Opened in December 2020, Starch – located in an industrial building in Tagore Lane – can be said to be one of the most empathetic independent art spaces in Singapore. Tan, its founder, had picked its name in the hope that – not unlike the complex carbohydrate – it can be a source of energy for the arts community here.
Already, the light-soaked 2,200 sq ft space has played host to no less than eight exhibitions that have given the talents-in-focus free use of the space. It’s not rare for artists to juggle multiple responsibilities due to a lack of resources and not everyone can afford to engage a curator, says Tan, himself a practising artist who explores notions of queerness and melancholia through multimedia works.
Besides offering a venue, the 35-year-old helps to advise on anything from a show’s concept to set-up and even gets involved in the marketing and logistical side of things when needed. “I consider myself primarily as someone who is an enabler,” he says, when asked to define his role as a curator. That Starch has a diverse and packed-out calendar for 2022 is telling of his ethos and success.
For starters: The Chan-Davies Art Prize show, which spotlights top Fine Arts students from Lasalle College of the Arts, will take place on-site from January 13 to February 2. Then there’s Tan’s own schedule outside of Starch that double-checks him as one of the most hardworking rising stars in the business.
As an artist, Tan makes powerfully visceral artworks that explores themes of queerness and melancholia through the use of open-ended works. Here, his 2021 work titled An immaculate end to a disembodied beginning.
This month alone, he is presenting new works with Yavuz Gallery at the art fair S.E.A Focus; is part of a group show curated by fellow emerging artists/curators Berny Tan and Daniel Chong; and is co-running an exhibition with arts manager Shireen Marican in the Kaki Bukit area that urges people to re-envision what and how learning can be in the future.
Below, Tan shares with us his curation process and the emerging artists he recommends.