Acting is no longer his mainstream now, says former and director Edmund Chen. “I’m more film and television actor like a content producer – be it a movie, a toy, a book or an advertising project,” he adds. He is also grabbing headlines for other reasons – as an artist. To date, he has put together art installations, created the world’s longest drawing that nabbed a Guinness World Record, as well as put out a series of picture books. We chat with him to find out more.
Talk about your foray into art.
It all started as a kind of escape for me. I was in primary school when someone gave me colour pencils for my birthday. During that time, there was a weekly drawing contest and I submitted mine every week and would regularly win a small prize. That was a huge encouragement for me. Also, as a kid, I wanted many things but my parents couldn’t afford them. So, through art and drawing the things I wanted, my needs were fulfilled, somewhat vicariously.
How did you come up with the My Little Red Dot series?
Each of my storybooks in the series has a “value” behind it. The series started with how I felt about the need to recognise and create “works of value” – it’s important for us to have a good moral compass and good values at heart. At times, we may struggle to do the right thing, but the one thing that can guide us is having a good set of values.
What was your source of inspiration for this series?
These stories were inspired from my observations of daily life. Every day, there are new events taking place and new people we meet – all these inspire me deeply.
What genre of art do you like?
I am attracted to all sorts of art, be it a sculpture, painting, play, song or anything that can inspire and surprise me, and that can also trigger my curiosity and creativity.
Who is your favourite artist?
I’d like to think every artist is my master. I appreciate not just what they’ve created but also their journey, commitment and courage.
How important is art to the man on the ground?
In our modern society, we are relatively comfortable in the material sense. This is where art and culture come in. Art lets us express other aspects of our lives such as aesthetics, love, compassion and so forth. It teaches us on how we should appreciate life.
What are you currently working on?
It’s a campaign about climate change and creating greater awareness called “Our Coral Garden”. The foundation of a healthy planet is the corals – they are a natural defence system against climate change. Having a healthy ecosystem where corals thrive is like having a healthy immune system. I hope to bring awareness to the idea of caring and coming together to effect change.
Tell us about some of your artwork that you are most proud of.
It would be my 700m long drawing that is certified the world’s longest drawing by an individual for the Guinness World Records. It was truly a journey of creativity for me during that project and there were many challenges I faced: I had to answer questions like “how am I supposed to execute the drawing”, “how am I going to draw it”, “how am I going to hold the drawing”, and “where am I supposed to get paper”. The entire journey was crazy.
What is the most memorable experience you have had during your family travels?
We were once at the Louvre in Paris, where we literally spent an entire day soaking up art. As we walked from gallery to gallery, my son, who was studying art then, took his time to explain to us the history and essence of every major object. That was amazing.
“Art isn’t just about looking good – it should have value and function.”
How would you cultivate a love of art and culture among young people and society at large?
It’s about cultivating interest rather than focusing on the end product. Let the younger ones enjoy the moment and have the space to create instead of just paying attention to technique, which defeats the purpose of creating art. Also, art isn’t just about looking good – it should have value and function.
What are your thoughts on Singapore’s art scene?
Singapore is a melting pot where we are connected to so many places and have access to diverse cultures. Therefore, it’s a great place to develop our own art.
Do you still find time to take on film/TV projects as an actor?
Maybe one day. I’ll leave it to fate.