Dan Wong, 34
“If something is wrong with Singapore, I will get up from my grave to set things right,” Lee Kuan Yew had said before he died, a tongue-in-cheek expression of his commitment to the country, no doubt. But Dan Wong is imagining how this might look. Wong, who founded The Good Citizen Movement in 2012, isn’t afraid to tread on eggshells, be it politics, religion or gender issues (he began his career by drawing phalluses in toilets after all). This image of our first Prime Minister coming back as MechaLee with cyborg technology depicts all his quirks, including a large canister of beer, and a ba gua symbol ironed to his chest, a paradox to his empirical method of thought. Irreverent perhaps, but Wong wants to explore how he could plausibly return using today’s tech innovations. “I’m picturing how it might be when he comes back from his grave to whip Singapore back into shape.”
Wu Yanrong, 26
Wu Yanrong loves Singapore. But the first thing she would change about this country, had she the power to do so, is our education system. “You may run a country like a business, to be efficient and effective, but even a business needs to recognise our humanity, particularly the need for our young people to develop their ideas and talents freely,” Wu believes. “We should remember that people who aren’t that great with books have important things to contribute too,” she reminds. While book learning has produced a population that has helped Singapore climb from a third- to first-world country in its 52 years of independence, Wu feels we have arrived at a time when it is vital to develop our collective soul as a nation. Her dream is for Singapore’s artistic achievements to be celebrated on par with all the rest so that Singaporeans can feel proud of their culture and identity.
Andre Wee, 28
Andre Wee feels a little ambivalent about his identity sometimes. Now that he has spent six years in America, studying fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design and freelancing as an illustrator and 3D artist, and naturally having adjusted to that environment, people here sometimes wonder if he’s Singaporean. “That itself, is an identity, I suppose,” Wee quips. He finds himself relating to a particular side of Singapore. “Like me, it’s trying to find its voice,” he says. His artwork for AUGUSTMAN attempts to capture this sentiment. “It is always about the people, and the variety of people as well,” he quips. “We are still very reserved about who we are because we are too bothered about what others think. As far as that’s concerned, people will get more vocal. At least I’d like to think so. Everyone should be entitled to their own opinion, but we should also be responsible for what we say.”
Xinnie Ng, 29
If you think Xinnie Ng’s piece resembles something by French graphic artist Jean Jullien, it only goes to show that when you pare things down to their simplest form and look at them with honest eyes, you will arrive at the universal language of humour. Here Ng has drawn herself as a child peering out the window at the metropolitan bubble that is our CBD. “As the future comes, I’ll probably only feel at home in the heartlands,” Ng reckons. “The sense of being a foreigner in my own country gets stronger all the time.” She points to the recent closure of the Sungei Road Thieves’ Market. “Did they even consider how people feel about this old fixture of our country? Granted, we should do what’s best for us for reasons of progress, but change can also alienate. The government has been asking its people to be more gracious and considerate, but are they setting an example? I love Singapore, but right now, I feel like I am pushed around by a system that doesn’t love me back.”
Lee Xin Li, 29
Architect by day and an independent illustrator by night, Xin Li has tackled just about everything that surrounds him – food, architecture, heritage and culture. The above was based on a project shared with a fellow artist depicting Singapore 50 years from now. “The world is only going to get smaller, and so will this little red dot,” he laments. “The more connected we get, the more layers there will be for so many things to get lost within. Paris can be seen from Bishan, it will be harder to differentiate the fake from real, and social media is going to cause even more trouble.” This explains his disdain for Facebook. But as hasty as Singapore is to grab the future, he is aware that we cannot afford to move slowly. “Due to uncertainty, we have to be adaptable and we need to move fast,” he continues. “At the same time, we have to set a balance and be sensible when it comes to change.”
Troy Chin, 39
He calls himself The Resident Tourist, also the title of a funny and cynical comic book that chronicles his life since his return from being a label executive in New York. “I have a very New Yorker perspective because I’ve lived there for so long,” says Troy Chin. “I think I’m pretty much a true blue Singaporean. I appreciate all things good here.” One big difference: he doesn’t use a smartphone. “I get to economise my time very well. I can’t just meet people on a whim, and neither can they cancel on me at the last minute,” he continues. It’s hard to imagine anyone functioning without a phone these days but it works for Chin. He admits he may have to concede to using one soon. “We are going to have very nice things like video walls, but we’re also going to come up with some sort of fire chip for the phone where everything can be done using your fingerprint, eyeballs or whatever.”
This story was published in the August 2017 issue. Catch some of the artists in action this weekend at the Illustration Arts Fest.
Credit: Main picture by Keely O’Shannessy