If you’re one who loves to party and Instagram, then you’d most likely have stumbled upon and – even shared on Instagram – the work of Tina Fung without realising it. This Denmark-born set and prop designer is behind some of the most photogenic, trippy installations to have popped up around the island in the past year.
Her latest project that her year-old company Space Objekt spearheaded already sounds exciting on paper. Launching this month, the multi-disciplinary project, Nineteen80 is a new concept bar in Tanjong Pagar which blurs the line between interior design and set design. Expect plenty of ’80s references and reclaimed elements like cassette tapes. The entrance is said to be decorated by a pink light vortex that plays with mirrors and lights.
An interior designer by training, 35-year-old Fung (dad’s Hong Konger and mum’s Filipina) left London where she was working at that time for Singapore where she started her gig as a set designer for the old Zouk. The human-sized paper plans installations and the diamond-shaped light strobes, you have her to thank for that
Post-Zouk, Fung’s work got more experimental and playful. Neon lights and experiential design became more prominent. Some of her most memorable works include a gin chamber that envelops guests in the alcohol’s vapour and giant booths that looks like you’re in a giant kaleidoscope. Fung has also dabbled in creating sets for the small screen. Singaporean singer-songwriter Charlie Lim‘s whimsical alien-inhabited space-themed music video Conspiracy (2016) featured an extra-terrestrial landscape designed by Fung.
In a fashion landscape dominated by grand, dramatic and OTT setups and lighting displays that could pass off as mini Biennale pieces, the work of set and prop designers are coming more into focus. Just take, for instance, the Burberry S/S ’18 show in February which featured a rainbow-dripped light installation by London studio United Visual Artists which included kinetic swinging pendulums.
We talk more with Fung on her inspirations.
What is the Tina Fung aesthetic?
I like clean lines and symmetrical forms, and enjoy working with mirrors and light as they are great mediums that can disrupt our perception of the environment to expand space and keep the audience engaged.
What inspires your work?
Honestly, I explore inspirations from all sorts of things, anything that allows me to think about how people and space interact with one another. I’m also constantly on the lookout – I observe pockets of spaces in the city, I watch films, I enjoy conversations with people who are not involved in art and I’m inspired by creatives I’m working with.
For my recent work, I’ve had the opportunity to hold conversations with scientists who are involved in the digital technology world. It’s really useful to get a different perspective on what we can do by interacting with people from all walks of life.
How does your design background shape your approach to your sets and installations?
I get this a lot. I have a B.A. in Interior Design and M.A. in Interior Architecture. Understanding the basic spacial requirements is fundamental as it helps to dictate how users interact within the space but there is no set rule. The more education and experience you have, the better. Part of my training requirement as an interior designer was creating scaled models as part of my ideation process. This has helped my approach in understanding my creative process through trial and error.
What do you wish to bring to the design landscape here?
I thrive to create art installations to deepen the community engagement, to educate and instil awareness in artistic creations.
What do you think is lacking in the way Singaporeans approach the way installations or sets are created?
Definitely process. I think it derives from the way creatives are taught here. For instance, I understand that in Singapore, young creatives are given a brief to work from whereas in UK, Europe and US, we are given the opportunity to design our own brief which changes the thought process and the approach of execution.
What do you think is the next trend or frontier in set or installation design?
I believe that we are becoming a more visual society and that our understanding of our built environments is increasingly made possible by this new visual language. I work a lot with lifestyle brands, and marrying this with set design might play a big role in educating their consumers.
Simple technology including sensors has been making their way into the creative sector for years allowing artists to work with more sensory driven installations. I believe that the future will include more advanced tech-driven installations – also because this is something that our clients want to stay current with.
Who are the upcoming designers or artists on your radar now and why?
There’s an abundance of creative talents out there (including Singapore) but I haven’t had the chance to connect with any of them yet. Locally speaking, I’ve worked with artists like Qixuan Lim, Reza Hasni, Mojoko, Juls and Jacky Lee just to name a few. They’re all different and work in their respective genres of art and I got to experience their approach to the creative process.
I’m also a huge fan of works by New York-based, Snarkitecture. They’re definitely not up-and-coming but I’m drawn to their multi-disciplinary approach in exploring the notion of space that sits between art and architecture.
What do you think is the next evolution in the way fashion sets will incorporate lighting and set design?
There has been a huge evolution of set design across the board for sets – theatre, events, fashion, et cetera. I’d think fashion sets will be evoking the five senses in time to come instead of keeping it as purely a visual aesthetic.