Conversations with Singapore designers on colour, a series commissioned by Dulux and &Larry:
Since British advertising agencies brought modern graphic design into Singapore after the Second World War, a thriving community of independent studios has emerged in this former colony in Southeast Asia. Today, Singapore is a modern metropolis set to celebrate fifty years of independence in 2015, but the nation-state is still struggling to create a distinct local identity while earning global recognition— just like its contemporary graphic design scene.
Two separate exhibitions held by Singapore’s top graphic designers in the 1990s and 2000s show how the profession had changed within a decade in the city-state. In 1994, Su Yeang paid her own way to hold “Breaking Barriers” in The Design Centre, an exhibition of Su Yeang Design’s work to educate the public and businesses on the importance of good design. It reflected a time when graphic design was seen as a problem-solving tool for businesses. Fast forward to 2005, :phunk Studio held “A Decade of Decadence”, a retrospective exhibition of their “Greatest Hits”. Besides the influence of music, this exhibition held in the Singapore History Museum was supported by entertainment establishments Zouk and MTV, as well as Tiger Beer. As William Chan of :phunk then said: “When we started, people thought all graphic designers could do were design ‘Big Sale’ flyers and lay out text on posters. But these days, we are viewed as trend-setters.”
Take some time out on Sunday to catch the last day of Eccentric City: Rise and Fall, a paper city created out of a collaboration between Japanese artist Keiichi Tanaami and Singapore design collective :phunk studio. This “eccentric” city was built out of paper buildings created using the traditional Japanese paper craft of “Tatebanko”, and each one of the buildings brings together the distinctive illustrations of the two collaborators and their vastly different cultural upbringings. On one side is Tanammi’s psychedelic works that are heavily influenced by his traumatic childhood experiences of World War II and growing up as part of the countercultural movement in the 1960s. In stark contrast, is the black and white work of :phunk whom depicted the technological city of Singapore they grew up in. Though the exhibition is small, the paper city is quite a sight to marvel at.
Besides the paper city with :phunk, Tanammi has also worked with local design agency WORK to produce two free issues of The Tanaami Times, a beautifully crafted newspaper that profiles all three collaborators and some of their work. The agency’s latest issue of its limited run WERK magazine, issue number 18, also features the work Tanammi as well.
Finally, here’s a video shot by the team that shows how each of the buildings in Eccentric City was built using Tatebanko:
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Eccentric City: Rise and Fall
19 Aug – 19 Sep, 10am – 6pm
ICA Gallery 1, #B1-04, LASALLE College of the Arts