High Intensity

Published on 26 March 2017

Photos: Sarah Choo Jing

A love for work and dogged determination is what drives multidisciplinary fine artist Sarah Choo Jing.


Multidisciplinary fine artist Sarah Choo Jing has a day job. She teaches the Art Elective Programme at Nanyang Girls’ High School. By her own admission, she teaches “about life”. After all, students can learn how to draw online, she says. “I teach them ideas, ways of thinking, values like perseverance — to push them to persevere in difficult situations.”

Nobody knows more about dogged determination than Choo. When she was in Secondary 3, she asked her school principal to let her take art lessons on the sly as her parents had pressed her to pursue Additional Mathematics instead
of Art.

In her second year at junior college, Choo, who paints photorealistic paintings, was offered a full scholarship at the prestigious Goldsmiths, University of London, to study art. Unfortunately, she had to reject it. Her parents had said she would be “out of the family” if she chose to leave. Thankfully, they are “okay” with her career choice today.

The “intense” artist admits she throws herself into work. “I need to work and work and work. If I can’t — due to illness, for example — I will get upset,” she says.

As part of her seventh solo exhibition, an immersive video installation titled Art of the Rehearsal, Choo shot photographs of different back alleys across Kampong Glam, Little India, and Chinatown. She then digitally stitched the images before printing and painting over it with watercolour for a more surreal effect.

At first glance, her work seems out of place, almost unnerving. “A lot of my work has that characteristic. It’s always uncannily stitched to perfection that some people get a bit put off because they feel guarded. It looks seamless but they know it’s not right,” says Choo.

She describes Art of the Rehearsal as a “whole production”, where she learned the art of drawing focus, sound composition, perspectives and seamless projection from Shanghai-based cinematographer Jeffrey Ang Poh Wee, sound designer Teo Wei Yong, as well as GSM Projects. By working with other professionals and artists, she is able to elevate her work and learn new skills, she reasons.

Driven to excellence, the artist counts top honours at the 2013 ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu photography award among many triumphs, trophies and accolades received.

Says Choo, “No artist is ever satisfied. There will always be something that can be improved on. If I look at my work and think there is nothing to be improved, then I’m sorry. I am not going to be doing very well in future because I’m not critical enough.”

Catch Sarah Choo Jing’s ongoing Art of the Rehearsal at the National Museum of Singapore.

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