Writers' Fortnight selection: Converting challenges to energy
By Jina Wickmann, Grade 9, East Campus
Stage 2 pancreatic cancer, a mother suffering from dementia or a long-term career in disorder, would usually discourage even the most optimistic person. However, a Singaporean born, gallery owner, cancer survivor, ex-accountant found a way to strive through life’s obstacles. The Grade 9 students of UWCSEA East Campus were able to hear about these struggles from Danny Raven Tan in the annual Writers’ Fortnight.
Even as a child, Tan knew that he loved art, saying that it was “in his blood”. Pushed by his parents, he studied building estate management in university and was well into his career after graduating. He had a steady job and no problems with his finances. Although he still had his dreams in the back of his mind, if he was ever going to be able to pursue them.
After 15 years of spending his life in the business world, Tan was diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer, putting a hold on his career. To avoid worrying his parents, he hadn’t told them the pain he had to go through. Although friends were a support during this period in his life, the medication was increasing with little progress. This was the time where Tan was on the brink of giving up. Luckily, Tan pulled through the two year battle against cancer. After his recovery, his father passed away from respiratory failure, with his mother diagnosed with dementia shortly after. Tan was at a stage in life, where everything seemed pointless. He then decided to change his life around. No longer was he going to push his dreams away, so he gave up everything to pursue his art.
Even though Tan had no experience in the professional art world, he always knew that he belonged there. According to Tan, Singapore is a country that neglects art, he had to try and express himself and show what he has been through, through art.
“Every scar has a story”
Appreciation and respect do not come easily to the artists of Singapore. Compared to other professions in Singapore, an artist struggles to succeed over all the well-paying business work. With Singapore being such an expensive country, giving up a well paying job and a life that has been built around a career is not easy. The world of the unknown is something that often comes with chasing after what you wish to do.
The art galleries scattered around Singapore are slowly closing, due to the lack of an audience. Key events such as The Singapore Art Fair and The Milan Image Art and Design Fair Singapore have not been around since 2014. The art world is slowly declining in popularity and makes it that much tougher for new inspirational people to show who they are.
The positives that come through the trouble are often overlooked. In Tan’s words: “Don’t whine, do something about it”. It is your choice whether to continue dwelling on the past, or to finally pursue what you had always wished to do. Tan has recently released his new collection named: “The Gods are Crying” – A slightly controversial theme. He states that “There are no rules in art, as long as you can defend what you are saying.” Art is a chance to express your individuality. His recent works have largely been influenced by his mother’s passing as well as many of his other collections. His work features many bold colours, and recently, playing around with modern brands and their logos.
Tan has entered a world full of not knowing, stepping into a career that is unpredictable. With only the hope of being recognised, Tan continues to have an optimistic approach towards Singapore’s art status, although he claims the financial aspect of his current career is unstable. Saying “Art is for the soul. It can change people, and set people thinking. That’s what I want to do.” He wishes to make an impact with his work, leaving behind an impression.
Tan has a message; he fought through difficulties and was finally at a place where he felt somewhat content. He now owns Tiffin Gallery located in Ang Mo Kio, showcasing his work to the world. He has gained an audience from the UK, US, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. After a life full of struggle, he continues to demonstrate strength through his quirky and lively character.
This student article was selected for publication among the Writers' Fortnight-inspired student writings. The assignment to students was to tell the story of someone they met during Writers’ Fortnight who they feel embodies an important social issue - OR to use the stories of several speakers to engage with a shared human experience - OR to write about a matter of personal importance - and to do so as authentically, responsibly and powerfully as possible.
To explore more of the Writers' Fortnight-inspired student writing, please view our Flipboard.