Artist Residency and Exchange Programme (9 to 30 May 2008

The Artist Residency and Exchange Programme (REAP) was organised by Artesan Pte Ltd with the aim of providing interaction opportunities for young artists from different nationalities and cultures. Six artists – Iggy Rodriguez, Buen Calubayan and Ivan Roxas from Philippines and Joshua Yang, Jeremy Sharma and Chun Kai Feng from Singapore – led by Emmanuel Garibay (Philippines) participated in this exchange. Facilitated by NUS Centre For the Arts, the Singapore section of the residency took place at NUS CFA Studio. Project leader Emmanuel (Mani) and two artists, Ivan and Jeremy, share their impressions. With this rather diverse group of artists and most of them meeting each other for the first time, what were the challenges encountered? Mani: One of the first things we had to do was establish harmony by developing awareness amongst the artists of each other’s styles. Artists generally welcome the opportunity to create and differences in cultures can have the aspect of enriching them. The challenges were more external such as working with available studio space and optimizing interaction in view of the work commitments of the Singapore artists.

From left: Jeremy Sharma, Buen Calubayan and Emmanuel Garibay Jeremy: Some adaptation was required. We had envisaged a more free-flowing programme and did not anticipate such a large amount of interaction time where all artists were encouraged to work in the same space and participate in the site/gallery visits set out in the itinerary. For an artist, personal space is important and when we are all cramped together, things can get edgy. Ivan: I normally work overnight but studio time for the residency was in the day so sometimes I could not paint because of tiredness and the heat, but we still pushed on due to the short time. Sometimes, paintings need to be viewed from afar to get a better feel but it was not always possible because of the limited space. What was the process like for this residency? Mani: Ideally, it would be to experience Singapore and respond to various contexts. Realistically, though, three weeks is not sufficient for such an engagement and this was also not specifically

laid down as a requirement. So we did not set any pre-conditions and instead encouraged artists to explore some ideas in the course of the residency. Jeremy: It will be better if at the onset, clearer objectives, some kind of structure and the expected end results were laid out. [As we did not know what to expect] It was quite stressful because of the time constraints. What inspired the mural? Mani: The Filipino artists used the bus regularly to travel to the studio and other places. This gave us a chance to observe Singapore. Many Singaporeans also take the bus so we used it as a metaphor for a common experience shared by both the Filipino and local artists. We did not delineate spaces on the canvas for each artist or pre-define what to paint. Each person was free to find his own blank space or work over what someone else had painted. The unifying theme was the bus. This free flowing structure can be interesting in adding different dimensions to an artwork, but it also has the danger of losing visual coherence because each artist exercises an independent visual judgement of what to put in.

Iggy Rodriguez (centre) and Ivan Roxas (right) working on the mural Ivan: I painted the two faces on the lower right corner of the mural. There are trees growing around the faces and there are mynahs - I’m a nature lover and when I think about Singapore, I think about all the trees and nature here. When I came to Singapore the last time [in 2001], there were many crows but this time, I noticed more mynahs Jeremy: I didn’t see so much of the bus on the mural but noticed that the images done by the others were already very strong and rich. I didn’t want to add more figures and used text instead. The texts do not describe anything, they are used to illustrate the idea of ‘thoughts’. I’m interested in paintings that are open to interpretations. How has the group benefited from the residency? Jeremy: The conditions took us out of our comfort zone to learn new things. Participating in a residency is good experience wherever you go because learning about culture is important for art. It opens our eyes and helps in our outlook. Ivan: We needed to respect other points of view, look at body language and also test the water to assess what the other person may be thinking. We had to be considerate and anticipate the space to leave for other artists based on what we know about them. As we did not see everyone

often, trying to sense how the other person would respond to various ideas was challenging and sometime stressful. Mani: There are not many residencies of this nature where interaction is a key factor and artists are asked to work in a shared space. It can be stimulating to create in a new environment and more so with other artists around. Ivan, can you tell us a bit more about this self-portrait?

Ivan with his self-portrait in the background Ivan: The studio was quite warm and eventually I found the bathroom [in the studio] to be the coolest place for me to work. So the bathroom was my space and this painting is a reminder of the time I was there, it was like a comfort room. The squares in the background are the tiles on the bathroom wall. At this point, are there any thoughts about how the residency in Manila will be like? Mani: It’s rainy season so some convenience may be compromised. Even so, it should be easier and more fun because the familiarisation has already started here. We will take the Singapore artists to places that can stimulate the imagination and also visit people, but it will be flexible. We will not discount suggestions that take the group on a different turn as what is important is how this experience will enrich the participants. Just like we did here, there will be individual and joint projects. It will be interesting to observe if there are differences in the way the group works in a different environment.

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