Arts mentorship: Budding and established creatives spill their two cents after experiencing Aldo Singapore and Kult Studio & Gallery's programme

Arts mentorship: Budding and established creatives spill their two cents after experiencing Aldo Singapore and Kult Studio & Gallery's programme

Road to success

Editor: Aravin Sandran

5 industry professionals and 5 mentees were paired up to create a 3-day exhibition experience through 5 mediums for Aldo's latest sneaker drops — here's what some of them had to say about their mentorship experience

Photography Mentee: Natalie Wong
Having done theatre and literature for most of her life, Natalie Wong is interested in exploring other means of story-telling: photography and film. When she is not in Singapore, she is exploring the bright lights of Manhattan as she begins her second year at New York University, pursuing a BA in Media, Culture, and Communications.

Key lessons/skills I learnt: During the three weeks of the mentorship, Yang not only taught me the "how to's" of photography  such as various tips and tricks for taking great film photos  but also the "why's" of photography. Under her guidance and inspiring enthusiasm, I revitalised my understanding that photography isn't just about capturing beautiful moments; it's about telling a story, taking pleasure in having the opportunity to tell those stories, and being empathetic to your subjects so they feel comfortable to let their story be told. 

"Success is being at peace with both myself and my work, and knowing that whatever it is I'm putting out is truly the best, most authentic version of it that I can produce."

Photography Mentor: Yangermeister
Yang has chalked up a bulk of experience as a fashion and street photographer. With her skills and versatility, she dabbles in both analog and digital photography. Yang also plays art director for several client roles involving film and music video sets, galleries, hotels and co-working spaces.

A new perspective I learnt through reverse mentoring: Natalie was my mentee for this programme. She is a lovely young artist in pursuit of making meaningful work while studying at New York University. During the time we spent together, I learnt of her openness and curiosity — two traits that are so important to being an artist but are so often lost in my own pursuit. She became such a timely reminder to myself, and I can only thank Aldo and Kult for bringing us both together!

Graffiti Mentee: Kara Inez 
Kara Inez is a Malaysian artist who draws from her personal experiences to touch on issues relating to feminism, mental health and technology through sculpture, painting and performance art.

Key lessons/skills I learnt: There were so many things I learnt during this mentorship that if I were to list them all out it would probably fill a whole page. I learnt about what colours work best when it comes to street art and public spaces and how to capture the attention of the audience through a balance of strokes, shapes and colours. As corny as it sounds, I also learnt how much practice does make perfect. There were a lot of techniques to spray painting and graffiti that I learnt from my mentor that seemed difficult at first but as the classes progressed I got progressively better and better at it. It is amazing what your muscles can remember through repetition. 

"Success to me would be the freedom to talk about important issues such as mental health and body empowerment through my art. I hope to break the taboos surrounding these issues without the fear of censorship and other limitations."

Graffiti: Dider 'Jaba' Mathieu
Colombian-Belgian graffiti artist Jaba has travelled the world, painting at various festivals. His retro-futuristic works epitomises his idea of utopia, where a city progresses but traditions are still upheld, Jaba’s works are retro-futuristic.

A new perspective you learnt through reverse mentoring: It has been a long time since I last conducted a graffiti workshop. I tend to forget that the spray can technique has its challenges, and is nice to see someone totally unfamiliar with the technique overcoming fears without complexities. It's a lesson for me to be bold in taking new challenges. Kara also brought her own universe aesthetically, mixing different mediums but always coherent with her own practice.

One nugget of advice that continues to resonate in your career: Always be on time for meetings. Always deliver on deadlines. If you feel that it won't be on time, always warn your client as soon as possible. Being reliable is a must for any artist working today that hopes to live out of their own practice. 

An occasion when a mentor has played a key role in your development: In 2003, I got the opportunity to do the scenography for Jean Giraud AKA " Moebius", a French comic book artist considered to be the greatest from his generation. I was about 30-years-old back then, and at that time, I wasn't fully aware of the importance of such an artist. After doing the scenography and website for his retrospective exhibition in Belgium, he asked me to take care of his personal website. I started to go to his place in Paris and it's only then that I got to fully realise the scope of his creations. He shared with me a huge volume of his personal work that was compiled and conserved in large Ektachromes format. The volume of work and precision was mind-blowing. It made me realise how little I had accomplished by then and was an eye-opening moment that pushed me to create more and more. Later on, Moebius helped me to get a job at LucasFilm Animation Singapore by writing one of the few recommendation letters that I managed to get from my few previous working experiences.

