Influenced by Asian and Latin American culture, Colombia-based Singaporean multidisciplinary graffiti artist SONG creates artwork based on an imaginary ancient civilization of Singapore.
"As a young nation, Singapore is still in the process of creating its own culture and traditions, and as a new generation artist, I use my art to search for my own identity as a Singaporean, with accessibility to Singapore's diversity of religion and culture to learn from and then creating my series of works. However, despite this rich mix of influences, I often feel that cultural segregation still exists in the art world, with each culture having its own separate space. This is what inspired me to create an imaginary ancient civilization of Singapore, drawing on the rich history and mythology of the region," SONG told Digital Life Asia.
Magic of Singapura
SONG showcased his unique art in his debut exhibition in Singapore, "THE SPIRITUAL AWAKENING: Magic of Singapura", in collaboration with premium wine retailer and curator Bevvies. The exhibition was held from Feb. 4-17 at UltraSuperNew Gallery, with guests also enjoying a curated selection of award-winning wines from Bevvies.
"THE SPIRITUAL AWAKENING: Magic of Singapura" featured sculptures, life-sized paintings, and digital and mix media artwork. Through this vibrant and mythical world that he has created, SONG offers a reinterpretation of Singapore's past and future.
When did SONG start creating this imaginary ancient civilization of Singapore?
"I wanted my art to represent all art culture diversities in Singapore and use my art to root myself to the ancestral idea of this land. I started this idea four years ago and I would like to build these stories through different mediums and sensory experiences. Ultimately, I hope to create a new understanding of Singapore's cultural identity that incorporates all of its diverse traditions and helps to bring them together," he said.
The exhibition also included the release of the SONG x E-Memotics non-fungible token (NFT) collaboration, which is already sold out.
"As a graffiti artist, I am always open for collaborations, new ideas, and platforms to put my story and works into. During the New Year Countdown 2022, I did a live painting event at Ten Square and met the people of E-Memotics who commissioned me to do a spontaneous painting of their homie NFT sculpture. We decided to do a collaboration of an NFT as part of my solo exhibition," he said.
Journey to Colombia
How did SONG first encounter blockchain technology?
"In Colombia, I met a friend, Juan David, on my travels to a meet and share session with the native people of the north of Colombia. He was working with a blockchain company at the time to speak and educate South Americans about this platform as the economy wasn't favorable there. During my first exhibition in Colombia, I decided to collaborate with him and his company to do crypto workshops in my exhibition, which involved setting up wallets and teaching how to mint NFTs for new and old artists getting into the industry. I would say that this allowed me to connect with a different group of people through the digital platform of blockchain," he said.
Based in Colombia since 2021, SONG is fascinated by Asian and Latin American mythologies.
"My first time stepping foot into the continent of South America was in 2020 and I settled in Colombia in early 2021. I needed to go out of Singapore to gain more knowledge and experiences to build myself as an artist. When I first went to Central and South America, I realized the similarity of ancestral mythologies between Latin American culture and Asia, through my search for my identity of our ancestral island of Singapore. With this information, I wanted to reconnect these two cultures together and create my own ancestral story and identity of Singapore through my art," he said.
Future of art
SONG shared that he is fortunate to have been born into a family of artists, including his artist grandfather and creative parents.
Asked to describe his art style and name the artists he looks up to, SONG replied: "I would say my art style would be Singapore art, combining all things I learn from our different cultures in Singapore, which is a vibrant melting pot of different cultures and traditions, and presenting my art in the movement of post-graffiti. I'm fascinated by the ways that these various influences interact and intersect, and I reflect this complexity in my work. Being able to place this unique art style on the global map to represent my heritage of the new generation of Singapore art is impactful to me and my art form. I look up to my peers and mentors like RSCLS collective, Jaba, Ledania, and various people I have met through my graffiti travels. Their use of colors and graphic elements resonates with me, and I admire their commitment to pushing the boundaries of what art can do."
In fact, his exhibition also carried merchandise from Ledania, one of the most prominent artists in the Bogota scene. Known for her mastery in graphic design, street art, and illustration, Ledania's recent partnership with the Disney movie "Encanto" saw her artwork featured as part of the film's merchandise.
"I met Ledania in Singapore through the graffiti community, and we had an instant connection through our art. We both use vibrant colors to express ourselves," SONG said.
Asked how artists can adapt to the changing environment brought about by NFTs, SONG replied: "NFTs build a different community of artists on the blockchain at the moment. NFTs also allow more contracts that artists may have neglected in the physical world of art. It's really to push artists and give more opportunities to artists to venture into a different art world through blockchain and NFTs."
What message would SONG like to share with aspiring artists?
"Let your art teach you, and then you teach your art."