"Chia is best known for saturating his videos with pretty pastels and bouncing blobs – a signature element in his work – to form mesmerising loops meant to bring a sense of calmness to viewers."
CLEMENT CHIA, CREATIVE DIRECTOR
His aesthetic: It’s hard to say no to Chia’s buffet of voluptuous, almost tactile shapes gently bouncing and forming with a flourish on screen, reminiscent of lava lamps – if only those came outfitted in every pastel hue possible. It’s a very pretty virtual universe that Chia has perfected, and it stems from a good place. “I create things that make me happy. And, in turn, I hope by doing what I love, it brings joy to people,” he explains. “I would like the audience to feel calm and relaxed when they watch the animations.” Set in a loop, his rollicking shapes set amid a pastel paradise are hypnotising – a visual MO that’s practically tailor-made for social media (@cmttat) where – as o f press time – he commands 27.9K followers and commissions from the likes of L’Oreal and French luxury jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels. This web developerturnedanimation veteran also pays it forward – he co-founded Offeo, a free platform that simplifies video-making for beginners and small enterprises. What got him started: “I started my career as a front-end developer in advertising agencies, as that was what I had studied in university, but I was always intrigued by beautiful visuals… Watching online tutorials got me more excited about the whole animation process. The possibilities are unlimited.” On Singapore’s animation scene: “I’ve seen more artists posting more experimental works on social media, and this is important as it helps them to get more exposure – clients are constantly on the lookout for talent. I’ve been seeing a lot of good artists emerging, and I think our diverse culture plays a huge part. The things that we experience make our content incredibly unique... The Singapore art scene is not as widely celebrated as that overseas, but that shouldn’t stop artists from creating great work.”
OH JIA HAO, DIGITAL ARTIST
His aesthetic: Oh's creations that have become Instagram gold (check out his 53.5K-follower-strong account @lioncolony) are akin to a playground with all the sights and sounds you’d expect from (a digital) one. The backdrop is most often a virtual factory, except that instead of humdrum machinery, his brims with psychedelic colours, sunglass-wearing gummy bear figures (a recurring motif that he likens to humans – “they all have the same shape, but are of so many different colours”) and ASMR sounds that make for one multi-dimensional treat for the senses. The “products” that roll out of this madcap workshop, meanwhile, range from confectionery (the man has clearly got a sweet tooth) to the season’s latest It bags, with collaborators including The Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands and local luxury blogger Bagaholicboy. What got him started: “I started doing animation back when I was in secondary school, and was drawn to the ability to create things from scratch on the computer. Formal education and getting one’s foundation is very important for animators.” On singapore’s animation scene: “It’s very saturated right now, and everyone is good, but that just means that emerging artists need to find their own niche.”
There’s a child-like fantasy to Oh’s virtual “factories”, complete with gummy bear figurines running amok – a landscape that has proven to be as suitable for showcasing the latest designer bags as it is for imaginary everyday objects.
ANNIE HUNG, ANIMATOR AND ILLUSTRATOR
Her aesthetic: The animations of Hung (@uuuunyy) have a way of putting a smile on one’s face. There are the adorable, somewhat off-kilter 2-D cartoons (think a mohawked, leotard-wearing green figure fighting off virus-like enemies) set to irresistible beeps reminiscent of ’90s video games. Then there are spacey 3-D animations that have ranged from rats performing an R&B track by local indie musicians Weish and Isa Ong for Chinese New Year, to the trailer of last year’s Cartoon Undergrounds festival and best described as a pastoral episode of Wallace & Gromit on crack. Further showcasing the breadth of this 22-year-old’s abilities, one of her latest posts depicts a 3-D rendering of herself (togged out in a fashionable rainbow-striped top, no less) at the computer, only to reveal that the visual virtual Hung is working on is of the exact same scene. The Inception-style work sums up her design philosophy: to create something “fun and quirky, with a dash of something that’ll make my audience uncomfortable”. (PS. She counts Adventure Time and Japanese horror manga legend Junji Ito as the biggest influences on her art.) What got her started: “Back in primary school, I would download AMVs (anime music videos) off Youtube, trace them frame-by-frame, and change the characters to my own for fun. The satisfaction of seeing the characters move gave me some sort of kick.” On Singapore’s animation scene: “I feel that most of those appreciating local content are also the same people creating it. It’s nice to have a tight-knit community of artists, but the market remains niche. We’re blessed to have events such as GIF Fest and Cartoons Underground, but these only happen once a year. And while one should support local artists, you ought to look at the value of the content, rather than how hard it tries to be local.”
