A Singaporean, originally from Thailand, Kai works in operations as a blender in the oil industry. She knew from an early age that art would always be a part of her life but going to art school was not an option then. Nonetheless, she has continued to pursue her artistic dreams, quietly and meticulously building her portfolio after work. We did get a chance to spend some time with the lovely Kai and now you can find out more about her right here.
I think quite a few of us are intrigued about your work and how you got started from never having been to art school to keeping a portfolio with a diverse body of work. What can you say about your first exhibition and what are some of your earliest memories of drawing?
My first memory of drawing was in Thailand where my Primary school teacher would tell us what to draw and I was terrible at it! I remembered constantly asking my dad to finish my art homework for me as he’d get better marks.
My second memory of drawing was when I started school at New International School of Thailand (NIST) in Year 6. Mr. Zermani would make us draw a book introducing ourselves (I still have it!) and I would get really stressed out about it (flashbacks to first memory and bad grades.) But with his encouragement and later on a great art teacher, Ms. Krishna, both of them have instilled a passion for art in me which I can’t let rest.
I was set on pursuing an art education but due to various turns in events ended up doing a business degree. Nonetheless, I continued to take art enrichment courses such as pottery, photography, watercolour, charcoal drawing, oil painting and draw whenever time permits.
I feel so blessed to have my first exhibition in collaboration with SPRMRKT. I’ve started pushing my work to the public early this year and have been so lucky to meet Sue Shan and have the opportunity to work on this exhibition. There was quite a lot of doubt at first and a lot of hard work was involved but it is one of my proudest moments to date.
You do have a remarkable range of illustrations in your portfolio. What subject matter do you feel most connected to and who or what has been your sources of inspiration?
I started developing context in my work last year while spending time with my late grandfather in China. Prior to that, my works didn’t fit into a single theme. My favourite series is “Mr. Animal” which was sparked initially by the desire to improve my drawing skills. To my pleasant surprise – after illustrating the faces of these animals, I discovered that they each have personalities of their own! So I dress them according to the personality they convey to me.
Mr. Corporation was conceived a little differently where we discussed about some of the evil characters one sees in the office and thought it would be a good idea to use common local slang to identify these animal portraits while giving them a humourous twist! After these characters were crafted, I had such a blast creating all 10 of them!
Work in progress: my next series will continue to be focused on “Mr. Animal” but will be drawing inspirations from my faith featuring topics like 7 Deadly Sins.
It’s quite timely that your first showcase here at SPRMRKT is launching around the same time Home & Décor magazine commissioned you to design a poster for their interior design and decoration fair. Tell us more about it.
While I was working on SPRMRKT’s project, I was commissioned by Home & Décor to do a piece featuring the word “Home” for their Home & Décor Fair (4-6 Oct 2013.) I was one of the 8 local artists to have their art featured on the October issue and our works will be featured at Marina Square Central Atrium during the fair. There will also be an opportunity for their lucky readers to bring these prints home! Here’s a peek -
Great owl on SPRMRKT’s window by the way! Having never done an illustration on this scale before, you single-mindedly took up the challenge and it’s been a hit. Any reason why you chose the design you did? And have you ever thought about designing or becoming an artist as a full time profession?
When brainstorming for this piece, I was looking at designs that would look good in black and white lines. I eventually chose the owl as my subject as it has mysterious eyes and beautiful detail in its feathers that can be crafted into black line patterns.
Since young I’ve always dreamt of going to art school (I even know which school I want to go to!) and recently I’ve been looking for ways to create more awareness for my artworks. This year has been extremely rewarding and full of surprises. I’m happy with where things are now, being able to balance my time (and wallet!) with my full time job and my weekend art pursuit.
Coffee Shop Street Talk was another commission you did in collaboration with SPRMRKT and we love it! What are your top three local dishes you can’t live without?
Hotpot, Prawn Mee, Ngoh Hiang
In the third and final commissioned series, Mr Corporation, a collection of 10 animal portraits characterised with local slang were created and named to fit the environs. We love how you’ve managed to portray such familiar characters at work more winsomely. Whose other portraits have you done or will you want to do?
Work in progress: 7 Deadly Sins (Animal portraits portraying a sin)
I’ve done a portrait series of my family members and am planning to do more human illustrations as these are skills I would like more practise in.
We can’t wait to see your next series