Behind the Scenes with artist Tania De Rozario: Is crowdfunding the future for art in Singapore?

Kickstarter – five art crowdfunding projects, two successful
Indiegogo – 13 projects, eight successful
Pozible – two projects, one successful

If those numbers on popular crowdfunding platforms are anything to go by, Singapore still has a long way to go in activating the general public to rally behind works of art.

On the flip side, we have protagonists for the arts championing the push for its elevation as a respectable and desirable field in a country that’s long dismissed (yet slowly accentuating) its importance and appreciation for it.

Tania De Rozario, artist, writer, curator

Tania De Rozario, a respected and well-established local artist, poet, writer and curator, is one such champion. Despite the odds of an arts scene in its infancy, she has placed Singapore on the global radar through her work in the visual arts and the written word. What more, Tania spends her time equipping the next generation of artists at two of Singapore’s go-to art establishments, The Substation and LASALLE College of the Arts.

We go behind the scenes to find out more about her avid involvement in and high hopes for the local arts scene as well as dig deeper into her upcoming workshop on drawing the right way at The Substation.

The Substation

You’ve got quite the creative flair, being an artist, writer and curator all at the same time! When did you first uncover your passion for art? Can you remember the first thing you’ve drawn and what might that be?

I don’t think I ever “uncovered my passion for art”. I’ve used images and text as a means of communication since I was a kid. I can’t remember what the first thing I ever drew was, but I know that I used to draw a lot. There used to be a little whiteboard next to the dinner table on which I would write and illustrate little kiddy poems I wrote about how I was feeling. I preferred doing that to speaking to people. I think I’m actually still like that!

Is there an artist who inspires you and how have you been inspired?

Wow – it would be impossible to name just one person, and definitely not just one artist! I am inspired by many artists and writers, based on their visual/textual techniques, their philosophies of making, the themes that they deal with: I love the paintings, drawings and prints of Lucian Freud, Egon Schiele, Francisco Goya, Simon Ng, Shubigi Rao, Jenny Saville, Elisha Lim; performances and installations from Tracey Emin, Janine Antoni, Lynn Lu, Jenny Holzer, the Guerilla Girls; writing from Jeanette Winterson, Cyril Wong, Carol Ann Duffy, Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Henry Rollins. Sorry, the list goes on….. next question please!

With contemporary art destinations like The Substation and the recently commissioned Gillman Barracks plus a whole slew of major art events; do you think Singapore is a much better platform for artists to showcase their work now as compared to the 90s? How else would you like to see the local arts scene progress in the next decade?

I was still in primary/secondary school for most of in the 90s so I’m not sure I am qualified to make those comparisons! Generally speaking, I can say that over the past decade or so, many platforms and opportunities –both commercial and government-funded- have opened up for artists.

However, that ties in to my response to your next question: I hope that the growth spurt in these platforms and avenues does not make us as lazy as a creative community, when it comes to creating our own opportunities. What I would like to see is more independent collectives/initiatives popping up, more crowd-funded projects, more incubation projects focused on creation rather than outcome. Developing one’s own avenues is itself a creative process.

I would also like to see our culture as a whole, start valuing art-making as a series of disciplines and respecting art-makers as specialists in their own fields of work. A cultural shift like that would mark an end to expectations that artists should work for free because of “passion”, ideas that being a banker or businessperson is more “acceptable” than being an artist, and the notion that one must have gone into the arts because they weren’t able to do anything else.

We understand you also teach drawing at The Substation like the upcoming “The Right Way to Draw” workshop! How do you think schools can better foster an interest and love for art at a young age?

By making art-related subjects and art-related teaching part of the everyday instead of relegating it to enrichment activities, extra-curricular activities or school subjects that are perceived to be taken as a last resort. The fact if the matter is that kids will do as you do, not as you say. We can tell kids everyday how important or interesting the arts are but if they are not actually experiencing a culture of education which places importance on the arts, there is no point talking. This is not something that schools can do alone, without the support of our governing systems of education.

On a scale of 1-10, how tough is it for a newbie to pick up drawing with charcoal?

That really depends on what you mean by “pick up”. It is unlikely that anyone can master a new skill in a matter of days or weeks or months, especially if you are not undertaking it full-time and practicing it everyday. Drawing is much more about temperament and skill rather than talent and flair: If you have a personality that enables you to sit down for extended hours, if it so happens that you enjoy the medium and what it can do, you may not be able to pick up the skill immediately, but you might very well fall in love with the medium, which means you’ll stick at it and eventually get good at it.

Do you have three must-have tools in your drawing toolkit?

Patience, practice, uninterrupted quiet.

Lastly, could you give us a sneak peak into the skills we’ll gain at the workshop?

The entire workshop will involve re-looking at looking; training our eyes to see the world in terms of lines, tonal value, texture and surface.

Tania De Rozario charcoal drawing sample

If it’s one thing we took away from speaking with Tania, it’s this: A penchant for the arts can be cultivated through fiery passion and supportive platforms.

Be inspired by #HomeGrownSG artist, Tania De Rozario, and learn to draw the right way at her upcoming art workshop!
The Substation / Sat 5 July / Get tickets at $155.50, limited spots

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Claire Ding
Claire Ding is the Community Manager at ticketing platform Peatix in Singapore. She runs a community event for organisers, Backstage Pass , where organisers connect with others and learn tips on event management. Quite the thrill-seeker, Claire's gone skydiving, bungee jumping, and enjoys anything that puts her on edge (quite literally), it's no wonder she's in the business of events with never a dull moment!