If art is a showcase of an artist’s heart 

by Yimin 

"I painted the sculpture of a pagoda that was being attacked by monsters when everyone else in my class was painting flowers in the blooming Yuhua Garden," Joanna recalls her childhood art class, where she consistently went against the grain. As we gradually sip our tea, each of her tales concludes with her amused laughter, brightening the atmosphere.

March 16, 2024

Using Chinese ink, she outlines her drawing on traditional rice paper. Yet, her strokes are infused with western techniques, creating a curious contrast that makes one pause to take a closer look. The finished product is a unique piece of work, featuring comic-like composition depicting innocuous daily life.

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《冬至》, part of the "24 Solstice in the Cat Universe series 喵喵星的二十四节气" , displayed at Hvala Cafe, 40 Craig Road. Image Credits: @artistmissmo

Pursuit in expression

Upon graduating from polytechnic, Joanna opted for the conventional path —a white-collar profession. Despite considering a full-time artist career, practical concerns held her back. However, she never ceased pursuing her passion for painting.  Exploring various mediums from watercolour to oil painting, Joanna found her niche in Chinese ink painting. Drawing inspiration from artists like Feng Zikai, she meticulously hones her artistic style, using ink and brush to depict fascinating people and things. Often, Joanna's paintings predominantly revolve around her own culture, fueled by a deep passion to share it with a wider audience. It is her way of preserving her Teochew heritage and educating others through interesting (and, sometimes amusing) illustrations.


Teochew Mooncake 朥饼. Image Credits: @artistmissmo


《地块凉地块坐》, inspired by a song of Tong Xin. Image Credits: @artistmissmo


《吃茶》, Image Credits: @artistmissmo

For artists like Joanna, the focus is not solely on the medium or style but rather on the thematic content portrayed in the artwork. The artist’s style draws audiences’ attention, but the crux lies in the concept within that sparks meaningful discussion.

Pondering forms of expression

She chooses different mediums she deems suitable for each concept. Joanna doesn't restrict herself to one medium, and shares a thought-provoking incident—an Artificial Intelligence (AI)- generated artwork received accolades in the Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Competition under the category of “digital arts/digitally-manipulated photography.” When the news of the win broke, views were polarised, some netizens likened it to deploying robots in the Olympic Games. This controversy saga ignited debates about the future of art and what it means for artists.

“I acknowledge that it (AI) is able to execute the intended creative vision, but, it seems to fall short in replicating human mistakes.” Joanna second guesses. To her, paintings reflect the journeys of individuals; artistic creation serves as a medium to express the various facets of human nature. While no one leads a perfect life, the pursuit of perfection, in her eyes, seems to undermine the true value of exploring a piece of art. The idea of unique beauty, in fact, adds the final human touch that becomes a unique language in artistic expression.

That said, one will never know how AI will further evolve. This dialectic between the two sides isn't necessarily contradictory but resembles a natural collective shift in consciousness throughout history. Consider the example of acrylic paints, which emerged disruptively but eventually gained wider acceptance, coexisting harmoniously with oil paintings. Perhaps, the key is to approach AI in art with an open mind, taking the time to learn and understand it fully, and then make judgments, as both the positive and negative aspects become apparent. In Joanna’s perspective, art should revolve around the empowerment of its audience. Artists need not limit themselves to a single form of expression but rather, select the best tool that bridges the gap between people.


Joanna's recent artwork,《乘风破浪的喵星人》"Cat immigrants brave the wind and billows", sharing the history of Chinese immigrant labor force in Singapore. Image Credits: @artistmissmo

A signature of unique expression

She employs bold brushwork to outline subjects, exhibiting an unwavering confidence reminiscent of the purity found in childhood art. Consequently, Joanna’s mentor has lauded her work for its childlike charm and expressed hope that this inherent innocence continues to be a defining feature.

In Joanna’s view, artists speak to the world in their own language, imbued with a touch of individuality. And the way she expresses her thoughts is through an unobscured lens; the childlike quality is not a façade but a true depiction of her inner pursuit and forthright mentality.

She is aware that as she ages and matures as an artist, her style will evolve; perhaps this innocence might fade from her works one day. That doesn't mean that her art will no longer be unique. It will still showcase her thoughts, done in her own distinct language. One may wonder, if art is a language of an artist’s heart—perhaps it is resonance of its expression that draws a buyer in.