Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Vertolk: Leather, business & challenging norms.

Posted on June 26, 2016

Hong Jiun, Entrepreneur (Singapore)

Hong Jiun, Entrepreneur (Singapore)

Hong Jiun, SINGAPORE

Entrepreneur, VERTOLK

Why leather?

It is probably one of the more organic and fascinating materials out there. To know that a piece of hide you’re touching comes directly from animals after being tanned is rather intriguing. In a way, it is reusing every good part of what occurs naturally, where the skin of an animal is reused to make functional products.

Durability of a well-tanned skin is another key factor. I would say that for makers, we are concerned with how well something we make works for the client. Not just being aesthetically pleasing but also that it can serve its function continually for years to come.

On a personal level, I have always liked leather goods and am always on a lookout for unique and well-made products. This might be why I went to leather and not wood or ceramics or textiles.

Making process 2 by Vertolk

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Photo by Isabella Ow
Photo by Isabella Ow

5Stars: Understanding National Values Through Art

Posted on June 5, 2016

It is a tribute to Singapore’s 50th anniversary in 2015 and its national values of Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy, and Progress.

Five of Singapore’s eminent artists Ho Tzu Nyen, Matthew Ngui, T.K Sabapathy, Suzann Victor and Zulkifle Mahmod were invited and commissioned to create large-scale works inspired by these themes. The artworks, spread across SAM’s exhibition spaces, offer a view into how these humanist values could be envisioned for the future. The exhibit provides a sacred space of sorts, one that opens the floor for deep reflection and discourse to flourish from appreciation.

The author had the privilege of experiencing the multi-platform installations of this exhibit, as well as the chance to pick the brains of participating artists Ho Tzu Nyen and Matthew Ngui, and co-head curator for Of Equal Measure and Bloodline of Peace, Joyce Toh.

Photo by Mimic Productions Berlin

Photo by Mimic Productions Berlin

Value: Justice
Artist: Ho Tzu Nyen
Title: No Man (2015)
Materials: Six-channel audio-video installation

As a national value, the notion of justice need not veer away from how it would be defined in the judicial court of law. In the video installation, entitled No Man, justice is presented in an otherworldly and cross-worldly dimension, and applying haunting overtones to the theme. Artist Tzu Nyen has acknowledged taking Meditation XVII: Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, a 17th-century poem by John Donne, as a jump-off point for his artwork. The metaphysical poem ruminates on the consequences of man’s actions, in accountability to a greater God and as a deep reflection on the meaning of humanity.

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Photo by Devon Wong
Photo by Devon Wong

Seeing Past Appearances: Lessons Learned in a Chinese Spa

Posted on May 9, 2016

“Bryan, you’re more Chinese than me.”

We locked eyes; his blue, mine brown. The moment concluded in an instant as we burst out laughing.

“Yes. I am.”

Here we were, two waìguórén (foreigners) sitting in an opulent dining hall wearing our respective blue and pink bath robes, exchanging stories about life abroad while we munched on pickled cucumbers, tofu noodles, and slices of watermelon. I looked more the part, with my jet black hair and almond eyes, pitted next to Bryan. But after one week in China, I could still barely mutter a xièxie without feeling like an impostor. Bryan had three years on me.  He’d mentioned some of Guilin’s local attractions during one of our lunch breaks at the Chinese Language Institute, and I’d been itching since to investigate this fabled “Chinese Spa”. 

For journalistic reasons, of course.

To date, I’ve lived in Southeast Asia for 4 years.  Dodging traffic and eating questionable street food rarely warrants novelty anymore, let alone an upset stomach.  It has become a way of life.   But walking off the cobblestone streets of Guilin and into one of the town’s most luxurious hotels for a night at the spa was almost…otherworldly.  I had spent a week sightseeing around this “small town” (a small city by Canadian standards).  But it hadn’t yet struck me that this was really it: The ‘REAL’ China, I’d set out to look for.

Photo by Devon Wong

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Art Gallery

State of the Art

Posted on April 3, 2016

Great news for enthusiasts, purveyors, and collectors that love art. There is an increase in online art auctions and platforms around the world making the medium more accessible for everyone via technology.

Online art sales had reached US$3.6 billion in 2014, about 6% of all worldwide sales, according to The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF). This figure represents an increase from US$2.8 billion in the previous year (5% of global sales). These figures match TEFAF growth estimates of online sales at a minimum rate of 25% per annum.

In the global art market report released by TEFAF in 2013, the report states that “the price level at which people are comfortable to purchase online is slowly moving up, as new generations of collectors become involved.” Founders of online art platforms from Asia agree.

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The Everyday Revolution

Posted on February 7, 2016

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Sophia Tan, SINGAPORE

Founder, Managing Director of The Everyday Revolution

A framed canvas sits in the middle of a room.

Swirls of red, blue, green form a kaleidoscopic flurry; their streaks and splatters made in watercolour beg to tell a story. At first glance, the story is whimsical and jovial, as bright colours often seem to have that effect. Yet, as it goes in the world of art, one must plunge beyond the colourful surface and swim with the undertow to reach the depths of its true meaning.

Is this all too esoteric? We stand in the middle of a museum or a gallery; across a piece of artwork on display waiting to be dissected, judged, loved, understood. Whether it is a portrait made with oil or water, or a figure sculpted by hand, it simply sits there, like a puzzle to be decoded, the worth of its maker’s story waiting to be measured. Yet somehow, we manage—to grasp, to resonate, to connect. And its maker—the artist—succeeds. Beyond the price pegged for its value—or the fame and adulation that may follow—nothing could be more gratifying than the connection made with another being amidst all the layers of our expression.


Imagine the world of a person with autism, a condition defined as a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, as well as how they make sense of the world around them. Fortunately, more progressive and passionate advocates are emerging and enabling opportunities for people with special needs to be heard, understood, and provided a chance to participate in society.

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