Why Study Art?


I don’t know why I chose this picture. Many ways to see it I guess. Looks like a topic to have a late night drink and a smoke over. Looks like a reflection of how I’m feeling right now. Looks like what people see studying art results in.

I…just had to post this. I think I’d refine the question further: Why study art in Singapore?

Let’s break this down. There can be two meanings to this question: Why study art in Singapore (and not elsewhere) and Why study art (when you are in) Singapore. Either way, this question often surrounds us art students in Singapore. I guess I’m writing this out of midnight angst.


A friend of mine shared this site on Facebook. This aptly describes my feelings about my own education. I’m not generalising by saying it apples to everyone who’s gone through education here (although I believe I’m not the only one who feels this way). I’ve attended what most would consider ‘good schools’ and I came out of them a little disillusioned. It just wasn’t what I wanted. I found that out halfway through and let’s just say, I couldn’t quit the system for various reasons. I’m just really fortunate to be able to do what I’m doing now, and loving it at the same time.

Well, let’s first look at the reasons people DON’T study art.

1. It’s not lucrative. (Or at least not lucrative enough in Singapore.)

The arts scene in Singapore is supposed to be developing well and all but to the older generation (in general), it’s just not a lucrative career. Honestly, even I fear for my own future.

There are two paths art school could lead you down, either towards the commercial side or the fine art side, to put it simply. It’s a great struggle I’m facing and I’m sure I’m not alone. There are different pros and cons to either and I’m still not sure which way I want to go.

If I’m looking at working in Singapore, a commercial career seems to be a ‘safer’ option. Though I must say commercial photography in Singapore is appealing to me lesser and lesser, what with people charging extremely low rates; it’s like photographers are not getting the respect and remuneration they should receive for their work. I believe this applies to designers and artists as well. Clients expect to pay lesser and get more. There are people in the line who kill their own kind by pricing their services low. Then there are clients who put up competitions to get more designs to choose from at a lower price. Honestly, I’m a bit sickened by what’s going on.

Fine art, as another option, is kind of viable…if you’re the best of the best. Which isn’t going to be everyone who graduates from an art school. Enough said.

Actually, that one reason probably summarises all the reasons why people just don’t study art. It’s just too uncertain. And certainty is something we’ve grown up trusting in. Like how we check, double check and triple check our work, it’s a little tough to step away from the comfort of knowing that there’s a stable job at the end of the tunnel.

That was pretty depressing. Let’s move on to the more exciting part, shall we?

So. Why study art?

1. Art never fails to amaze.

I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but art never fails to amaze me in ways I never would have thought. They can be beautiful pictures, meaningful documentaries, artsy films, anything. It just strikes a chord and reminds me of things I’ve forgotten in my own selfish struggles in my life. That is enough reason in itself.

2. You come in touch with people who create these amazing art.

It’s wonderful being in art school when you see your friends go out and do amazing stuff and you’re all starry-eyed as you look at them across the coffee table as they sit with their legs on the table cursing about the blister on their foot or complaining about their constant hunger. It’s a side other people never see. And well, street cred. Period.

3. You get to make your own art!

Actually this should be number one, I don’t know what came over me now that it’s third. Nonetheless, it’s THE reason why people study art, because people want to make their own art. As easy as that. I want to take photos and I want to make my photos say what I can’t say in words. And I want them to reach other people and touch them too. It’s a beautiful feeling when people tell me they feel that I’ve said what they couldn’t through my photos. It’s wonderful, you just got to do it to know it.

4. Art makes a change.

It does. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big change like how Eugene Smith’s photograph brought light to the Minamata situation or a small one like making a person cry while watching a film. Art makes a change.

On a side note, my school was entirely left out of the bus shuttle service within school so it’s hell trying to get out of school on a rainy day. The only redeeming part about this is that someone put up a picture of a white elephant at the bus stops that were no longer in use (including ours) and that was like a middle finger to the brains who decided our school need not be part of the system. I loved it. I hope it changed something. Haha.

5. Art heals.

The experience of looking at art and making art is a remarkable process. When people are happy, they make art. When people are angry, they make art. When people are depressed, they make art. And at least for me, when I make art when I’m feeling under the weather, I feel like it’s a self-healing process. I channel these negative feelings and express them through my art and it’s like a purging experience.

6. Lastly, art knows no boundaries.

Okay, maybe there are. But that’s not enough reason to stop doing it.

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