Abandoning Originality


My conversations with people around me on the subject of creativity are very often met with a wishful expression — “oh how I wish I know how to do art” — sometimes tinged with envy — “if only I can be that creative!”

I relish in these moments. They show that people do think about art. These expressions act like little glimpses of hope in a world that sometimes trivializes the power of art and creativity.

One thing that can be of consensus for sure then, is that the idea of being an artist has its appeal, regardless of individual backgrounds. I understand the appeal, and am personally trying to stay close to that allure. But staying close to this allure often comes with consequences, one of them being needing to face criticism that making art is unattainable. Sometimes I find myself winding up in this vicious cycle where I internalize these pessimism when it comes to creating.

Through these interactions, I have come to realise that the type of creativity that most people believe in is more often than not associated as a quality only a few possess, almost like a god-given ability — something that you either have it or not. Sometimes I question whether is that a narrative that we instil in our social environment in order to protect ourselves from judgement and criticism when creating (if there’s even any creating at all). What if we are to be more forgiving when it comes to deciding what’s creative and what’s not? What if we acknowledge that defining creativity in itself is non-restrictive? By letting go of the idea that creativity is within reach only for some people?

I kind of loathe the idea of reducing creativity to a list of self-help rules as if there’s a methodical way of being creative. I prefer this article’s reinterpretation of creativity — as a form of integration — a way of thinking and thus as a way of living. There’s creativity involved in being a maker of art, and there’s also creativity in the making when someone looks at a work of art. There’s creativity involved in overcoming grief, heartbreaks, in parenthood, in maintaining relationships and of course the most obvious, in writing that novel or coming up with that big campaign idea. The idea that non-artists can be creative in their lives breaks up the shackles of sacred originality and for that as an artist and as a creator, it makes all the difference.

About Play


'The game is the process, not the finished product. Importantly, when we play and make art, the products we make, the things we do are autotelic – they are their own end in themselves; as Hannah Arendt wrote: ‘only where we are confronted with things which exist independently of all utilitarian and functional references … do we speak of works of art.’ In this way, play could be considered as an anti-capitalistic activity.'

'One must feel secure to play.'

'To play is to experiment, to discover, to recover pleasure, to uncover the secret, do the possible, the impossible, to invent and make the thing that is unmakeable, to cross the bridge you couldn’t cross, light wet fire, walk on water, fly. It is for an agoraphobic to sing in front of a crowd, dance, laugh and cry, paint a picture, forget worries, pain and death, live outside of time, be in the flow, connect, disconnect, reconnect, imagine, make.'

These are some of the important points from this article that I resonated with most. When I first chanced upon this article, it was during a time where I considered more seriously on pursuing the path to teach art. I wanted to learn how art can be integrated into a person’s life and especially so for an age group that I am so biologically different from.

Turns out in hindsight, I was submitting to the desire to spread awareness (on play, the importance of creative expression, among other things) while subconsciously seeking out the confidence to play. Play sounds like such a simple and natural concept but as we grow older, especially in Singaporean context, somehow it becomes this negative thing subjected to guilt and shame. “Don’t waste time, stop playing already!” That’s why this article puts my thoughts back into perspective, that play is important and is a lot of different things altogether. Especially in the context of art, the concept of play can help to bring out not only what’s on the canvas but also beyond what images and words can convey.

Something that I wish I’ve learnt earlier in life was, that play looks like different things for different people and I do it in the only way I know how to that is, by doing art.

Art That Was Never Finished

I would have loved to view this art exhibition in person. One reason I find paintings done particularly from the Renaissance to pre-Impressionistic periods difficult to grasp is that they look so anatomically realistic and ‘complete’. As if the artist’s only intention was to perfect the technicalities behind the art-making, or that the artwork can only be seen as a means to an end; the hands and brain were working, while the heart was not.

Just knowing that there are unfinished artworks out there gives me a sense of connectedness, wholeness (I see the paradox). A kind of feeling that is almost inexplicable but I’ll try to explain… Firstly, the connectedness I feel with other art-makers whose artworks sometimes need to be left undone and resumed another time or never again. We are subjected to the environment and context to which the art is being made. Or that any artwork we do need not always require a sort of finishedness; we can decide for ourselves when an artwork can be considered ‘finished’ but also, in my own opinion, artworks can never truly be ‘finished’.

Next, seeing the process of the art-making being made more apparent through the unfinished parts of the canvas left me feeling a kind of wholeness that binds the art and the art-maker. These are reputable artists who are regular human beings who made/make art through similar means. We are the same at the very core of being, just living different lives, making different things, bound by the process when we are making. The making is process, and process is key.