.
Aira: Waking up everyday with my happy smile and going to school makes me a happy person. And being with my brother makes me very happy.
Pann: I have always been doing stuff for myself. I co-founded Kinetic (with close friends) and I believe we have maintained a certain level of work till today. I co-founded The Design Society and we are still working our ass off to make design more accessible to the public. I have played in the music scene since 1991 till 2008 and have released 5 full length albums with Concave Scream. And I am very thankful for that. But what makes Holycrap a very special thing for me is because it’s a project about the family and it’s for the children. It’s like the family jamming in an ‘art’ band. And we hope our synergy as four can be an inspiration to other families to embrace the concept of doing something together as a family. It need not be art, it can be cooking a meal or anything else. And that makes me really happy:)
What makes you guilty?
Claire: Scolding and being too strict with the kids definitely makes me feel guilty but someone’s gotta do it!
Renn: Being lazy and watching too much TV.
Aira: Wanting to play too much Minecraft and watching too much Monster High on Youtube.
Pann: Thinking of smoking.
What would you all do when you get time off?
Claire: Haha time off???!!! What’s that??? Ok frankly I’ve never felt like I needed time off, seriously you can ask Pann. So if you are talking about time off from our daily schedule then its just chilling and hanging out with the family, maybe kick-scooting or watching movies.
Renn: On my time off, I would like to lie on the couch like a couch potato and watch TV all day.
Aira: On my time off, I would watch hours of tv and then spend hours reading books until midnight then I’ll go to bed.
Pann: Again, I would love to spend my time off with Claire.
Thank you for reading and check out more Holycrap here.