The Generation T honouree describes her transition from being a fashion designer to becoming an artist behind some of the most captivating artworks around Singapore

While you might not be familiar with the name Grace Tan, you would have most likely come across her site‑specific works at Duo, Marina One, Raffles City and the Little India Station on the Downtown Line, and marvelled at their complex geometrical structures. The low‑profile artist has not done much in the way of talks or media interviews, sticking mostly to solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries such the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) and Fost Gallery in Singapore, as well as the RMIT Gallery in Australia, where she lets her works do the talking.
Trained in fashion design, she honed her creative eye at the now defunct homegrown fashion label, Song & Kelly, but the fast-paced nature of the industry made her question her interest in it. She eventually left in 2003 after four years, and started creating one-of-a-kind clothing made entirely by hand, marking the birth of her own interdisciplinary practice, Kwodrent. Over the years, her wearable art gradually evolved into more ornamental, experimental art pieces, many of which are commissioned work. Her latest installation, n.355 – natural progression, offers her take on Sir Stamford Raffles’ interest in natural history, for an exhibition at ACM to commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial this year. 

Reality Check

“When I was working in fashion, I respected the craft and the construction process—how clothes are put together. But I struggled to come to terms with the nature of the industry, how we had to create new things every season. It made me question myself, whether this was the right place for me.”

Personal Touch

“As an artist, I hope to create meaningful works that connect with different groups of people. We’re moving so fast in life, and it’s easy to get so engrossed in our own world that we sometimes forget the importance of human connection.”

creative influence

“With commissioned work, I take my inspiration from the space where it will be placed, its cultural connotations and how people interact with and within it.”

two worlds collide

“I’m currently fascinated by the blurring line between what’s real and what’s fake. For example, I once walked past a building with a green wall that previously featured real plants. But I didn’t realise they had replaced them with artificial ones until I got much closer to the wall. Artificial things are increasingly being normalised.”

Grace says…

A design tool I can’t live without…
My favourite word in the dictionary…
“Hmm”, because I’m constantly thinking about something.
My go-to drink…
Craft beer, which is drier and more bitter.
How I de-stress…
Making things by hand for myself, because it’s therapeutic.

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