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Streets of Hope: A Conversation with Artist, Faris Nakamura

As part of the National Arts Council’s #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, Streets of Hope brings the streets to life with banners featuring artworks by 153 homegrown artists. Launched in June 2020, the project is one of the largest presentations of work by local artists, bringing together practitioners across generations, backgrounds and mediums in full force.

The street banners can now be seen along St. Andrew’s Road, Fullerton Road, Esplanade Drive, Stamford Road, and many more, as well as on the National Arts Council and Gillman Barracks websites. Look out for works by the likes of Zul Othman (ZERO), Robert Zhao, Rizman Putra, Cultural Medallion recipient Han Sai Por, and our very own IMPART Awards winners, Khairullah Rahim, Priyageetha Dia, Faris Nakamura and Genevieve Chua.

In this post, we speak with IMPART Award 2020 winner Faris Nakamura about what brings him hope, delving deeper into the meaning behind the artwork he selected for his banner, the role of artists in the community and his experience of applying for the IMPART Awards.

Faris Nakamura portrait
Source: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Congratulations on being one of the featured artists in Streets of Hope! What is something that brings you hope?

FN: Thank you so much! It feels great to be a part of such a wonderful initiative.

What brings me hope is witnessing and experiencing acts of unconditional love, kindness and compassion. Also, people who pursue their dreams with a passionate purpose to help make the world a better place.

Tell us more about the artwork featured on your banner, Forlorn Atmosphere of A Place, Bustling and Thriving. What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing it?

FN: I was thinking about the pandemic that hit us and how it has changed the way we live out our daily lives. The best, safest thing to do right now is to stay home and keep our distance from each other, and I wanted to encourage people to do that. Forlorn Atmosphere of A Place, Bustling and Thriving depicts an empty, vacant space yet radiates a sense of hope at the same time, with light shining through the space. My message to the audience is to continue to be hopeful and look forward to all the good that would arise from us keeping our distance from each other and staying indoors. And, you’d be surprised how unlonely being alone can be.

Left image: Forlorn Atmosphere of A Place, Bustling and Thriving, Faris Nakamura

Right image: Forlorn Atmosphere of A Place, Bustling and Thriving (Detail) , Faris Nakamura

Streets of Hope is a celebration of creativity meant to enliven the streets of Singapore and lift peoples’ spirits. What role do you think artists play in the community?

FN: Artists make a visual (and other sensory) record of the events happening around us, people and places. This also gives forms to feelings, thoughts and other forces like spirituality. The world would be rather silent and we would be with blank pieces of paper and empty walls without artists.

What other projects have you been up to since winning the IMPART Awards in January? How has the experience been for you?

FN: Besides ‘Streets of Hope’, I was busy with another project by Plural Art, in collaboration with NAC, to respond to cultural sites in Singapore which people have been unable to visit due to pandemic movement restrictions. The work is now live on Plural Art’s website, and will also be included in the microsite Plural Art is building, scheduled to be launched in August. And, I completed a new series of works right before circuit breaker happened. They were supposed to be a part of a show but due to gallery closure during the circuit breaker, they went to direct sales. Now, I am focusing on a project with Facebook for their Artist in Residency Program. The physical installation has been pushed back to early next year but meanwhile, I will conduct talks and outreaches as part of this project. Winning IMPART Awards has allowed me to venture into things that I previously could not, financially. I can now explore and experiment with new materials and techniques that could enhance the quality of my artworks without worry. I have had great, valuable exchanges with many people here in Singapore and other parts of the world through the exposure I’ve gotten from the award. I am sad that the trip to New York could not happen, but an invitation was extended to me and the other winners to join the coming years’ trip. The Art Outreach team has continued to work on ways to still offer us support and exposure during this difficult time, which I am very appreciative of.

The 2021 IMPART Awards is now open for applications. Could you share with potential applicants: What was the application process like, and were you fearful or excited?

FN: To be honest, I was fearful. I felt that I may be a little too young in terms of my practice because I have only been practicing professionally for 4 years. I kept pushing the thought of applying aside. I was encouraged by someone who wanted to nominate me to apply the year before, but I didn’t. And when I finally did apply last year, I applied 4 days before the application deadline. I have the habit of documenting everything I do, so it did not take long for me to whip out a portfolio (Though I did struggle a bit on deciding which 8 works to show) and spent the most time working on my personal statement. It was then, responding to the questions in the personal statement section, that the feeling of confidence came to me because it reminded me of the passion and the hard work that I have put into my work. Then came the gruelling wait for the results. I would be lying if I said that I did not think about it almost every day. It was truly a mix of excitement and anxiety.

What’s one piece of advice you have for young budding artists?

FN: Always challenge yourself, yes, but do not disregard what comes natural to you. Acknowledge them as your strengths and work on how you can use them to your advantage and expand on it.

AND, never be afraid to ask for advice or help. Not sure how to do a good proposal? Need space to make a large artwork? Need to find cheaper alternatives to expensive materials?

All you have to do is ask the people around you.

What’s next for Faris Nakamura?

FN: I am excited to be working closely with different organisations and communities as my artistic journey so far has been quite a solo journey and I plan to do more of that in the future. The outreach that I will be doing for/with Facebook would be a great start and I am looking forward to working with a young community organisation, The Heartweavers, on possible talks, dialogues and outreach programs. Do also expect to see new works from me that reflect my exploration materiality, textures and artwork presentation. I will continue to hope for the opportunity to travel the world to gain new stimulus and reference points outside of Singapore and Asia.

The full Streets Of Hope collection can be viewed on Gillman Barracks and NAC’s Facebook page.

From Now on You Will Not Be Alone can be seen on Plural Art.

Faris Nakamura is represented by RK Fine Art.

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