“I THINK... THE smell of Cold Storage at Cluny Court,” answered Jeremy Tan, 23, when asked to suggest a place in Singapore that reminds him of the United Kingdom.
A bespectacled anglophile who has a tattoo of three Queen's Guards marching on his left wrist, his food photography and illustrations go beyond fulfilling primitive needs of hunger. His obsession with the kitchen has taught him to slow things down, enjoy processes, and most importantly, settle down to quiet time.
“I draw more when I don't feel so good about something. But I don't take pictures when I feel like shit."
Learn not to think of your own preconceived notions of what the object looks like
Currently a second year student specialising in visual communication at Nanyang Technological of University, School of Art, Design & Media, he first tinkered with photography when he was eight and his interest was reignited following a birthday gift of a small Canon digicam on his fifteenth birthday. There is an apparent similarity between the kitchen and his photography technique. “I used to really care about how my pictures looked. But now I don't bother so much anymore as long as I've captured the moment I wanted to, tidily and quickly.” His current photography muse is a series by Japanese photographer Nanako Koyama titled “Every Morning”, along with others like Tim Walker, Alasdair Mclellan, Leila Peterson, Ryan Mcginley and his best friend, Cheryl Raharjo.
Though he had liked to draw since he was young, he had put that aside in favour of academics, and by the time he was pursuing his Mass Communication Diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, his interest had been reduced to doodling. His aversion to academia prompted him to pick up drawing again during his army days, and to build his portfolio for application to art schools. He uses mostly pens for his illustrations and is aware of the long journey ahead in honing his skills after years of hiatus. His list of admired illustrators includes Carson Ellis, Anders Nilsen, Quentin Blake, Tove Jansson, Georges Remi, couple of seniors from school, his teacher Don Low etc.
Inspired by old vintage prints of flower and plant species, Jeremy delved into botanical illustrations and produced a chapbook on springtime for his school assignment titled Blue Skies: The First Signs of a Beginning. His research materials comprised of old encyclopedia, prints and observational life drawings at Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Botanic Gardens. This year, he was approached by Silver Yarn Project to illustrate stories about his grandmother, a dear figure of his childhood who used to share stories with him through photographs. Subsequently, he also expanded the series to his cousins, friends and people whom he counts as family.
Through his research in botanical illustration, Jeremy realized that he needed to unlearn his ideas about illustration and sharpen his eye for detail.
“Just look and draw what you see. Learn not to think of your own preconceived notions of what the object looks like,” he explained.
Undeniably, his attention to other sensations experienced beyond the visual has heightened his sensitivity towards his subjects, living and non-living. Dedication to the visual arts has also allowed him to translate these subtleties into his illustrations and photographs.
His photostream at flickr.com/themorningtrain documents his life with family and friends, with each photo averaging of a thousand views with comments of appreciation and commendation.
While his photographs could easily be mistaken for photo spreads in food and lifestyle magazines, he recounts, amused, about how he “used to love taking those macro shots of raindrops and condensation of bus windows”. Candidly, he describes his early tastes in photography as 'terrible' and 'cringe worthy'.
I think...the smell of Cold Storage at Cluny Court [reminds me most of the UK]
Growing up with Enid Blyton and transitioning into his teens with Harry Potter, the anglophile's fondness for the UK stems from his nostalgia for his childhood.
“It's all so familiar and far away, except I can actually go to the UK but I can't go back to my childhood,” he said. “I know they are not the same thing, and the England in my head is definitely not the same as the real England. But I like that English quality [of] the things they do and their works. Every time someone asks me what is it I like about the UK, I always say I don't know. And I really don't know. [It's a] weird detached sense of nostalgia.”