Profile: Song-Ming Ang

Published on 5 January 2016

A karaoke system on a moving lorry is just one of artist Song-Ming Ang’s many experimental journeys.

BY Daphne Ong

One of Singapore’s most notable contemporary artists was most certainly not an early bloomer. In his youth, Song-Ming Ang was much more a jock than an artist. “I wasn’t into art at all when I was young,” he admits. “I wasn’t good at drawing, and I wasn’t really interested in colouring. I also didn’t enjoy art in school. I was more into football.”

It was while studying English Literature at the National University of Singapore that the Young Artist Award recipient got into making art and even then, it was “almost by accident”. After dabbling in experimental music and sound art in university, he started making installations and performances. He began attracting the attention of curators and in 2009, he won a scholarship from the National Arts Council to attend the prestigious Goldsmiths at the University of London (whose alumni include one Damien Hirst) where he earned his Master of Arts.

From drawings to music to photography to videos, Ang experiments in, and explores, a range of engaging and often experiential works. In 2012’s Parts and Labour, he spent months taking apart a disused piano and putting it together. And few who saw Yesterday – Mobile Karaoke at the 2011 Singapore Arts Festival will ever forget his travelling lorry that carried a karaoke system and zipped through the heartlands encouraging audiences to participate.

Music is clearly a dominant influence on Ang’s art. “I was introduced to rock music in junior college,” he says. “To me, part of the appeal of rock music is its counter-cultural association. Even as a teenager, I realised that music is very much tied to class and society, and that it can also be something very powerful and personal. In my art practice, I try to look into these interesting connections.”

The extensive range of Ang’s work also bears witness to both his philosophy in life and the other sources of his inspiration.

“I look at various artistic disciplines, from visual art and music to film and literature. I also try to be generally observant, so my sources of inspiration can be quite mundane. I tend to gravitate towards literature from any field, for example psychology or biology, that might help me understand our thought processes, biases and fallacies. I think practising art is not just about exposing myself to information and inspiration. It’s also about knowing how to process what I encounter.”

In 2011, Ang packed his bags for Berlin for an artist residency. Finding it a place where he could challenge himself and be exposed to more art, he now calls the city home. Ever cerebral, he relishes the ease of travelling around Europe and attending world-renowned shows like the Venice Biennale and Documenta in Germany.

“I let things stew for a while in my head and try to fully understand what I’ve seen before applying them to my own work,” Ang explains. “I think this could be the difference between merely copying and creating something with added value.”

A selection of Ang’s works can be  viewed at Singapore’s FOST Gallery.

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