Thanks to a certain pop star, Tang Ling-Nah went from pharmacist and zoo officer to award-winning visual artist.
BY MELANIE LEE
Published on 2 August 2016
BY MELANIE LEE
In her past 19 years as an artist, Tang Ling-Nah has presented 11 solo exhibitions featuring architectural charcoal works. She has also been involved in 70 group exhibitions and performances, while producing commissioned art, as well as taken on art-educator and curator roles on top of pursuing degrees in fine art and translation/interpretation.
It may surprise you to know that, for someone so artistically accomplished, Tang’s artistic journey took on a meandering route. Although her secondary school form teacher encouraged her to pursue Art at ‘O’ Levels, Tang chose science subjects and went on to study Pharmacy at the National University of Singapore. After being employed as a pharmacist for a few years, she worked as an education officer at the zoo, all this while “doodling” on the side.
It was Taiwanese singer Jeff Chang who made her rethink her career choices. On attending his concert in 1995, Tang was so impressed by the singer’s angelic vocals, she became a firm supporter and even joined his local fan club. As she recalls, she felt inspired when Chang gave media interviews about his approach to work.
“Jeff always talked about how we only had one life, and how we should take the risk to turn dreams into reality. For the first time in my life, I began thinking about working as an artist.”
Today, the recipient of the 2004 Young Artist Award, known for her inclination towards charcoal, has been gravitating towards site-specific installations with performance. “My work has always been about relationships and the relationship between urban spaces and people. I’m exploring different ways to express drawing as a verb. Performances are able to capture the relationship between the physical body and space well.”
Even as she remains artistically productive, her work ethic is mindfully balanced with a sustainable approach towards practicing art. “If you work yourself to death, there will be no art,” she muses. Two years ago, she experienced a huge wake-up call when she suffered a prolapsed disc while her mother was being treated for colorectal cancer. These days, Tang does regular stretches and swims to keep her core strong.
Having imbibed a fair amount of artistic experiences, does Tang have any advice for budding young artists? “Don’t throw all your energy into your work and neglect taking care of your body. Don’t be burdened by the stereotypical notion that being an artist means that you will be poor. It’s all about how you manage the challenges.”
For more on Tang Ling-Nah’s work, visit activatedcstudio.blogspot.sg.