This week on #ObjectifsSupports, we feature Singaporean visual artist John Clang, whose practice often straddles dual realities of global cities, unfettered by confines of time and geography. He shares with Objectifs his series, The Moment (2011), and his thoughts on photographers/visual artists making work during this trying period.
John Clang has participated in numerous local and international group exhibitions and his works have entered the permanent collections of Singapore Art Museum and National Museum of Singapore. In 2010, he became the first photographer to garner the Designer of the Year award at the President’s Design Award, one of the nation’s most prestigious design accolade in Singapore. In 2013, a showcase of over 90 works by Clang was exhibited at the National Museum of Singapore. Clang has previously conducted portfolio reviews at Objectifs, and is one of our featured photographers in the Image Makers: Singapore Photographers short documentaries series.
Presented in the form of a triptych, John Clang’s The Moment series emphasises the precious act of sharing a specific moment together with one’s family. By presenting three simultaneous views of the same moment taken from different perspectives, Clang sought to elicit the preciseness of the moment and the specificity of the experience of being photographed together. These images reveal the underlying subtext of family hierarchies, gendered roles and inter-generational relationships. While these have not changed much, the settings and poses are significantly more casual and relaxed. Through subtle details and variations, Clang attempts to bring out the individuality of the sitters and hint at their relationships with one another, demonstrating an underlying family dynamic within each photograph.
In the current climate where people are unable to partake in large family gatherings, Clang’s series is an apt reminder to treasure the ties that bind and the precious moments we share with our family.
Objectifs: What was your motivation in making this work, and how has it taken on a different meaning for you now with the current pandemic?
Clang: The Moment was created in 2011 when I was still working on the Being Together series. It was first presented in my solo exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore but it was ‘outshined’ by the Being Together series and received less attention. When the two series are placed next to each other, people gravitate towards Being Together because of the technology being shown and, most importantly, the ‘absence’ makes us resonate with the series.
I did The Moment to show another side. Many times, we tend to only miss someone who is not with us and we neglect to appreciate those around us until they are no longer with us. The images are simple family portraits but it is not easy to have a family portrait done nowadays because most people are leading an active lifestyle. These portraits were created with 3 cameras triggered all at the same precise moment, to emphasise the idea of being together. This was created almost 10 years ago and some of these family members are no longer around. It does bring a tinge of sadness when I thought of that. So, with these images, I hope we can appreciate the people around us, especially during this tough time.
John Clang is offering emerging photographers and visual artists the opportunity to contact him if you have any questions about your work or would like to seek professional/artistic advice during this period. You may write to Clang directly at email@example.com.
Objectifs: Thank you for your offer to help review the works of photographers who might want a sounding board! During these trying times, many photographers and artists are worrying about how they might continue their profession, could you share your thoughts and words of advice?
Clang: This is a rather complex question as age plays a part for these affected photographers/artists. Personally, I would advise young photographers in their 20s to take this as a challenge to carve a path unique for themselves. This is the time when they can afford to make more mistakes and worry less about being successful. They should take risk and push boundaries. They should also understand that they can take on any job to support their visions and their dreams.
For those in their 30s, this can be more challenging as they may find themselves caught in a phase where they have to support their family. To this group, my advice is: family always takes the first place. Do any paying jobs to support the family while continue to keep creating. Dreams are often being buried when one think that once they can’t be a full-time artist/photographer, they are out of the scene and their dreams are perished for good. This is not the case. Your talent and vision are not determined by the job you have or how financially stable you are. There’s a lot of hype out there in this world, especially now with social media. Your talent and vision will continue to evolve as long as you continue to create and educate yourself. This is the time to tough it out, support the family and enrich yourself with new reading materials or experiment new techniques/ideas. This dark tunnel may very likely be a short one and if you get yourself ready for the future, the future can be yours. If you give up now, you will be giving up everything.
For those in their 40s, just like myself, or even those in their 50s, I would advise them to look back at their strength and try to use those experience and reinvent themselves to stay relevant. We may lack the vision of a youth but we have the life experience to probe any matter deeper and take it to a new perspective. The key ingredient is to remain hungry to create new projects. If you have such mentality, the market will continue to be inspired by your creation and pay attention to what you are doing. The world may celebrate new talent but your new creations are never stamped with any age.
Most importantly, to continue our profession, we must first understand that if we do things we love, it is not a profession. A profession may be considered as a job that supports our livelihood and dreams. We can be proud of ourselves as long we continue to create at our own pace and still keep the fire in us burning. This is how I navigate the challenges I face in life, which I am happy to share with you all.
View some images from The Moment in the slideshow below. Visit http://johnclang.com/ for more details on this project and his other work.
All images in this post copyright of John Clang.
#ObjectifsSupports is a weekly feature on our social media channels where we highlight filmmakers, photographers, and members of the local arts scene, and the ways in which you can engage with and support their works during the COVID-19 period and beyond. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates.
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