A different singapore...
Precious encounters | 06/12/2020
A different Singapore…
With Stéphanie Lehembre.
Stéphanie Lehembre, graphic designer, launched last year a coffee table book titled Singapore ARTitude. This beautiful 200-pages book illustrates Singapore through the lens of fifty amateur and professional photographers as well as a dozen writers.
Meeting with Stéphanie, Franco-Belgian living in Singapore for eight years.
First of all, why this desire and need for a book like this one requiring more than two years of work?
Because I am passionate about books. As a graphic designer and typographer, I simply love them. The book leaves a mark, even more today in this digital world where everything is disappearing. A beautiful book is also synonymous with a moment, because you have to take the time to leaf through it. Personally, I also like its smell, its touch. A beautiful book is an inspiration, a knowledge, a breath in an anxious, busy day.
Making a book was already written in me for a long time, I was only missing a subject. Living here for 5 years, Singapore fascinated me with its singular diversity, its contrasts, its light, its colors, its energy. And I couldn't find a book that could make me feel this Singapore so different from what was sold to the public.
Singapore ARTitude was born after two years of work, research, exchanges, meetings. I had to convince a group of local photographers and writers to dare to follow me in my project. Without them, I had no content!
Then the ARTitude concept emerged. Art is everywhere in the city, in the streets, architectures, residents ... for who knows where to look. ARTitude is all these snapshots, captured by the eye of the photographer, by the artist in each of us who, thus revealed, become true works of art, outside the bustle of the city.
Singapore is internationally known and recognized for its capacity for innovation in many fields and stands out as a model city for its organization, its management, its cleanliness, its safety... Does this have an impact on creativity? What about the art and cultural scene in Singapore?
This city is in perpetual motion and it is very energizing! We can feel this need to be always oriented towards its future, its evolution. This notion of progress suggests that there is a lot to do and Singapore gives itself the opportunity to evolve constantly.
So, in this sense, there is room for creativity, but Singaporeans still have a way to go for creativity to be spontaneous, to become natural.
Art is a state of mind and creativity is very subjective while here in Singapore everything is based on objective criteria. But Janice Koh, a member of parliament, said that "creativity is a national priority" so it is a sign of goodwill. Singapore is a very young city of 50 years; a lot remains to be done.
Furthermore, the multi-ethnic side and the “heritage” part are very present and exceptional.
When it comes to modern and contemporary art, as European and by my profession, I am more demanding than what Singapore has to offer. But they offer a lot of things, especially to attract families in a fun way and to make Singaporeans appreciate a certain form of art.
Understanding and appreciating art also requires learning, it takes time.
There are also many sculptures in the city as if Singapore wanted to be an open-air museum. I also have a chapter in the book "Radart" written by Clémentine de Beaupuy who speaks beautifully of urban art in Singapore.
We cannot discover it at first glance, tell us more about this Inside Singapore?
The idea in producing this book was to show what is not expected in Singapore. That was my motivation. Show how surprising this city can be behind its polished, sanitized sides.
Behind this "Asian Las Vegas" side Singapore is full of contrasts, roughness and clashes. There are cities like that, unattractive at the beginning but when you take the time to stroll around a corner, you can be amazed! Through the 10 chapters of the book, we enter an unusual, colorful, graphic Singapore.
What was the most rewarding with this incredible collaborative adventure that has been going on for over 3 years now?
Great encounters with Singaporean photographers. I was honored they accepted a European woman to write a book about their city. Who am I to pretend to know Singapore? Contacts with writers were also very rich. I will remember this collective project as a concert: each instrumentalist with their own talent. All united around the same goal but each in their own way.
It was also a huge surprise for me at the end of my fundraising campaign to find that more than 250 people had bought my book without having it in hand! How did everyone trust me?! This book at the end, was born from a collective for a community! A magnificent challenge that brought me out of my comfort zone with a great success which I am very grateful for.
If you had to illustrate this experience with 3 photographs, which would they be and why?
This one from Kajan Madrasmail Moment in connection, by artist Ju Ming.
This photo very much represents my ARTitude concept. The position of the photographer, the angle of the photo which gives the depth and the background of this woman and her umbrella who does not even suspect that she was the actress of a magic snapshot.
This one by Nicholas Ng Wei Bin, Singapore night ambiance.
Here, you don’t know you’re in Singapore. The Little India neighborhood is full of amazing life scenes. Nicholas has an incredible talent for capturing the perfect moment. His photo compositions are just magnificent: the play of lines and light / dark, perspective, this candle, you can almost see trembling the flame, the subject who looks elsewhere as if the photographer was not there. Everything is there! It almost looks like an Edward Hopper from another era.
And finally, this one from Rohan Ishwarla, Like Tetris blocks.
This photo fascinates me with its very graphic side, very abstract when it comes to containers. I like its balance, its geometry, its spots of colors like paint and its fine pencil lines. You can almost feel the texture of the sheet metal.
What would Singapore be without its port ?
"Art is everywhere around us, you just have to know how to pay attention to it," you told us. An inexhaustible source of inspiration !
Any other projects to come, here or elsewhere ?
I hope so! After such a success, everything is possible. Another book? Another city? Another theme? An exciting subject is under study because Singapore and its spirits have not finished surprising us yet !
Thank you very much for sharing Stephanie !
Find Stéphanie Lehembre's book directly on her website: