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Artists hope to raise awareness of art studios in Ubi industrial area

Six artists will be holding an exhibition at an industrial building in Ubi to mark the end of their lease there.

Artist Ezekiel Wong, 27, had doubts about two recent monochrome paintings he made. He was exploring a new direction in his art and felt dissatisfied with the pieces. In a moment of desperation, he considered filling the works with colour.

Then he asked fellow artist Hilmi Johandi, 29, for his opinion. The part-time lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts took a close look at the works and, to Wong's relief, said the paintings look good.

The two artists are studio mates. For the past two years, they have been sharing a space in an industrial building in Ubi with four other arts practitioners - Betty Susiarjo, Fyerool Darma, Simon Ng and Soh Choi Yin.

Making art can be an isolating process, but having people around in the same workspace can be comforting.

Wong, who is also a teacher's assistant and art technician at an international school, says: "It makes the journey less lonely. A lot of times, we have a lot of thoughts in our head and it's good to have someone to talk to."

It is with full hearts that the six artists are holding an exhibition at the 1,023 sq ft space to bid a bittersweet farewell to the place before their lease ends this month.

The show is part of Singapore Art Week, which runs from Jan 11 to 22. The annual round-up of visual arts offerings is a joint initiative by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board.

Hilmi says: "The exhibition is to mark our time together in the past two years and to show the different kinds and styles of art that we worked on while here. It is not the end. It's just the closing of a chapter."

There will be paintings and drawings, as well as installation and sculptural works on show.

The group of six came together when Wong and Hilmi rounded up artists they knew to jointly rent a studio.

The two had been unsuccessful in their application to the National Arts Council's arts housing scheme, which provides affordable spaces to arts groups and artists.

Not willing to give up on their art practice, they decided to look for a space of their own.

Eventually, they settled on the unit in Ubi because it is easily accessible. Several other artists had also set up studios in industrial buildings and warehouses in the area.

Hilmi says: "We thought it was as easy as securing a space, but we had to install lights, the air-con and set up partitions."

After they moved in, however, they settled easily and quickly into a rhythm of working together. There was no need to set house rules, Wong says, because everyone was considerate and respected one another's private space and work. "I always think I shouldn't take for granted the harmony that we have," he says.

For him and Hilmi, who regularly see into each other at the studio, sharing a creative space also deepened their friendship. He says: "We will talk about art, discuss art shows we saw and even give each other advice on life in general."

When their lease ends, four of the artists will move into a unit in an industrial building nearby, while the remaining two will focus on other commitments.

Hilmi says: "We hope this exhibition will make people aware of art studios in this area and, who knows, in the next decade, we may have clusters of art studios here."

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