“The Artist must never get caught! He must think of a way around his obstacles.” This was the message of Teo Eng Seng, who spoke at Function 8’s Changing Worlds mini-lecture series at his gallery Muse House at 22 Marshall Road on Tuesday, 24 July 2012.
This philosophy has guided him through remarkable adventures, including a hitchhike all the way to England to pursue an education in art, as well as his explorations into his unique medium paperdyesculpt.
In many ways, Teo’s art has been shaped by local and current events. In his words, “how can I paint a happy picture if I am not happy?” In 1987 when 22 activists and social workers were detained without trial under the ISA, Teo took his exhibition to London to raise awareness of the event. He wanted to be the voice of those who could not be heard. During the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing, the artist, then in the United Kingdom staged a series of performances to express his outrage and heartache over the matter. The performance, he said, was the fastest way for him to highlight a current event.
Later, he would again use his quick thinking to fulfil a promise to a student at the United World College in Singapore, where he taught art. Over a whole school year he had rallied the students and teachers of the school to bring used plastic bottles to school for an art project – an project, he said, that would bring Michael Jackson to the school. Although the school visit did not materialise, the young fan of the King of Pop did get to see him in concert, and to show him the moonwalk that he had took pains to learn.