Featuring Melvin Tan
IMMENSELY INTRIGUED BY the 21st Century Internet culture, Melvin Tan humbly explores the use of sculpture, image, and editorial making in reaction to the questions he has pertaining to the issue. Recently graduated, Melvin intends to explore life as a graphic designer before dwelling into art practice.
This adapts the way we look at art and how art is catered to our social web habits.
As a designer, Melvin recently completed his Bachelors in Fine Arts, majoring in Visual Communications. His final year project titled ‘Iterations’, which are sculptures made out of mass-mediated objects and those sourced from the business workplaces to represent the anthropocentric views of today. By relocating these objects to his art, spectators would be required to negotiate their own beliefs and perceptions. With such an intriguing concept, Melvin would gladly share the story behind his work.
Melvin notes the current art and design scene to be effervescent and still growing. Probably due to the governmental support, there are currently more opportunities and a wider variation of art and design practices. On a personal level, Melvin notes that the design scene is gaining recognition in small steps, with the interests and ambitions of students and professionals. However, he does feel that local works are still not comparable to experimental works elsewhere. With the various major happenings in the arts scene, such as the privatisation of the Singapore Art Museum, the National Design Centre having been recently established, and a new board within The Design Society, Melvin sees that the next 5 years for art and design would definitely be something to watch out for. He is looking forward to more critical and interesting programmes from the various institutes, not forgetting that an environment, conducive for creative work within the design industry would be forged.
A complex structure within Singaporean art as noticed by Melvin, would be the exploration of alternative histories and how these speculative approaches to art begin to make people question these approaches to art and how it would or might have been possible. This reveals the complexity of our history as a nation and becomes detrimental to our Singaporean narrative.
With his constant exploration of post-internet, apocalyptic, and virtual, versus real and possible, Melvin hopes to get to Berlin for the visual culture and the theoretical rigour of New York. However, before that, he describes a need to keep his head above water first before dwelling into anything else.
He cites strong influences from various artists such as Matias Faldbakken, Timur Si-Qin, and Brad Troemel. His strong admiration for Troemel’s practice has led him to explore art within the post-internet culture. Troemel’s works may seem nonsensical, but the works point heavily to theoretic technicalities. Melvin has stated that Troemel’s works are difficult to appreciate for those unfamiliar with his framework and writings. Troemel’s utopian view of the cyber world depicts the Internet and reality to be a single model. He questions the viewing of art via cyber space, where the physicality and duration become forsaken for dissemination and accessibility. With such strong influences, you would know what type of work Melvin dwells in.
A prominent project that Melvin had initiated was one with his friends. They call themselves FOCA (Free of Charge Art) and they are an independent collective that aim to curate works that are experimental and analytic, with the intent of creating a community built upon the society’s hospitality towards arts and heritage. An event done by FOCA is an art show at an enbloc housing estate titled ‘Closure’. The curated show talked about themes of progress and loss through change and had attracted numerous artists and art writers, with their own generosity and interest to the project. The team is continually searching for engaging alternative spaces and opportunities to cross-collaborate for future projects, so as to curate and question other themes as well.
Noticing nostalgia as a common trend within Singaporean works, Melvin states that it could be because positivity and patriotism often becomes politicized in Singapore. While it could get tacky, he feels that many Singaporeans find it a novelty and enjoy it because it is relatable. However, it is quite apparent that there is still lack of a strong culture of supporting locally designed and made products despite the heavy emphasis of nationalism.
That’s something that art does very well to influence and dissect, revealing complexities in our history.
Melvin notes that it is definitely not an issue to take oneself very seriously. Even creatives in Singapore are very serious in producing projects that are themed to be full of fun. What would be important would be the drive and passion, apart from being overly serious. What would frustrate him would be the people who constantly wait for things to happen despite their great talent or ideas.
...I do have my eyes set for an Art Practice in the future, but I need to have my head above the water first.