As a Singaporean living abroad, have you had the fear that you might one day find difficulty in remembering the faces of your loved ones back home? John Clang certainly does. But this local photographer-artist residing in New York embraces this fear with such openness that he created an entire series of works dedicated to the intrinsic fear of not being able to remember accurately the faces of your loved ones.
John with the ‘Fear of Losing the Existence’
In the ‘Fear of Losing the Existence’, John deliberately blurs the faces of his parents in his photographs to signify the difficulty of remembering them as the years go by. They are on display as part of a bigger exhibition titled ‘Being Together: Family Portraits - Photographing with John Clang’ which showcases more than 90 pieces of works by the internationally acclaimed Singaporean artist at the National Museum of Singapore.
‘Being Together’, completed in 2012
This overseas Singaporean draws inspiration from his experiences of being separated from his family after making the bold decision to pack his bags and head for New York years ago. “Back then I had no internet connection and didn’t know anyone there, which was why I went over -- because it would be difficult and I wanted to give myself a challenge,” recalls John. “If we fail, we’ll be able to come back with the learning experience of how we failed. If we were to succeed, we can come back and share that experience of our success.”
And he has kept his word. With numerous accolades under his belt, John has returned periodically since 2004 to stage several solo exhibitions on top of other international ones. A reason for his success is his keen eye for the simple and the present. John explains, “I always feel that people tend to neglect things closest to us. We see our dreams, we see our ambitions and we see things far away but we just don’t see what is next to us until they are gone”. This has certainly inspired the theme for much of his works. “I try to observe the mundane things around me. I feel that when I can bring out the subtlety of the subject, it comes out in layers and it is a reflection of what I instil in them.”
The man and his work
Apart from ‘Fear of Losing the Existence’, another highlight of John’s current exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore is ‘Being Together’. This is a series of 40 family portraits whose members are separated in different countries but are reunited in a single portrait through virtual space and Skype technology. For curious visitors, a behind-the-scenes video of how these portraits came to be is also on display. This further emphasises John’s belief that art should be made available and accessible to everyone.
“I want people to look at my pictures and feel that they can also do it,” says John. “This is so important because you can then really see the strength of the medium and what it can do for you.” If you’re looking for a pictorial experience of a Singaporean separated from his loved ones or simply to be inspired by stunning photography-art, make sure you head down to ‘Being Together: Family Portraits - Photographing with John Clang’ at The National Museum of Singapore . And bring a loved one or family member along, because remember – it is the present that counts.
By Clement Wan
National Museum of Singapore, Exhibition Gallery 1
Now on till 26 May 2013
Tickets at $5