An Artful Mix: Officers with Artistic Talent

Traditional meets digital in this colourful clash of styles practised by public officers with artistic bents.

Colour, his world

Vibrant colours, bold strokes and hints of playfulness abound in Mr Abu Jalal Sarimon’s (left) paintings. Reflecting his diverse interests and curiosity about the world, his works range from landscape art and explorations of the human form, to abstract social commentary pieces and pop art. Pictured in the foreground is his artwork “Lady-in-Waiting (Final Touch-up)”. Mr Jalal’s love affair with art began at the age of six, when a teacher displayed his drawing of a little yellow duck on a classroom wall. Now, he is no stranger to local, regional and global exhibitions. “Art has allowed me to travel, meet people and be involved in charity work and the community,” says Mr Jalal, 50, a Training Curriculum Project Officer at the Singapore Police Force. At work, the graphic design graduate from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts renders police training programmes visually impactful through illustrations and videos. A self-taught painter, he has used oil, pencil, charcoal and acrylic in his work. But whatever the medium or subject matter, the act of creation is for Mr Jalal a daily learning process – about himself, the world and new ideas. “Art is a million languages. It has helped me see life in different ways, engage people and communicate better through visuals,” he says.

Super-doodle dandy

Mr Mas Shafreen Sirat isn’t kidding when he claims to love drawing “on anything” (sleepyheads beware!). His first life-size mural was drawn on a bedroom wall using his mother’s lipstick, he recalls with a laugh. “I was lucky. She not only didn’t punish me, she recognised that I could draw and encouraged me!” says the Senior Assistant Director of Community Relations at the PUB. He took his talent to sketchbooks and note paper, then to a website ( in 2007. To date, he’s held two solo exhibitions, been in six group shows, and for the last three years, served as an illustration mentor for Noise Singapore, a platform to showcase the creativity of youths. The 42-year-old still doodles on just about anything if you let him: Once, he designed a bright yellow dragon for a 3.4-metre sailboat. His favourite work these days is creating mash-ups of photos with doodled characters – a green sea creature using the Merlion as a drinking fountain or a dinosaur chewing a corner off the Marina Bay Sands. He says: “I love working in any medium. The crazier the better!”


The shape of language

When she first dabbled in Chinese seal engraving as a fine art student, Ms Teo Sek-Eng (left) didn’t quite get the knack of it. So her teacher encouraged her to take up Chinese calligraphy to improve. Today, Ms Teo is an award-winning calligrapher who has taken part in many exhibitions. Her most recent one, Cultivation, showcased seal script (an old form of the Chinese language adopted during the Qin Dynasty). To Ms Teo, the appeal of calligraphy lies in its history and the forms of the ancient pictograms. And though the act of putting brush to paper may appear spontaneous, a lot of research goes on beforehand. Ms Teo, 39, Registrar at the Heritage Conservation Centre, National Heritage Board, spends much of her free time poring over dictionaries of traditional Chinese script to find characters with the right meaning and forms to achieve the visual balance of a piece. This often builds a link between her and her art. “The words talk to you; there is a spiritual connection with the history of the language,” she explains.

Let there be chaos

The whimsical cartoons of cats, penguins and the “trials” of work life on Ms Yap Zi Wei’s blog ( are commentaries that reflect her workplace experiences and are inspired by the idiosyncratic habits of her “crabby” cat Mao Mao. Ms Yap, 27, majored in philosophy but “gatecrashed” live drawing classes at university. The self-taught artist was also an illustration apprentice in Noise Singapore 2013, where she worked on an original tale about the adventures of a neighbourhood cat and a girl who had recently died. Rich in local flavour, the piece explored the heartlands, and issues of friendship, transitions, loss and nostalgia. Apart from digital-based art, Ms Yap also loves working with traditional media such as watercolours and pencils. “I like to play with colour and texture, and I prefer traditional media because there is less control.” With watercolour, she says, there is no “undo” button. But the Assistant Manager at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth enjoys having to plan ahead while being open to uncertainty: “You have to let the medium do the work and let it flow. Interesting things emerge when you stop trying to control the paint.”

    Nov 26, 2014
    Sheralyn Tay
    Chuck Tham
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