Tze Yang is a guy who decided to dedicate a big portion of his life to painting. He’s also passionate about personal histories, heritage, languages, and cultures of the region, which has led him to his major in Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. For him, all these things are deeply intertwined and it’s in his paintings one can see these interests of his.
Where does your passion for painting come from?
I’ve always been into art. Like every kid, I doodled my childhood away, and somehow that urge to create continued till today. I think it also has to do with my parents, who were both from creative industries; it shaped my upbringing. Now it really is in hindsight do I now realise how important art has always been to me. Art was naturally my favourite subject throughout my schooling life. The painting came during junior college, especially with the exposure to art history, and being inspired by all of the old Western masters like Lucian Freud and Vincent Van Gogh. Outside of class, I spent my free time painting, experimenting. One day I’m Freud, the next I’m Pollock. Maybe somehow this is what I’ve always been doing in life, and I’m just doing what I was made to do.
Ah Ma’s Kitchen, 2016, Oil on canvas, 92 x 122 cm
UOB Painting of The Year (Silver Award) (Established Category)
UOB Art Collection
How do you hope people will feel when they see your works?
The simple evocation of feeling is a guiding principle with my work. I don’t give a shit about theory and concepts in art. I want my work to evoke feeling regardless of my viewer’s background - whether you are a handphone salesman or PhD art historian. There are certain things in life that can’t be explained with words, and that’s where a painting - an image made up of strokes, forms and colours communicate that emotion. Just like how we simply look and not say so much when we see a lover’s face or a sunset. I guess those are the things I strive for in a painting.
You had a exhibition in KL recently. Could you tell us more about it?
I did a solo exhibition at a KL gallery OUR Art Projects entitled “Evening”, comprising a series of works made from 2016-2017. I chose a theme that I’ve constantly visited through these few years and dove into it. The works captured my personal experiences with the night in Singapore, simple things like leftover meals or banal sights on the way home. In this series I also began including human figures into my works, which has always been something I avoided.
Do you feel that creativity can be learned or is it something one is born with?
Pretty much something you’re born with. Sure, it’d be nice if we can be democratic about creativity but look around and it’s obvious some have it and some don’t. And it’s okay. There are many more things one can be great at, just as a creative person like myself sucks at many other things. Like math.
What’s the most played song currently on your phone right now?
The Only Thing - Sufjan Stevens
How do you keep yourself inspired?
I like this quote by American artist Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work.” The work is all that matters. Everything else is cakap banyak (talking too much)
What’s the most favourite painting you’ve ever made so far? And why ?
Hmm I don’t think I have one. It’s all a process and I feel satisfied with a work for a while and then I move on to the next. But there are definitely works that I feel that have been more successful than others.
Name something you can’t live without.
Chye Tau Kueh (fried carrot cake)
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
My junior college art teacher PG Lee told me “You are a painter” and that kind of validation pushed me on to where I am today.
That said, where do you see yourself in the next few years? Are there any projects you want to explore?
My dream is to do art full time. My brain is constantly brimming with ideas for projects. I find it hard to pinpoint and be confidently say what exactly I’m gonna do in a few years. Plans are only plans. Ideas are only ideas. It’s the eventually doing that counts anyway.