Moving-Image Making Mentee: Clara Lim
Clara is an undergraduate visual designer based in Singapore. Her work tends to explore various critical topics mediated through interdisciplinary design and multiple mediums. Her area of practice is influenced by anti-aesthetic, 80s post-punk graphics, 90s Hong Kong films and grime art with    a colour palette that pays homage to neon synth waves.

Key lessons/skills I learnt: Technically, super intense and insanely amazing skills such as bridging visuals with sound, identifying beats and trying to create a mood with colour, speed and optical textures. Lessons wise, Amanda was truly a great mentor who showed me how to stay true to my artistic voice with her generosity to share knowledge. It's something I'll definitely pay forward one day if I have the chance. 

If I could choose anyone in the world to be my next mentor: I'm super lucky to be in a generation where there are lots of female role models in the creative industry for me to look up to! If I were to choose anyone, I would choose set designer Tina Fung (@teelala). Her ability to balance commercialism with artistic integrity is something I aspire towards.

In the most ideal scenario, success will look like this for me in the future: I hope to create work that balances commercialism with art. Much like American graphic designer Jessica Walsh, I would like to talk about important issues such as mental health while pushing aesthetic boundaries. That would be a measure of great success (all while earning that Maserati #jk). Jokes aside, it has been my goal to earn enough to let my parents travel the world.

Moving-Image Making Mentor: Empyreal
Homegrown talent Empyreal tells stories through moving visuals. She is a filmmaker, visual jockey and director. She merges her originality and mass-market appeal through her thorough understanding of pop and alternative cultures.   
A new perspective I learnt through reverse mentoring: Observing my mentee get psyched and excited about new things was invigorating to my own practice. Often times, I get really busy and bogged down with all the work and responsibilities I have that I forget to enjoy it. I forget why I started doing what I do in the first place  because it's fun and it tickles the brain. 

One nugget of advice that continues to resonate in my career: It's important not to compare your journey with others. Along the same lines of that advice, do not solely seek the journey of approval. You can't compare your part with someone else's part. Don't trust the masses! They know nothing! 

Music Mentee: Naomi Seow 
Naomi dreams of the Second Summer of Love, a fleeting period of freewheeling euphoria that saw the rise of acid house in the United Kingdom. She found her calling in Berlin and London, getting her education in the hypnotic sonics of acid house and techno.

Key lessons/skills I learnt: Patience is definitely the biggest thing I learnt from this experience. Getting back in the groove after a bout of not practicing on the decks was a little rough. The best way I could explain the process was like riding a bike again after a while  you're a little wobbly at first, then the muscle memory kicks in at some point. The second thing I learnt was adjusting to the crowd. Back in London, the parties I played at were impromptu raves  they would just pop up. You could play whatever you liked and everyone would be okay with that. I wasn't so sure if that would work here, so the change in environment was a bit of a shift.

If I could choose anyone in the world to be my next mentor: There are so many people I look up to! I'll just name the top three off from the top of my head: DJ EZ, Sunil Sharpe, Jane Fitz and Jeff Mills. Seriously, do watch a couple of their clips on Boiler Room. DJ EZ's transitions are unbelievable; Sunil Sharpe and Jane Fitz both have impeccable technique and who wouldn't want to be mentored by Jeff Mills?

In the most ideal scenario, success will look like this for me in the future: Musically, success for me would be to play great tunes all over the world so people would have a fun and memorable time on the dance floor. Hopefully, one day I'll continue producing. We'll see!

Bartistry Mentee: Keshav Natarajan

With a background in engineering, bartending was never on Keshav’s radar. It all changed after a six-month engineering internship when he began his journey behind a bar. He is eager to create his own signature drinks and dreams of travelling and working at bars around the world.

Key lessons/skills I learnt: The two main things were the essentials of a cocktail and the process of setting up a bar. I've also learned how to communicate better with customers as well as anticipate their needs from the liquor of their choice.

In the most ideal scenario, success will look like this for me in the future: I envision my success to be defined by being unafraid to pursue my dreams and take whatever steps necessary to get there, whether it's getting out of my comfort zone to talk to people or just putting myself out there a little more.

Helmed by ALDO Singapore and Kult Gallery, Step IN, UP and OUT 2018 was an arts mentorship programme that ran between 23 July and 15 August 2018, concluding with an exhibition in September.