Nigel Tan – Singapore/Melbourne

Cognizance Screenshot

Cognizance Screenshot

Briefly describe the work you do. 

My main focus this year was to further explore the notion of chaos within the everyday life both within a physical as well as cognitive context. Educated as a composer, I work primarily with sound as my medium. I’ve done a couple of soundscapes which were exhibited as multi-channel sound installations, most of which were focused on spatial manipulation, experimentation and chance. I also work in the realm of video, most of the time paired together with my sound compositions, as I believe in evoking multiple senses at the same time, again both physically and cognitively. These works tend to be presented as audiovisual installations. I rely heavily on chance as a motivating factor of both my work and daily living. I believe in the beauty of the unexpected and unpredictable, allowing room for indeterminate outcomes.

Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.

Growing up I have always been big on music, dabbling with various instruments and bands as well as writing my own music in Singapore. After years of being stifled in a stagnant almost non existent music scene, I moved to Melbourne, Australia about four years ago to study music, interactive composition to be exact, at the Victorian College of the Arts. This really opened up my mind not just compositionally but artistically as well. With guidance from inspiring mentors and like-minded peers, I dare say the change was drastic as I grew to appreciate the need for new innovative approaches toward my craft.

Music has always been the cornerstone of my work. I believe that the act of composition is ultimately more significant than the composition itself. This means the rituals I put myself through during the developmental process be it cognitively or physically, is more important that the end product. I want audiences to experience this through my work, which is always open to interpretation and come up with their own personal ending. This is what makes the work truly unique.

The intertwining of other disciplines mainly video and film is an extension of my music, where it is not just used as accompaniment but also as a structural tool in expanding the realm of sound. I like that I am able to change perception and experiences just by using sound and sight. This is something I have been exploring for awhile now and did a piece two years ago titled “The In and Out”, based on that. I have since been trying to push my artistic capabilities by exploring other disciplines including sculpture and interactive mediums.

Flux Screenshot

Flux Screenshot

The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

The idea of a studio to me is completely obsolete. I’m not a painter or a sculptor, therefore the idea of having a studio is not a necessity as I only use my studio as a place to record and store my equipment. All my work is done on the go, on my computer, recorders and cameras. My immediate environment is my studio, from cityscapes to forests, train stations to libraries, it does not matter. I guess as a contemporary artist who relies heavily on technology, a physical studio space is not ideal. I feel that having a studio space might even stifle my craft and form this monotonous habit toward creating, which is neither natural nor genuine. My work explores the world outside, therefore I do the same, that to me is my studio practice.

What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

First of all I don’t even see myself as creating art therefore I don’t remember how exactly I started but I’m pretty sure that my path was rather gradual that I would seek something more than just music and composition mainly influenced by Cageian philosophy. I wanted to discover more about sound but ended up being more drawn toward the conceptual capabilities of sound. This led to more research toward sonic arts and the vast capabilities of interactive media as a tool in my own practice.

When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?

Anytime I am inspired by something. Since my work revolves around the daily life, I take notice of my environment a little bit more. Observing and hearing things that are often ignored or taken for granted.

Nature Nurture ScreenshotHow has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?

As mentioned before, my practice gradually shifted from a structured music background to a more free form sound-based practice. It has become a lot more conceptual as compared to composing music for films or performances. While doing my bachelors degree, I started to experiment more with concepts and developed my experimental craft not just in music but also in video. I started exhibiting my work and collaborated with individuals from around the world on various projects. I still mainly work in the area of sound and will continue to do so. I currently live in Melbourne Australia but will be going back to my home in Singapore very soon, so that will drastically change the direction of my work as well.

How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?

A very significant impact. I’ve looked up to many composers, artists and philosophers but what really inspires and affects my work directly are the things I see and hear daily. I draw on personal experiences as a form of inspiration that leads to the themes I come up with. I am particularly interested in the way we think and how abstract the mind really is. I am inspired by things that are often unseen, unheard and ignored. That being said, I’ve always looked up to composers like Stockhausen, Cage, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Luc Ferrari, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Pierre Schaeffer, Penderecki and Ligeti to name a few. It’s a pretty vast list but I have always looked up to experimental composers especially. Fellini, Godard, the films of Kurosawa and Naim Jun Paik for their video and film work. Jiddu Krishnamurti, Carl Jung and Jean-Paul Sartre for everything else.

Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests? 

I guess I merge all my interests together be it music, film or art. I take inspiration from science and engineering as well as technology and just try to make work out of it. I enjoy the process of creation. I do enjoy watching movies in my free time so that’s about it.


Nigel Tan - headshotNigel is a composer, sound and video artist from Singapore currently based in Melbourne, Australia who works conceptually with various mediums bearing the weight of unorthodox structure with the blend of electroacoustic aberrant sound. He explores the basis of life through different styles and history bearing in mind the importance of the process within layers of texture. Influenced by experimentalist of film and music from both the eastern and western cultures, the works churned out are intertwined randomly to reflect change which in turn motivates a purpose. He works primarily with sound but also engages in various forms of mixed media, mainly in the video and visual aspect marrying sight with sound through the blend of the abstract and narrative.

Nigel graduated with a diploma in Film, Sound and Video from Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2009 and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Contemporary Music majoring in Interactive Composition from University Of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts in 2014. He is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Art at RMIT University, Melbourne. His work includes audiovisual installations, experimental video and site-specific compositions that have been exhibited and screened in Singapore, London and Australia at spaces such as the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Instinc Gallery Singapore, The Arts Centre Melbourne, Brunswick Street Gallery, Melbourne Zoo, Japan Creative Centre Singapore, CASPA Gallery, 69 Smith Street Gallery, The George Paton Gallery and more. In addition to this, he actively writes music for film/television, mixed media and performance art.

Studio : tape project

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.


About 365Artists/365Days

The purpose of this project is to introduce its readership to a diverse collection of art that is being produced at the national and international level. Our goal is to engage the public with information regarding a wide array of creative processes, and present the successes and failures that artists face from day to day. The collaborators hope that this project will become a source for exploring and experiencing contemporary art in all its forms.
This entry was posted in Video and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s