Interview by Visual Collaborative
September 2019 8 min read
Tan Haur is an educator who serves as the program leader for the “Digital Art for Everybody” community program, supported by the Ministry of Information, Communications and The Arts in Singapore. As a feature in our Supernova interview series, Haur talks to us about his career as an artist, the realities of arts today in the public and private sector in the Far East.
(VC) Your involvement in the creative sector spans decades. Outside your leadership and education roles who is Tan Haur?
(Tan Haur) All this while I have been asking myself this question, who am I? There is a saying in the east, aside from the physical universe, there is also a small universe coexists inside our body, it is so vast and boundless, knowing is a lifetime exercise. General speaking apart from those roles that you had mentioned, I am pretty much a person who enjoys quality time with my own self, sipping a cup of coffee at the cafe, relax, watching passerby, and let my mind goes free beyond the confinement of the daily routine makes me happy. Many of us come to a point whereby there is no ending of day-to-day tasks and to-do lists; it cuts off me-time for deep thought and reflection. Solitude in a certain way promotes creativity and allows me to have time to recalibrate myself.
(VC) You have credentials supporting your experience in Creative Therapy. Do you utilize any User Experience as an extension to that kind of work?
(Tan Haur) I had built in the component of Creative Therapy into many of my community art projects. One of the recent examples was a collaborative effort with a group of 13 years old students in Singapore, we started with Chinese ink mark-making as a seeding unit and enabled the manifestation of applied or gestural energy on small pieces of paper, and the focus is on the process rather than the final result. The creative activity and supportive dialogue became a bridge to channel our deep emotion within us, leading to a process of self-discovery and cognition. It was a bonus that the two mixed media mark-making on large scale stretched canvas created at the end of the undertaking, were selected to be exhibited at the National Gallery in October 2019.
I could see many possibilities of how Fine Art and Applied Art could go parallel and make wonderful happenings in our era.
(VC) What is your relationship with Applied Art & Design and how has modern technology influenced your exposure to the discipline?
(Tan Haur) I have been exposed to the area of Applied Art & Design since 1985, Applied Art has both functions and aesthetics in mind, and Design practices enable me to adapt to the computer as a tool for artistic expression, this since the mid-80s. Modern technology facilitates long-distance collaboration; it empowers the integration of a wide spectrum of art media and allows me to view and work on fine art from a different angle. One of my researches in the digital art lab was to merge the traditional Chinese ink painting with photographs and transfer them onto the rice paper and hand towel materials, it fascinated me as I was constantly moving in and out in between the physical and virtual dimensions of traditional media and digital medium. And for the collaborative art projects, I have taken advantage of digital technologies for online art discussions and ideas exploration with artists and designers staying in different parts of the world, we speed up the process with virtual digital-experimentation and digital-visualization. Very often we reformat the final digital file to enable machinery reproduction, this permits us to turn fine art pieces into functional products to reach different groups of audiences. I could see many possibilities of how Fine Art and Applied Art could go parallel and make wonderful happenings in our era.
Photo courtesy T Haur
(VC) if you can time-warp back to an era such as the industrial revolution what time period would it be and why?
(Tan Haur) I would love to be in 1907 – 1915, from the broadcasting experiments until the true beginning of broadcasting, I wish I could witness these critical moments related to radio and broadcast. During my childhood day, I was fascinated about how radio waves traveled through the air and recreated into the state of the original signal through a receiver named radio. I remember I had dismantled two palm-size radio-casing and tried to re-adjust some of the internal parts and hoping to receive messages from the UFO. It was merely out of curiosity and imagination; I still have the urge to dismantle my artworks through the help of computers to understand them from a different perspective.
Since young, with an unprejudiced mind, I started to appreciate various religions and traditional cultures with an aesthetic point of view; the beauty in all of them is an underlying gold mine for all creative personnel to discover.
(VC) ) In your quiet or noisy moments, how do you get inspired? What makes Tan create the work or lead as he does. Do you seek religion or get spiritual like others in the creative industry for inspiration?
(Tan Haur) To me, inspiration is a gift from the surroundings and always arrived as a surprise, be it in quiet or noisy moments. I observe things happening around me in my daily life, keeping an open mind and eyes, just be aware so you can seize it while inspiration pops up at you. I do not seek religion or get spiritual like others in the creative industry for inspiration. Given the fact that I was born and raised in the tropical city-state named Singapore, which has a rare, precious situation of harmonious multiracial, multi-religious society. Since young, with an unprejudiced mind, I started to appreciate various religions and traditional cultures with an aesthetic point of view; the beauty in all of them is an underlying gold mine for all creative personnel to discover. One of my discoveries from this gold mine is ritual; you may get ready to work on a piece of art by enjoying your favorite tea, play your best-loved music, look at nature, sit by the window and start to paint with the rhythm of the background music. If this works well most of the time, that will be your ritual to work on a piece of painting whereby it prepares you to be in that state of mind, focus one’s attention, and zooming right into the specific work mode. Nothing superstitious about ritual, it merely prepares one’s mind to work more effectively, efficiently and amazingly. I have formulated my simple rituals specifically for creative works, project management, and teamwork lead and guide. To me, rituals serve as a bridge for my outer and the inner worlds, starting up or working with the flow of ritual is to align ourselves with the fundamental human rhythm and to light up the awareness within, it forms the net to capture any inspiration or great ideas flowing by.
(VC) What kind of work or impact can Southeast Asia and the world expect from you within the next 36 months?
(Tan Haur) Next year, I will be having an Asia travel exhibition together with a group of artists and illustrators from Asia countries Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. A collaborative effort and an excellent opportunity to make friends, a great time to attain a better understanding of the unique and vibrant cultures happening in this part of the world. Asia is the fastest-growing economic region, art and cultural shows will help to balance up and provide breathing space within a fast pace environment. I do hope this exhibition would travel beyond Asia connecting the east and west or traveling the path of the Silk Road, I always believe art is for all on this living planet, all for peace through sharing and understanding.
Yishun Community Art with Tan Haur T.Haur
(VC) Human’s relationship with inanimate objects such as mobile folks increases at a very rapid rate. Children today are born into a more cybernetic world compared to decades before. What are your thoughts on the effects on traditional forms of art?
(Tan Haur) Traditional forms of art still have their place in our society, yet we will see things evolve according to how people experience and perceive art through multiple and cross platforms. As now we are talking about art beyond museums, multi-sensory and interactive experiences of art, audience involvement, and palm-size art gallery. It is a natural migration of art appreciation and engagement from a small group of audiences to a vast field of people with 24/7 accessibility. We treasure the irreplaceable quality of the traditional art forms, and undoubtedly there are more options and dimensions in approaching and experiencing them.
(VC) Is there anything else you would like to share with our global audience?
(Tan Haur) The internet poses as digital Silk Road connecting East and West and beyond, the trading of products, engagement of services. Discussion and collaboration of projects are happening to and fro through the information technology superhighway all days and nights, it is a critical moment in our human history that the virtual and physical world is inseparable. Apart from economics advancement, how can we obtain a deeper understanding of the human races staying on the opposite side of the hemisphere? We certainly can do much better to eliminate more of the misunderstanding and misinterpretation due to physical distances as well as cultural unfamiliarity. Let us embrace this sharing, and we are one step closer.