A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World. 2013
Today we speak to Robert Zhao Renhui of Institute of Critical Zoologists from Singapore about this new work, A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World.
Tell us what have you been busy with?
I’v just finished compiling an encyclopaedia titled, A guide to the flora and fauna of the world, for the Singapore Biennale. I’v also just finished installing my work at 2902 Gallery for my upcoming show, The Last Thing You See. It talks about how difficult it is to be a bee.
What drives you in creating this?
In this case, I wanted to know why the goldfish is never included in any natural history encyclopaedia. The goldfish does not have a scientific name as it is a man-made creature. It’s a fish that has been artificially bred for thousand of years. How the goldfish is created remains a mystery. I created the encyclopaedia as a system to talk about our ideas of what is natural and what is man-made. Towards the end of the book you realise there’s really not much of a difference. Everything artificial will start to look natural once we get used to it.
How do you keep on educating yourself?
I’m basically interested in animals as a subject matter. I go to the Singapore Zoo once a year and more if I need to. I honestly think we have an amazing collection of animals in captivity here in Singapore. In the zoo, I encounter a lot of nature photographers with huge lens and fancy equipment and some of them in jungle camouflage as well. Watching them observe animals teaches me a lot about why humans watch animals.
Where do you draw your influences from?
Mainly from my friend, Yong Ding Li. He is a conservation biologist. Most of my work and ideas are based around my conversations with him. Of course as an artist I process the facts he gives me differently from how he would approach the facts. Sometimes I get nice ideas from google.
When was the last time you felt challenged?
I was struggling to decide if I want to use my flash at the bird park at some owls.
What was the breakthrough project for you, personally?
I tied a lot of pinhole cameras to birds to create images in A heartwarming feeling. The images the birds created were really beautiful but it wasn’t beautiful enough for me. I edited the colours a little and then they were better. Then I redid the whole image again on the computer and then it became perfect.
Who/what has had the biggest inspiration?
Looking at animals.
The Blind, 2007
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Today we speak to James Teo, founder and creative director of Ampulets from Singapore.
Yanda: Tell us about yourself and what you do.
James: I am a graphic designer with a soft spot for simple, beautiful things.
What do you do first when you get up in the morning?
Cook oatmeal. A good breakfast is a good start to a day. Men can’t think well on an empty stomach.
What daily routines you cannot do without?
Read a little, check facebook and instagram to keep in touch with friends and what’s happening around. Maybe not daily, but a few days in a week, I run. Running is the best time to crack design briefs!
How would you describe your work in three words?
Considered, inviting, functional.
When did you first get involved in the design?
As a kid, I used help out in a music cassette stall near my parent’s place, and I always marveled at the design of the tape covers. I would stack my own collection up nicely in a six-million-dollar-man plastic “briefcase” and haul it to and fro the shop. Occasionally, I would take them out to admire the album cover design, listen to the music and try to recreate the design or sketch portraits of the singers in my notebook. It’s a habit. These days, I still go to record/CD shops (the very few that are left) and book stores to look at the covers.
When I started working, my jobs were in marketing and marketing communications. So I was constantly working as a client with design studios and advertising agencies. And after some 8 years, I figured what I really wanted was to be on the other side of the table and re-live my childhood fantasy of making artwork for the album/ book covers!
Do you think personal work and collaboration is important?
Personal work are like personal challenges. It challenges you to dare to materialise something you have in your mind, to test how far your ideas can take you, and your ability to complete it without clients and deadlines breathing down your neck. I think it teaches you to trust your own instinct and judgement.
I love collaborations, especially with the right person or group. Wonderful things can be done when like-minded folks get together . By likeminded I don’t mean thay we all think the same, but more like having the same values and attitude – so that we ultimately know we are going for the same destination even if our methods are different.
If you have a chance to own someone’s work and wish it was yours, what would it be and why?
The entire set of original posters created by Michael Bierut for Yale University since 1998. I have always been a believer of how design should evolve between one designer and one client for a long period of time. Almost like a marriage.
Who do you dream to design for?
My dream project is to design all the signboards in the Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Market. Ha.
What’s your definition of happiness?
Balance. I think it is important for one to have balance in his/ her life – a balance of family, work and leisure. I think happiness is also not about extreme highs and lows, but achieving a certain constant in life. Just like running. For me, a good run is about keeping a steady pace throughout the run.
What makes you guilty?
Spending too much money on books, music, clothes – all the vain things in life.
How do you set your benchmarks?
My wife has always been my sounding board. Being a one-man design studio, her views and feedback on my work is very valuable. And for all work, I must be able to say to myself and clients that I have done my very best to produce quality work. So i don’t really have an external benchmark per se.
How do you keep educating yourself?
Reading books and magazines. Listening to other people. Attending talks. Looking at art exhibitions. Observing nature, things and people around me.
What place in the world most inspires you and why?
Tokyo and Taipei/Taiwan. Both are cities, but there’s a good balance of old and new. The new makes you curious, but the old gives you comfort. And there’s a balance between the urban and nature – nature is always just a short train ride away. Balance is important.
What are the three things you are obsessed with at the moment?
Old Vinyls. How clothes are cut. Interesting looking plants. All somewhat vain things!
Democratic Society Identity. 2012.
Documenting New York based Singaporean photographer, John Clang’s solo exhibition, Being Together, this catalogue also serves as an extension of the exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore. This book presents 5 family-themed series comprising a total of 93 works that were created between 2001 and 2012. This book also includes essays by Szan Tan, Patricia Levasseur de la Motte and Gwen Lee.
To celebrate the indomitable spirit of human relations, this publication is made up of papers of varying textures, sizes and colours that manage to complement each other as well – reflecting the harmony and intimacy that can still exist even if a family faces disparity. The loose leafs of varying irregular papers and photographs of different families all bound together in one book serves as a reminder of the ties that bind in this isolating urban society.
Not In Any Order is a book that takes a critical look into the Singapore contemporary art scene from 2006 to 2010, and provides topical essays and 80 informed, lively and insightful reviews written by Lim Kok Boon, an educator, artist and art critic. Reviews of exhibitions include established Singapore artists such as Chua Chye Teck, Chun Kai Feng, Donna Ong, Genevieve Chua, Heman Chong, Jeremy Hiah, John Clang, Michael Lee, Tang Ling Nah, and Zhao Renhui.
This book is a work of art itself. To complement the rigorous research and rawness of the reviews, the cover was deliberately made in a way it can be give a worn look like a collector’s archival book when it is used over a period of time. The use of bulky wood free text paper with ruffled edges helped to complete this look. This is an art history book that’ll look better as time progresses. The creases and folds that we so often avoid are honoured, and the user becomes part of the book. It’s a bit like art really. Art needs the audience to make it: to make sense, to make whole. So, a single grid design and serif set typeface were chosen for a classic feel that I think will still be relevant in decades.
Identities for a new watering hole on 27 Club street – Izy, a sharp take-on Izakayas which serves carefully crafted plates by chef Kazumaza to accompany a sizeable drink menu.
Documenting the travels of Singaporean photographer Melisa Teo, the catalogue unfolds her pilgrimage through the worlds of Buddhism, Hinduism and Shamanism.
Encapsulated in a myriad of textures and colours, vibrant dividers echo her kaleidoscopic expeditions. A hand-torn translucency is sewn onto a raw, earthy cover, embracing the customs and traditions of her newfound spirituality.
A collector’s edition of linen bags encase the catalogue and print folder, stamped with gold foil, reminiscent of the textures of burning joss paper.