by Jasmine

Art is another term for living, for storytelling, for expression. Wearing multiple hats as a graphic designer, artist and musician, Singaporean Jonathan Lim shows us that the Arts made it possible for him to pursue his dreams. 

November 29, 2019

Artist's painting, Superbowl Jurong.

Art is another term for living. Art made it possible for Singaporean artist, Jonathan Lim, to be living proof that local artists can survive as entrepreneurs in society today. Even when many seem to rule that as bleak or idealistic, his life stands out as inspiring. In between juggling music gigs, commissioned projects and art pieces for sale, he redefines what it means to be an entrepreneur — not that he has to be earning a lot, but that he can own his destiny.

He is currently on a residency program that provides him the opportunity to have a solo exhibition next year. His freelancing business is managed well — supporting his expenses and savings for the time being. Since he graduated from the School of Art, Design and Media (NTU) in 2017, he has not taken up a full-time position in any companies and instead, ventured out alone on his two feet. He mentions that he has been doing paid and voluntary projects since his army days, when he was 19 years old, and the concept of working independently wasn’t new. He is, perhaps, great news for budding artists who wishes to be standing on their creativity limbs.

In fact, Jonathan agrees that the entry level to being an artist is not high. ‘You don’t have to pass an art exam to be an artist. You might need some cash to get a camera but it is doable.’  

The decision to pursue his artistic dreams also comes from a calling to share his vision for the Singapore Arts scene.

'You don’t have to pass an art exam to be an artist. You might need some cash to get a camera but it is doable.'

Art is, therefore, another form of storytelling. He shares the Singaporean narrative to a global, digitally-connected and story-inclined audience through his Instagram profile, envisioning the Singapore art scene to take flight and desiring to bring it to the same pedestal as international accolade. He believes that local artists are as talented and diligent as those overseas — if not more — citing Singapore as ‘genuinely cool’. Through his artworks, that portrays the bits and pieces of Singapore life, he brings on storytelling in a disruptive and subconscious way. On his tablet, creativity is unleashed, and hope is built. Every drawing is a step closer to bringing the Singaporean narrative to his dream.

Artist's painting,  🎧 Bees — The Ballroom Thieves.

Artist's painting, East Coast Park.

Singaporean artist, Jonathan Lim.

'What I cannot change in life, I change in my paintings.'

His belief that art can make a difference stems from the unique way art delivers a message.  

Art also made it possible for him to express his outlook in life. For Jonathan, art is communicating his expression, his language and his moment in this fleeting world. While he cannot control the effect his works have on other people, he believes that his works can pass through time and be preserved.

Art has this power of romanticism not found elsewhere. The kind that allows one to edit reality in brief strokes, colours and brushes. The kind that allows the work to be grounded in some reality, but romanticized in the artist’s own language, characters and colours. 

‘What I cannot change in life, I change in my paintings,’ he shares. For Jonathan, digital painting provides him the chance to undo and mask certain mistakes he makes — which he believes does not come often in real life. So, while other artists opt for other mediums, such as oil or acrylic painting to remember the ichi-go ichi-e philosophy (the concept of treasuring the unrepeatable nature of a moment), he leans more towards digital painting. He adds that he will often inject elements of his emotions or thoughts into a painting, allowing each piece to be the portrayal of a semi-reality.

'Paintings capture part of who you are, it shows in your works; and photos capture what is in the moment of others,’ he adds.

Each painting often involves a snapshot taken from the memory of his brain or his phone. He then reconstructs the image and adds in elements of his style — humans, colours and angle. He is quick to say that he often times doesn’t have that clear a picture of the final presentation.

‘Part of the journey is to figure out. Sometimes, I draw not knowing what the end goal is,’ he says.

And this philosophy is the same for art as it is with life for him. He prefers very much to see what each new day entails, and he plans his life goals in broad strokes. For Jonathan, he takes it step by step, step by step. If Jonathan likens himself to an artwork, perhaps it would be this: that he is also a work in progress.  

'Part of the journey is to figure out. Sometimes, I draw not knowing what the end goal is,'

Artist's painting, Elgin Bridge.

Artist's painting, When Am I Gonna Lose You — Local Natives.

Artist's painting, Geylang Serai.

All image credits: Jonathan Lim (@whereartjon)