Sebastian Mary Tay is an artist based in Singapore, who recently graduated from MRes in Creative Practices at The Glasgow School of Art. His award-winning work incorporates photography, sculpture and installation.
When and how did you start making art? How did you get where you are now in your career?
I was an incredibly active child, and when I was five, my family decided it was a good idea to enrol me into a community children art class. That was the first time – not consciously – that I allowed my mental capacity to focus on the completion of a creative task.
By ten years old, I was attending weekend classes in an art institution, learning how to work with traditional mediums and techniques. This continued for years, and I eventually decided to pursue art academically.
Initially, I majored in painting, and later discovered a better compatibility between myself and the photographic. I continued to study fine art photography for an undergraduate degree and proceeded to do a research postgraduate degree. The practice of an artist is a lifelong process of refinement, and I am still working on it.
What do you make and what are the ideas behind what you make?
My current practice involves the making of photographic works, installations, and sculptural work.
The contrasting lack of land mass in Singapore and the excess in Scotland, even though both countries have approximately the same amount of population interests me.
I started fabricating landscapes out of flour, sawdust, and pigment, presenting them through photographs, sculptures and installations. In recent years, I have pondered upon the differences in light quality between Scotland, and Singapore, where I originally come from.
The quantitative impact of the sunlight upon different spots of our planet earth led me to apprehend the relation between light and its effect on the beginning and evolution of life. I started wondering what the landscape would be like on an alien planet, revolving around an alien solar system, trapped within an alien galaxy. What will the image be if the planet had two dying suns intertwined together? What sort of light will that be?
Reflecting on this allowed me the imaginative capacity to actualise the fabricated landscapes in my work, especially the series “Chromatic Solstice”, that is inspired by the equinoxes and solstices cycles in Scotland.
What inspires you?
Thinking is very important to me. Also, the greater cosmos that continues to intrigue the curious minds of us, homo sapiens. That reaches into the fields of physics, geography, and other natural sciences.
I’m also incredibly interested in the historical, the cultural, and all other humanities. Most importantly, the field of philosophy, which consistently questions and shakes the fundamentals of all things.
Where do you work? What is your average working day?
I work both in a tiny studio and at home. The average working day usually consists of a lot of research work.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a few projects at the moment, including a cross-cultural research project between Singapore and Scotland, and an exhibition in Singapore showcasing contemporary Scottish works. At the same time, planning for exhibitions in Scotland in the coming year, and working on a new set of photographic and sculptural work.
In what way does being in Scotland influence your work?
As mentioned above, the observation on the differences in light quality and its relation to the experiences of natural landscapes between Scotland and Singapore. I think Singaporeans have an undeniable relationship with Scotland that stretches back to the colonial times.
Being in Scotland, provided me with the capacity to investigate the cultural differences and similarities between Scotland and Singapore, and more specifically in a context of comparative philosophy in my research, the similarities, and differences between East-West thinking.