We first encountered artist Eunice Lim's piece Cattleland during our Little India walks. The work is a mural spanning the width and height of an entire shophouse side-wall and bursting with colour and energy. Here, Eunice talks about being an artist and how Little India is being pigeon-holed by locals.
It was partly a coincidence that both my recent works are about cattle. I was presenting the idea of Cattleland to the Singapore Tourism Board at about the same time as I was creating Holey Calf (a calf made of Tortilla chips, exhibited earlier at City Square Mall). But I had a deliberate message of cattle being something worshipped or celebrated historically.
Holey Calf is waterproof. It was treated with lacquer and stays the same even if it rains.
For Cattleland, I spent two days just creating a graph paper-like grid on the wall. Essentially I drew freehand, but with the grid guiding.
Cattleland will stay up only until the end of March 2015. I did wish the work could have an organic end, like being gradually washed away by the rain or overgrown by moss.
The younger Singaporeans treat Little India as a tourist-only area, unlike Universal Studios Singapore which they visit. We wanted the Little India Artwalk works to draw common Singaporeans to understand the their own culture and heritage.
My works exist on two levels. On the surface they are approachable visual celebrations, but beneath the surface there are deeper concerns like food wastage. I really enjoy the sense of enlightenment that people have when they discover the underlying issues.
Artists should never compromise even if our works are commissioned. We should still stay true to what we’ve always been doing and what we believe in, be it the technical aspects or our message. There shouldn’t be a distinction approaching a commissioned piece versus approaching a personal piece. In the first place, a client commissions an artist because they like what the artist does.
Of course, both parties need to listen to each other and understand the audience and the idea. I will make changes requested by the client as long as they don’t compromise my ideas, say for example a cosmetic colour change.
I used to think it was easy being an artist in the United States, based on the media portrayal. But I realised every part of the world has their challenges. The art scene is blooming in the States with the intensity of events and fairs, but art school graduates there might have to work in cafes to sustain their artist lives.
I’m not a million-dollar artist, but I’m still doing what I do. Sometimes people assume full-time artists are earning big bucks.
There are many people who inspire me to press on. That’s why I have my own studio. I thankfully met the right people. Abstract painter Yeo Shih Yun (who runs INSTINC gallery) guided me along since my school days. She and others taught me details from how to price my works to dealing with copyright issues.
Most artists are introverts who prefer to stay in our own corner. But I realise it was essential to mingle at art events and to know people from the art scene.
Everyone says Singapore is still young at 50 years old, but I think we could move faster. A lot of us in Singapore still view art as high culture instead of something that creates conversations and helps us grow.
Art is always a medium to say something, and if people are engaged with the medium, it is fantastic. There is a group of art enthusiasts who have supported me all the way. They are not all artists, but have been going to all my events for the past five years, since my first solo exhibition. Artists need this type of community. It shows that the artists’ messages are really getting across and that the wider population is engaging with art.
Art can have a bigger impact than my own private space. I cannot be an artist who stays in a studio to create art for myself or simply to sell. Art to me needs to connect to a larger audience even if they might not be artistically inclined.
Interviewed on 11th February 2015
Special thanks to Kenneth Lee.