Hung’s body of work as an animator is one of the most diverse on the scene – spanning 3-D stop motion to classic 2-D cartoons – but they’re all invariably quirky with dark twist.
“Spring Shrine”, a surrealistic animation of idyllic island life, won Krehel the top prize at the 20418 Sion X Niio Illumication Art Prize, while works such as the music video he created for The Answer – a tune by his electronic music side project O$P$ – that showcases a gloriously Technicolor interpretation of Geylang reflects his sci-fiinfluences.
Race Krehel, digital artist
His aesthetic: Call it “psyberpunk”, says the American (@supercybertown) who’s been based here since 2008. A self-coined portmanteau of psychedelia and cyberpunk, the term certainly captures the 34-year-old’s vision of futuristic urbanscapes awash with throbbing neon lights, shaped in part by juggernauts of the genre such as Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. The Answer, a music video for O$P$ – the electronic music duo Krehel co-founded with local DJ Zushan Benny – sees songstress Vandetta rebirthed as a sentient artificial intelligence avatar, set amid an Akira-esque interpretation of Geylang. It’s a fascinating blend of 3-D animation and motion capture (the same technology used in Avatar). “I love building elaborate scenes for stories to play out in, so a lot of my work revolves around cityscapes in some aspect or another… It’s a semi-satirical take on what cities might look like in the not-too-distant future.” That said, he’s adept at pretty things too – he snagged top prize at the 2018 Sino x Niio Illumination Art Prize for his dreamy animation of a shrine on an idyllic island replete with floating rocks and sakura trees. What got him started: “I’ve always been interested in the digital creative arts... Movie Magic was my favorite TV show, and the science and craft behind film-making became a major passion. I went to Savannah College of Art and Design for film, but quickly switched to visual effects after realising that going to film school wasn’t a direct path into the industry. I moved here right out of college and started at Lucasfilm Animation Singapore two days later.” On Singapore’s animation scene: “Singapore’s small, which works to our advantage. There isn’t nearly as much competition as in New York, Los Angeles or Tokyo... We have resources at our disposal, and there’s space for everyone to make their mark.”
Media artist Tay has been adapting his dreams and transforming them into some of his latest works, which are often surrealistic compositions of organic shapes and glitchy machinery. Here, promo material for an underground rave and (opposite) a scene inspired by a dream of a K-pop idol set in a nightclub, with projections mapped onto her blank physical face.
BRANDON TAY, MEDIA ARTIST
His aesthetic: It’s hard to crystallise Tay’s animations into words. They tend to depict strange, abstract figures morphing from or into alien landscapes that would not be out of place in a Bjork production. One piece – Fertilising The Ovum, available for view on his Instagram account @brozm – shows an egg-like sac murkily transforming into a shape suggestive of a human face, before that too fades away. Another shows an amorphous blob of half-formed human bodies and faces melding into one another, calling to mind the scene in Terminator 2 where the antagonist T-1000 android flails about as it melts under high heat. And it’s just as well that his latest works draw on imagery from his dreams (he’s kept a dream journal since 2016). The 39-year-old favours juxtaposition and collaging because he finds that our existing visual vocabulary might not convey what he wishes to express. “I think of my work as excerpts from a world perhaps unfamiliar and bizarre, but hopefully with its own internal logic that makes it relatable,” he says. The unique compositions have made him a go-to collaborator among fellow artists – he’s one half of State Sensor, an experimental multidisciplinary practice that explores the boundaries between culture and technology. What got him started: “I got into computer graphics and animation after failing to become a photographer and filmmaker in my tertiary studies. I’m drawn to digital tools as they enable you to pull from disparate, often impossible sources to create something believably coherent.” On singapore’s animation scene: “Because of the pace in which new mediums and platforms emerge today, we’re living in a state of almost permanent future shock, which is both exciting and challenging for anyone wanting to grab a foothold in the industry. People want sure ways of making a living and being recognised for their vision, but a lack of definition of what that might look like makes it viable for anyone to have a go.”
