Saturday, June 19, 2010

Get to know the artists: Tia Boon Sim

Tia Boon Sim was introduced to the gallery by
Paul Wang. Tia is Paul's mentor. Together with Don Low and Miel, they comprise the artists who will be exhibiting their works for the Tiong Bahru Sketches: Outside - In exhibit which will have its opening on June 30, 7pm.

Tia is an architect by profession. After graduating with honors from the School of Architecture, University of Singapore in 1979, she designed the award winning Clementi Indoor Stadium. She graduated with an Outstanding Academic Achievement Award from the Pratt Institute in 2001. She is currently in-charge of overseeing the entire foundational curriculum of the Temasek Polytechnic Design Programme.

Despite being so busy, she finds time to sketch every Saturday morning with other
urban sketchers. Occasionally, she even manages to create wood-fired pottery in the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln where she is one of the directors.

Tia's artistic training started early. At the age of of ten, she received private instruction from Mr. Liu Kang, one of Singapore's pillars in the field of visual arts. She continued this training for ten year.

It is no wonder why one of Tia's works was chosen for the exhibition invite and catalogue. Tia's
Corner 71 captures the essence of Tiong Bahru - its architecture, its age, its character. Tia's works at first glance are bold and reminiscent of Chinese brushwork. Yet at closer inspection, reveals a carefully planned work hinting at Tia's architectural training. All the buildings are meticulously constructed. All the shadows are in place and tell of the time of the day that the sketch was made. Nothing is frivolous; everything is essential.

Tia Boon Sim. Corner 71. May 23, 2010. pen, ink and watercolor on paper. 15 x 45 cm.

Here is an interview with Tia:

You studied with Liu Kang for ten years. Can you share with us succinctly what key concepts or lessons you learned from him?

I started taking art lessons from Mr Liu Kang at the tender age of ten and left his studio when I enrolled into School of Architecture at the age of 19. Mr Liu Kang was a mentor and teacher with no temper at all. I remember taking lessons on all the different media from pencil, charcoal, crayon, pastels, watercolours to oils. I learnt to persevere and to making those lifeless still life objects and plastered busts come alive in my drawings and paintings. At the age of thirteen, I could grasp the art concepts very well and people around me commented that I had achieved a very high standard that other teenagers at my age would not have achieved. I am thankful to my parents who believe in me and Mr Liu Kang for his mentorship.

How does your architecture affect your sketching?

Architecture taught me to question, to be inquisitive and follow your instinct. It also taught me to be observant and to be aware of your environment. These attributes certainly come in handy when I comb the street looking for a place, an object, and an activity or looking for people to sketch. I developed a strong observational skill and a keen eye for details when I was an art and architecture student. Now I process the details very quickly to a point of ignoring them and concentrating on the mood and feel of the place, object or people when I sketch.

You have devoted at least three years to regular sketching. What draws you to sketch despite your busy schedule?

In April 2007, I initiated a Saturday location drawing project on Club Street after buying two beautiful sketchbooks and there is no stopping since then. I believe the mood, the smell, the ambience of a place have a great impact on the creation of a good sketch. When I am doing location drawing, attention to details and absorbing the mood are two important elements that I enjoy to a stage that I hope to see, sense and capture the place with my own interpretations. It is an enjoyable experience. Sketching is a way to connect to places and people and I hold a view that sketching with like-minded people is a social activity.

When did you start using coffee in your works?

I am a coffee addict. I like it without milk. I started pouring coffee in my work when I was teaching again after returning from New York in 2003. The students I taught usually took a picture of the place and went home to sketch after a drawing field trip. I realized students were too conscious of making mistakes and were too afraid not following every detail. Pouring coffee helped my students to accept the imperfection and they had becoming very free in their line work. After that experience, I continue to pour coffee before I freely sketch and work around these coffee stains. I have also tried using red wine to sketch during festive seasons.

I notice that you have been very consistent and very methodical in the use of shadow in your sketches to give three-dimensionality and a time element to your works. Do you apply them before or after you make the works?

There are many ways of doing things. I would begin a sketch in blocks of shade and shadow or I would begin a sketch with drawing dots and lines and the shadow will be added last. I am fascinated with shadow; I also learn to work fast so as to capture the moment of light in our tropical weather when the shadow may disappear suddenly. Shadow is after all created by, light.

See Tia in action in this video

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