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The Peak Magazine Singapore, 11 June 2019

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

Thank you “The Peak Magazine” to feature the article. Realized that we all wore black - Once again we have proven the stereotype in architect’s dress code preference.

It’s challenging to pursue both passion in art and architecture.


Juliana Chan. Architect & Artist.

My Colourful Neighbourhood, Oil on Canvas. A Chinatown scene. Selected in the longlist for Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2018

Zhou Zhuang Water Town, China. Pen & Ink on Paper.

Puri Hotel, Malacca. Pen on Paper

Juliana Chan, 35, became an architect almost by accident – signing up for it only when university applications rolled around.

She started drawing before kindergarten, copying illustrations from her elder sister’s manga books. She was in an arts elective programme in secondary school, and it was graphic design she was set on. She even wrote to various government bodies to ask for it to be included in art scholarships.

That failed so she finally turned to architecture – the closest alternative. It didn’t turn out as she’d expected. She soon realised architecture was also very much about managing projects and budgets – perhaps more so than design.

Still, Ms Chan, now Design Architect with ACG Design Studio and founder of NS Chan Studio, says, “Once I start something I will truly fall in love with it. Now, I don’t know if I can remove myself from architecture. I just hope that I can do both art and architecture as long as possible.”

Juggling her two loves has not been easy. Time pressure is one obvious issue, given architecture’s notoriously long hours. Misconceptions are another – that architects who are also artists will be too starry-eyed and difficult to work with. “There’s very little support for people like me who are not full-time artists but want to pursue our passion,” the 35-year-old adds, citing the dwindling of art events, and the prohibitive costs of gallery rentals caused by the increasing commercialisation of art.

That said, architecture has had a significant effect on her and her art. “I think I improved as a person. Architecture is about the client’s and the users’ needs. Unlike art, you can’t be caught up in your own fantasy world anymore. You become realistic. You become more organised. You’re not just a dreamer waiting for inspiration to come to you.”

She adds that her art has gained more depth after becoming an architect. She is able to draw buildings with greater understanding now that she has a solid foundation in architectural principles. Poring over and wrangling with architecture drawings have also nurtured her patience – she’s now unfazed even when having to painstakingly paint finicky details, such as ornate roofs of traditional houses for her urban landscapes, or when painting in miniature for her craft brooches.

Portraits too, have benefited greatly from her architect’s tendency to distil things into their simplest forms. “My portraits are a lot more chiselled and expressive now. I used to rush into details but now I would break things down into simple masses before filling in the details.”

Together with the Artists Society of Singapore, she’s hoping to put up an exhibition late next year. And as a huge fan of architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Geoffrey Bawa, she hopes to learn landscape design some day, to similarly create spaces that break down the barriers between inside and outside.

This article was originally published in The Business Times.


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