Today we’d like to introduce you to Jolene Lai.
Jolene, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It all began with a conversation at work with a friend whom I had gone to art school with. I was working at an advertising company (designing entertainment/theatrical posters) then and he was establishing his career as an artist.
I was fiddling around with my pen tablet, trying to come up with some design comps, whilst briefly chatting with him in the background. He was gulping down lots of coffee and painting furiously into the night (different time zones: US vs Singapore). At times his chat screen would appear blank for a few minutes. He had apparently fallen asleep while painting, with the brush still in his hand.
Call it weird, but I had a moment of ‘epiphany’. I realized I missed the feel of a paintbrush, the smell of oils and turps, and the excitement of creating short stories through them. But trying to take a detour at 30 seemed more challenging, even in my own perspective. I had to work on building enough courage and confidence to convince not just myself, but the people around me that a career as an artist is really what I am meant for.
Lots of significant events happened from then that would shape the route to where I am today. But the root of it all was that conversation with my friend that changed my pathway and helped me discover what I really wanted to do in life.
Has it been a smooth road?
I suppose no one’s road is ever smooth. If it is, then maybe you are not exactly experiencing life to its fullest. I think hardship leads to maturity and enables us to learn to appreciate the good at times.
I think one of the greatest advantages of working with a team of people is the opportunity to receive different point of views. My biggest day to day struggle is probably working alone. For the most parts, you become all of the various departments that make up a company. So I am constantly trying to attain balance, and making sure I am not over or under compensating for each division, so to speak.
Who, or what, deserves a lot of credit for where you are today?
My first official exhibition after deciding to be fully committed to becoming a full-time artist was coincidentally with that friend who had inspired me. He not only gave me guidance but also initiated a collaborative show with him back home in Singapore.
Similarly, while this was in progress, I plucked up enough courage and had gotten myself an appointment for a critique session with an art gallery here in Los Angeles. I met up with L. Croskey, co-owner of Thinkspace Art and had him look through my portfolio. That meet up resulted in an opportunity to be a part of the Cannibal Flower group show.
The exposure in Singapore gave rise to more international exhibitions held in Southeast Asia. The event with Cannibal Flower, in turn, awarded me my first show with Thinkspace Art, and they have since been representing me in the US.
Both key figures thought me so much about myself and will always hold important and special places in my heart as I progress in my career as an artist.
What kind of work do you look forward to most?
Doing a solo art exhibition, which I sometimes think of as a runway collection. You are essentially putting together a series of work that derives from an inspiration. They should relate and elevate one another, yet be strong enough to stand out independently.
I enjoy the process of creating fun narratives for each painting. The challenge to producing a solo, however, is making sure the stories you tell is going to have some consistency but never repeated. I think it is important to have the audience understand where you are coming from, without boring them with repeated notions and subjects. At least that is the principle I try to adopt as an artist.
I am currently in the midst of preparing for my first solo with Thinkspace Art, which is set to happen 4th – 25th of February next year. I have had a few solos with them in their project room, but this upcoming one will showcase a larger body of works consisting of at least 16 paintings. In addition, a complementing art installation will also take stage. This is a media that I am exploring for the first time, which will provide art supporters a refreshing viewpoint of my development as an artist.
Everyone is invited. So if you enjoy art or just want to experience something you haven’t already tried, you should definitely mark those dates on your calendar.
What have been some of the most important lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Life’s a puzzle built with meshes of failure and success. They mold your identity. To consider re-initiating feels like denying the current me. I guess I prefer moving forward and not dwell on what could have been.
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