Interview excerpt with Knowledge Enterprise and National University of Singapore.
About Your Art
* Using only 3 adjectives, how would you describe your artworks?
Organic, provocative, engaging.
* Through your artworks, what key message(s) do you want to convey? To who (target audience)? And why?
The creation of artworks is a wonderful form of self-indulgence, and my works are not primarily socio-political in their existence... I take inspiration from my biomedical and scientific background, and relate the intrinsic logic, aesthetics, and issues in an artistic method - one that engages an audience - everyman, on a sensory, intuitive, and comprehensive way. As members of a community, we wish to share with others our unique interpretations and sincere creations, and through the installation of artworks, the cycle of sensory reception, idea assimilation, work creation, and audience transmission is complete.
* How do you think that what you're doing (artistic side) can add value?
My works may introduce biomedical science and technology to the arts-leaning crowd in a way that is artistically accessible, and in the same vein, my works, through the veil of familiarity, entice scientists to embrace visual arts. Certainly, a probing of the workings behind the works can lead the audience towards examining contemporary issues such as pharmacological enhancement of the mind and body in the work "Biotics".
* What is the difference between "biotechnics" and "biotechnoethics"?
Biotechnics is the grand field of technological science inclusive of biological and informational. Biotechnoethics is the humanistic application aspect of hard science.
* What is it about "organ and metal composites", and "microbiology,
neoplasm, transplantation, pharmacology, AI and robotics" that intrigues you? What do you "see" or "feel" in them?
These are the common areas in science that excites everyone, not just professionals in the field. For instance, medication in place of pharmacology, and cancer in place of neoplasm, would instantly appear personally more relevant. Most of us are aware that substantial resources are marshalled in research towards breakthroughs and commercialisation of these advances, and we are aware that not just our well-beings, our abilities, but our livelihood are intricately and intrinsically interwined with the outcomes. These advances are contemporary issues and artists thrive on them. Being medically trained and having worked on information technology projects, sharpened my scientific perspective and enriched my imagination in accessing these fields. The reality of cloning, stem-cell organogenesis and transplanation, metal-organic cyborgs, nanoscale machines, optical chips, semantic web, autonomous bots and agents, and so on, is both liberating and terrifying. The power unleashed is great, and the seemingly insane possibilities of alternate lifeforms like computer code and nanomachines becoming the planet's evolutionary flag-bearer are real. The planet as a super-organism of wired-man-machine population can almost be seen as unitary consciousness taking form. I believe that everyone can access these relevant but seemingly hard science with a black-box approach, it is rocket science but you need not be a rocket scientist to understand its implications and general workings.
* In brief, how did you juggle your studies in NUS (or your academic study in general) while being actively involved in multiple art projects at the same time?
If you consider art-making as play and catharsis, you can imagine that it was relaxing and enjoyable. You can pick it up when you feel like it, and drop it if you have not the time.
* Did your education in NUS (correct me if I'm wrong: 1998-1999 - Master of Medicine in Ophthalmology) in any ways adds/enhances your development in the art arena?
Ophthalmology includes the visual sciences. My understanding of light and motion perception, colour, contrast, and entoptic imaginary, allows me to create more effective artworks. Fovea, a shimmering gold rendering of the centre part of the eye, and The Spirituality of Perception, a light-box installation of my inner eyes, were directly inspired by my experience in examining the retina.
* Given you your immense interest in arts, why you did not pursue it as full-time study cum profession.
I came from a conservative traditional-Chinese value household, where my parents advised me to pursue Medicine, and I went against my instinct to be an architect. Architecture is close to Visual Arts. Being a doctor has given me a unique perspective on life, and instilled a compassion in me that might not have developed so readily.
* What is the highlight of your years of development in the art and medicine field?
There has been a steady stream of memorable accentuations and blips. The Sin of Apathy, a video installation discussing apathy, herd mentality, materialism, and global responsibility, at the National Museum in the 1991 Sculpture in Singapore show was my first public work, was favourably reviewed. My solo exhibition New Works at the National Museum in 1991 also paved the way, although in my view, it could have been a much better show. Then again standards were lower, Art was not as developed in Singapore as it would become a decade on.
* How do you rate your achievements in arts? In medicine?
Rating would take some fun out of the process.
* At your age, you have amassed multifold times achievements which would take others many more years to reach, if at all. How do you feel about it?
These achievements may be seen as events that have gained some degree of public approval, and that may open some doors, but personally, I do not feel at all that is indicative of having lived a good life, and having an evolved mind. At every moment, we are engaged in our personal trials of life, the successful passing of the day is to me as wonderful.
* Any advice to aspiring, up-and-coming young artists?
Seek your passion; embrace and enjoy it. Art is about exploring boundaries and challenging assumptions. The greatest manifestation of art is Mankind, and your most important artwork is yourself. When you have an open mind, seeing the relevance and possibilities in the infinitesimal and the colossal, and gaining a positive and sincere mindset, then you have become an artist of ideas and the ways of the world.