SAM x Shentonista: Novel Ways Of Dressing—Solitude

In the debate between what could be essential and what is not, art and the pursuit of it often falls into the latter category. A seasoned public officer before joining Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) marketing communications and creative team, Yeong Chong hopes to change these perceptions about art in Singapore. In our interview with him, Yeong Chong delves deeper into how the medium of art, including the artwork by Nguan which he chose as his sartorial inspiration, can be used as a vehicle to share essential messages relevant to us in the current day and time.

From now till 30th November, you can also seek fashion inspiration from the ongoing Time Passes exhibition by SAM and stand a chance to be rewarded with $500. Continue reading on till the end of the article to find out how you can participate in our Novel Ways Of Dressing open call.

Shentonista (S): Share with us a little more about your role at SAM.
Yeong Chong (YC): I’m the senior manager of marketing communications and creative at SAM, and our team helps to tell the brand story of the museum and the people behind it.

S: What does Nguan’s  Untitled mean to you, and how did this artwork inspire your outfit choice?
YC: Cast in Nguan’s signature pastel hues and set next to the beach, the piece raises more questions than answers—it’s an invitation for many interpretations without providing a clear resolution, which is what art should be. Similarly, for my outfit, I’ve tried to convey that same soft, formlessness found in the image, while invoking nautical elements in my choice of accessories through the tiny pearl ear stud and the beaded wristlet.

S: To us, Nguan’s photo can be a depiction of the sense of isolation many of us might have struggled with this year—what’s your main takeaway from it?
YC: To me, the photo can also be viewed as a depiction of care—an elderly lady clutching a child’s bag and water bottle, eyes cast towards something out of frame. Is she watching out for a grandchild who’s playing by the shore? Is she drawn to the majesty of the sea? In many ways, while one can point out the sense of solitude during this time, the pandemic has similarly underscored how we continue to care for one another, and for ourselves.

Nguan, Untitled, from the series ’Singapore’, 2012, as part of The Learning Gallery. Collection of the Singapore Art Museum.

S: You joined the SAM team earlier this year—what prompted you to make the job switch?
YC: After 10 years working on large scale government campaigns, I decided a change in scenery was long overdue. SAM was every bit I thought it would be—a small, tightly knit community of people passionate about their craft. I couldn’t have asked for more.

S: How do you think doing marketing for art differs from other industries?
YC: Unlike typical consumer goods and services or government policies, where the messaging or product is often actionable, art in Singapore has the unenviable task of having to demonstrate to audiences that it is also ‘essential’. It’s as if its amorphous nature has rendered it somewhat not deserving of ‘serious’ attention. Hence, I believe arts education is so important to cultivate the public awareness of the role of art as a human endeavour to inspire, to remind, and to create.

S: During your time at SAM, how has your understanding of art changed from interactions with your colleagues?
YC: The art world comes with an unapproachable aura—one that’s so easily dispelled once you come into contact with the people behind it. If anything, it can be as inviting and approachable as you let it be.

Nguan, Untitled, from the series ’Singapore’, 2012, as part of The Learning Gallery. Collection of the Singapore Art Museum.

S: We noticed from your Instagram that you’re quite an avid photographer yourself!
YC: I love to photograph vast expanses of emptiness, especially where the horizon splits the scene into earth and sky, or in many cases, sea and sky. There is a sense of longing in such images that can be construed as loneliness, but there’s also solace in solitude.

S: What would you say is your favourite place in Singapore, apart from your home?
YC: Lower Pierce Reservoir. I grew up in the area, exploring the forest before the boardwalk was even up. These days I go back to soak in the nostalgia and sit by the water’s edge.

S: Nguan is someone who’s popular on Instagram—with new forms of social media taking over our phones (and lives), how do you think people’s consumption and expectations of art have changed?
YC: I think Nguan’s popularity is a testament to his photographic eye, and that makes him stand out amongst the overwhelming volume of content that is pushed to us on social media these days. It’s very easy to say one is a photographer or a DJ these days—these are some of the crafts that have been democratised with the proliferation of technology. Yet, there’s still a huge gulf between owning the equipment (or having an Instagram account with its myriad of filters) and ‘doing art’. Just like how it has become so easy to publish material online, but that doesn’t necessarily make one a content marketer or an ‘influencer’. Make no doubt about it: Nguan is one of my favourite photographers in recent years, whereas I’m just someone who has an Instagram account.

Be fashionably inspired by the artworks that are part of the ongoing Time Passes exhibition and stand a chance to be rewarded with $500—to participate in our open call for Novel Ways of Dressing, simply follow the steps below:

1/ Visit the Time Passes exhibition either digitally (at the link here) or in-person, from now till 30th November
2/ Find your fashion inspiration from any work on display and dress up
3/ Snap a photo of yourself in your curated outfit next to the artwork that inspired it, and tell us why you were inspired by it. If you’re visiting the exhibition virtually, simply tell us in your post which artwork you’re referencing.
4/ Share it on either Facebook or Instagram (or on Stories!) and remember to tag the Singapore Art Museum (@singaporeartmuseum), Shentonista (@shentonista) and add the hashtag #NovelWaysOfDressing to your post!

This is a content partnership with Shentonista and the Singapore Art Museum. Throughout this month, we’ll continue to share more stories from the individuals that make up Singapore Art Museum how they were inspired from the works on display at SAM’s Learning Gallery, so keep a lookout.

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