I grew up with comics.
I was elated to know that there is finally a major exhibition and show done to pay homage and raise awareness of the comic (and illustrator) scene in Singapore this September. The month long event features several veteran illustrators and cartoonists based in Singapore giving talks and sharing about their experience. On top of that, there is also an exhibition plus mini libary for the public to know a bit more of the comic scene in Singapore : its history, its challenges, diversity and development etc.
One of the key organizers behind this event is Sonny Liew, a RISD graduate known for his work : The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye as well as Warm Nights, Deathless Days: The Life of Georgette Chen. Both of them are really brilliant books not because this is to pander but because I enjoyed the personal touch in his work that feels intimate, drawing me into the story. Comics and aesthetics become the means of his narrative, Sonny Liew is in control.
While already in the library collection, the event gives you the opportunity, intended or not, to read through his comics as well as the many works by many illustrators based in Singapore from our time and before.
The juxtaposition, a simple gesture, demonstrates how comics remained a relevant form of a media that draws both adults and children at the same time it showcases the diversity in the scene, communicates the context of Singapore comics through real examples and also let us to be investigators as we picked up similarities and differences among the comic books. If I am a teacher, this is somewhere I will bring my students here we interest in illustration and the comic scene.
Something like the last issue of the Singapore Herald with Morgan Chua's comic of Lee Kuan Yew from 1971 were exhibited along with the recent works by Koh Hong Teng and Sonny Liew.
Of course, there is a sense of nostalgia for some of us as we get to see comic books from my childhood days such as the Return of the Condor Heroes illustrated by Wee Tian Beng and Mr. Kiasu by Johnny Lau were on display as well.
I also met Favian Ee, a prolific urban sketcher whose style reminded me of the Guy Delisle's travel chronicles. Favian has worked in Double Negative for a long time, one of the lao jiao (veteran) artists around and I had the honour of getting to meet him the next day for a conversation on culture, challenges, experiences about doing illustration in the creative scene.
Over coffee and cake at the Grassroots Book Room, Favian shared his sketchbook, here is one that he did of Sonny Liew! There were also Don Low, Troy Chin and Koh Hong Teng! He shared about his experiences drawing with the urban sketchers and the challenges of being in the field. Several experiences were all too familiar : parents finding children working at home as "idle" is one of them and yes the money issues. Amazing guy especially after a good chat, a luxury that don't come by easily nowadays.
If you are free and wish to have the opportunity to get to know some of the illustrators and comic artists in Singapore, do check out the event here. There are also the Portraits After Dark event organized by Organisation of Illustrators Council that offers such opportunities to meet other illustrators or hobbyists in the field. Favian is an active urban sketcher, the Singapore Urban Sketchers group meets quite often at the end of each month for sketchwalks which you could join as well!
Singapore Central Library
2nd - 30th September 2016