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Published on 28 January 2018

Get to know these Singapore artists making waves on Instagram.

By  Jaclynn Seah

While scrolling through the endless sea of curated flat lays of latte art and oh-so-candid travel shots that populate your Instagram feed, you stop to stare at what looks like a bunch of baby heads in a gumball dispenser on @qimmyshimmy. With over 800 million users on Instagram today, it takes an especially creative point of view to stand out — and @qimmyshimmy (aka Lim Qi Xuan) has garnered almost 60,000 followers with her unusual clay sculptures that are intensely lifelike, creepy and strangely beautiful all at once.

A graphic designer currently pursuing an Information Design degree in the Netherlands, Lim started her sculpting journey through youth arts platform Noise Singapore’s The Apprenticeship Programme in 2013, but recently made waves online when works from her Instagram feed were picked up by international publications.

The rapidly growing audience and visual nature of Instagram seems tailor-made for extending the reach of visual arts, an important channel for independent artists and arts institutions alike trying to make an impact in an increasingly cluttered media landscape. Many might remember social media feeds in Singapore exploding in a sea of polka dots when National Gallery Singapore launched Yayoi Kusama: Life Is the Heart of a Rainbow last year. In just four months, over 13,000 photos were tagged with the official hashtag #SGlovesKusama and the increase in online viewership was surely a factor that contributed to the record-breaking visitor figure of over 235,000.

But many Singaporean artists remain relatively low-key on social media despite the potential for outreach, with followings ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand, small when you consider that social influencer accounts easily command hundreds of thousands of followers. Most local artists lack the time and resources required to properly curate a platform that has become increasingly commercial with the introduction of paid advertising and algorithms that pander to advertisers, while others like Lim are wary about possibly compromising their artistic vision.

“I never make works just for Instagram and it becomes very problematic if artists start doing that purely to become influential,” says Lim, who is pragmatic about her online popularity. “Yes, it gives you a kick [to have a large following], but someone told me that being popular on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly — you still need to do the real work in real life.”

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“So many people get discouraged when they see their numbers dwindling,” says Dianne Villa Capulan, a calligrapher and photographer who runs Souldeelight Creative Studio, referring to complaints of how Instagram’s constant changes to their feed algorithm has affected engagement of smaller businesses who don’t have the budget to pay for advertising. “But the number of likes a post gets shouldn’t be a gauge of one’s validity as an artist.”

A former software engineer and self-taught calligrapher and photographer, Capulan has over 14,000 followers on her Instagram account @souldeelight and uses it to promote her calligraphy workshops. She receives a steady stream of enquiries about her work daily, “despite engagement being abysmal on Instagram some days”. But what’s remarkable is how she has creatively transformed her Instagram feed into a work of art in itself. While each post showcases her calligraphy art works, they are just a small part of a meticulously planned artwork that can be seen in full glory while browsing the @souldeelight Instagram feed with its 3×3 grid layout.

For photographer Ng Wei Jiang, his Instagram account @orhganic is his main artistic canvas, and interacting with his audience of almost 62,000 followers has inspired him beyond his initial foray of self-expression. “Having a large audience made me think harder about what I posted. It made me want to create works that resonated with others.” Known for a signature style of stark black-and-white architectural photos, @orhganic stands out in a platform often bombarded with photos of highly saturated colourful and moody sepia-toned filters. Each of Ng’s photos can stand alone, but take the time to scroll through his feed and you will be rewarded with surprise collages made from the different shapes found within his photographs.

There is plenty of room on Instagram for artists to explore their own paths, limited only by their creativity. Still, one thing all three artists agree on is that Instagram can be a powerful tool that lets artists connect, not only with a wider audience who might not otherwise have the chance to see their art, but also with other creators, companies and industry colleagues all over the world. Lim sums it up best, “I’ve met many amazing people online who have become real-life friends, and for that I am thankful.”

Down to a Fine Art - Spice up your feed by following these Singaporean artists on Instagram.

@chuttersnap

Seventeen-year old Klaus Tan bills himself as Singapore’s youngest wedding photographer when he started covering weddings professionally… at the age of 15! His photography is also widely published through his affiliation with free stock photo website, Unsplash.com.

@ivanhooart

Ivan Hoo is an Instagram juggernaut with over 200,000 followers on his account who love his hyper-realistic artworks. Check out the work-in-progress videos which show how all his work is completely drawn and painted by hand.

@aiclay

Jocelyn Teo sculpts miniature food replicas and made waves a few months back when singer John Legend commissioned her to create miniature models of his wife Chrissy Teigen’s latest cookbook recipes.

@yishkabob

Writer, playwright, poet — Ng Yi-Sheng’s Instagram account is worth following for his #yishreads series where he has over 400 posts and micro-reviews dedicated to the eclectic selection of books he has read.

@psxcharmaine

Charmaine Poh is a documentary photographer and artist. Her work revolves around memory, gender, youth and solitude. Her feed is full of evocative, thoughtful shots, some of which offer a behind-the-scenes look at the projects she is working on.

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