SAM x Shentonista: What’s In A Name — Slow Simmer

Just as we have our own unique relationship with our names, the names by which others call us is also indicative of their relationship to us. For instance, an acquaintance would most likely refer to us by our proper, given name, while close friends and family would have their own pet names for us.

This is what intrigues Ling most about the concept of names.

As a part of the Partnerships and Patronage team at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Ling interacts with countless people on the job, from teammates to external donors and stakeholders, which, as one would expect, involves lots of self-introductions. This might be why Ling sees her name more as a method of efficiency to get her attention than as the core of her identity.

But of course, there’s a lot more to her than just her name, like her past experiences (she worked in banking for some years before making the switch to the arts sector), the way that she thinks, how she dresses, and her passion for the arts.

In the third and final part of our collaborative series with SAM, we sat down for a chat with Ling about what it is that makes her ‘Ling’—read on to find out more as we pick her mind.

Joo Jae-Hwan, 39 bricolage paintings and 1 sculpture, 1997 – 2022, as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 — Natasha.

Shentonista (S): Is there a particular connection or story that you have behind your name, Ling?

Ling (L): My name was given to me by my grandfather after consulting Fengshui masters and my birth chart, so the characters are supposed to be auspicious together, but other than that, I don’t have much of a story to share about it.

I think it’s interesting that we have a name that our parents gave us; a more colloquial, shortened name that our friends give us; and a whole bunch of different nicknames given to us by different people at different stages of our lives. So if you ask me how I relate to my name, I would say that it’s just a method of efficiency to call me.

Joo Jae-Hwan, 39 bricolage paintings and 1 sculpture, 1997 – 2022, as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 — Natasha.

S: You worked in banking for some years before switching careers and joining SAM. What prompted this change?

L: My interest in the arts! I love art because it’s such a good way to learn about something or someone that you would have never otherwise thought or conversed about. Because different works mean different things to, and spark different memories from different people, so just by appreciating art and talking about it with someone else, you could gain a very different perspective about a certain issue or life in general.

As for why I made this career switch, there are few places that can give you the experience that a museum can—to learn what goes on behind the scenes, how an exhibition is put together, and how the whole outfit is run. Museums are a unique space to be in, to pause, reflect and to just look at art, and I really wanted to further my knowledge of such an intriguing institution.

S: Why is fundraising and donorships so important for museums?

L: As an institution, we need to be financially sustainable and independent. The cost of putting up an exhibition is quite substantial, so we always need a lot of support to do that.

What’s more, museum programmes and exhibitions are largely free for the public in Singapore, so we aren’t able to gather funds in that area. The museum also does a lot of joint programming with social service agencies, like bringing elderly and children here to experience the artworks, and these programmes are very labour intensive, which requires some form of monetary support as well.

See why you should support SAM here.

Joo Jae-Hwan, 39 bricolage paintings and 1 sculpture, 1997 – 2022, as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 — Natasha.

S: How do you express your sense of identity and self through the way that you dress?

L: Comfort is important to me, because if you’re not comfortable, it comes through in your behaviour.

I tend to dress in muted tones, because that’s what I’m most comfortable in. Today I’m all bright and colourful to match Joo Jae Hwan’s works—39 bricolage paintings and one sculpture. In fact, it’s one of the only coloured pieces that I have in my wardrobe.

S: If you were to curate an exhibition with your clothes, what would it look like, and what would it be called?

L: I think it would look like Joo Jae-Hwan’s works. It would just be about the everyday—my everyday, which might not be very interesting, so I admire the artist’s ability to make everyday encounters thoughtful and humorous.

Joo Jae-Hwan, 39 bricolage paintings and 1 sculpture, 1997 – 2022, as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 — Natasha.

S: What was your first impression of Joo Jae-Hwan’s works, and why did you pick his works in particular for this collaboration?

L: My first impression of his works is that they’re lighthearted, funny, and a very good palette cleanser from some of the other heavier or more serious artworks in the Biennale.

It gives a lot of serious thought to a very mundane thing, like how long a wet top takes to dry, but also touches on more serious issues like global warming and how we endanger animals, and yet also makes fun of the art world. Through his works, you get to see the bigs and smalls of the world—it’s contemplative on many levels, and that’s why I chose this particular work.

S: What do you think Joo Jae-Hwan’s works say about finding beauty in the everyday?

L: To me, his works reflect how we often go through life in a hurry, and we often only remember the big moments like birthdays, celebrations, or weddings, but it’s a very nice reminder that there’s so much beauty that could be appreciated and taken from the everyday if we just slowed down.

Not everything has to be an adventure. Thoughtful moments can also stem from the act of reflecting on what we spend time with everyday. I think that’s interesting—beauty doesn’t just exist in a big holiday, or in a very picturesque setting. It could also be found in the way we derive meaning from the smallest of things.

S: What do you hope that people will take away from Joo Jae-Hwan’s works?

L: This isn’t so much a takeaway that I hope people will have, but more of a hope for the way in which they appreciate the works in general. I hope people will spend time with it, and read through all the translations in the descriptions, because they’re a part of the work as well, and that’s where the humour in each piece really shines through. It’s a really good work to spend a lot of time with, and I hope that people do just that.

Joo Jae-Hwan, 39 bricolage paintings and 1 sculpture, 1997 – 2022, as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 — Natasha.

This is a content partnership with Shentonista and the Singapore Art Museum. We’ll be at SAM on 14 & 15 Jan from 1–5PM, hoping to photograph and tell the stories of those who come by—we hope to see you there!

Entry to the Singapore Biennale galleries is free from 6 to 15 Jan. To learn more, go to or follow @sgbiennale (IG) @SingaporeBiennale (FB).

Singapore Biennale 2022
Natasha joined by many other names

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