Lolita Chiong, filmmaker and animator
Her aesthetic: “Nostalgia, 2000s, television, fuzzy, warm, chicken soup” may not make much sense on its own, but everything clicks when you hit Chiong’s Instagram account @lolita_cheong. Spazzy fonts, adorable animal caricatures and the general lo-fi nature of ’90 cartoons ooze from her works, recalling the era’s animated classics such as The Rugrats. Others remind you of children’s educational shows from the time except that Chiong’s subverted them with a sly sense of humour, including a short toon in which a customer shops up a storm at the supermarket to make a jelly filled with bits of meat. Outside of animation, Chiong’s beautiful watercolour illustrations bring to mind that of greats such as Quentin Blake. And while the TV shows of her childhood may have influenced her art, the 20-year-old is already playing a part in the childhoods of the next generation: her first animation job sees Chiong as the art director of a new local cartoon series, Small Small News, where ants serve as news anchors. What got her started: “I’ve always watched all kinds of TV programmes – horse racing, cooking shows, documentaries, cartoons, news, basically everything – and had been drawing what I saw on screen since I was a kid until I landed in art school.” On Singapore’s animation scene: “If more people invest in animation here, the scene will grow for sure... Right now we’ve very little IP and most animation is done for service work like corporate videos, government projects and other countries’ IP. It’s not special... A lot of people in the industry dream of leaving because there are such good cartoons and films being produced overseas. To change this, we need to see cartoons as film and entertainment.”
Watching all kinds of TV shows since childhood has had an influence on this 20-year-old and spilt over into her charming illustrations and animations, characterised by adorable caricatures and a gentle, fuzzy quality reminiscent of ‘90s cartoons.
"There’s an strong architectural slant to Adrianto’s graphic animations. This one, Muralla Roja, is inspired by the postmodern, pink-hued apartment complex in Calpe, Spain, from which it gets its name – a destination he’d love to visit some day."
Reynard Adrianto, motion designer
His aesthetic: Adrianto (@reygular) offers a wry and witty take on what he finds on social media and real life objects. For example, a recent work depicts a cluster of surveillance cameras – an increasingly ubiquitous fixture in cities. In his hands, he’s transformed its Orwellian connotations into something more jovial, animating the cameras so that they seem to be performing a jaunty synchronised dance. Other animations possess a hint of social commentary such as Jakarta Sinking, which visualises the Indonesian capital’s infamous rising sea levels with a loop of boats cruising against the city’s skyline. Then there are the videos with his signature toy-like sets, where strong colours, geometric shapes and loops of particular objects (very often, lustrous spheres) make their way through what appears to be an obstacle course. The diverse array is intentional, says Adrianto. “Rather than having a specific aesthetic or visual outcome, what remains consistent across all my videos is the intention to mesmerise and gratify the viewer.” What got him started: “I jumped into animation mainly due to my sense of curiosity. I have always been interested in movies since I was young. But because I was a kid and didn’t have the funds to actually make movies, I started picking up animation programs, and grasped the ins and outs of them to create my own narratives.” On Singapore’s animation scene: “The industry is still very young, and even more so in terms of 3-D animation. The downside to this is that the most influential 3-D voices and styles are not from here, but international. However, because we have a small number of animators, we’re all well-connected to one another. I get motivation and inspiration from my fellow artists and animators, and I can’t thank them enough for that.”