These two local creatives got to showcase their works at the Doraemon Exhibition
They have always been fervent fans of Japanese manga.
The raved Doraemon Exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore has opened its doors to the public and it offers multi-cited exhibition experiences and contemporary art shows.
Among the many art pieces by international artists on display at the exhibition are two Singaporeans’ reinterpretations of Doraemon.
Leslie Kee, a commercial and fashion photographer displayed his take on Doraemon through gallery-oriented photography while Jahan Loh, a pop-artist pays homage to the adorable robotic cat through a brass sculpture as well as two canvases.
Both creatives shared with Youthopia that they are honoured and thrilled to be part of the exhibition, with Leslie stating that he was over the moon when organisers recognised his photography as art.
Leslie’s love and admiration for Japanese culture, music, and arts stemmed from his adversities in his teenage years.
Early years and initial struggles
He was single-handedly raised by his mother for the first 13 years of his life until her tragic passing at the age of 38.
With no one to call family, Leslie eked out a living in Singapore by working in a Japanese factory when he was 15. He was intrigued by Japanese culture and music while working there and even took an interest in reading Japanese comics – the adorable Doraemon included.
Convinced that he could only rediscover himself if he relocated to Japan, he summoned the courage to “leave Singapore for greener pastures” after completing his mandatory national service at a tender age of 20.
While learning Japanese to get by in the country, he took on odd jobs in Japan to earn an income so as to enrol himself in a photography school and the rest was history.
Today, Leslie could be touted as a luminary in the field of commercial and fashion photography, receiving a multitude of offers from esteemed publications. His clientele includes pop icons Madonna and Beyoncé.
Inspiration behind the artworks
Leslie’s approach in putting together Imagine is cut and dried: to imagine love, imagine peace, imagine one, imagine you, imagine me, and imagine Doraemon.
However, his photography runs beyond the evident hues. He wants to advocate for gender equality, human rights, and the LGBTQ+ community by spicing it up with a hint of fashion.
Leslie has a penchant for portrait photography and attributes it to being inspired by the revered American visual artist, Andy Warhol.
Meanwhile, Jahan’s works have a different take on Doraemon.
As manga and comics were a staple in young Jahan’s life, his work titled Intergalactic Voyagers is a tribute to Doraemon and how it accompanied him through his different stages of life.
He also mentioned that the brass sculpture was made to resemble an ancient prehistoric artwork.
“Thinking about the past, present, and future actually influenced the creation of my artworks. This was a concept that I explored in the sculpture,” said Jahan.
The homegrown artist revealed that it took him a total of six months to put together Intergalactic Voyagers.
Being a fan of Doraemon since young, the contemporary artist shared that most of his artworks are centred around time-travel and planetary explorations as the character is a robotic cat from the future.
Additionally, the homegrown artist also wanted to exhibit something that could represent his roots as an ethnic Chinese Singaporean on his canvas.
To Jahan, art reflects life and his vast collection of toys and knick-knacks from pop-culture are what inspired his work.
Nuggets of wisdom
Much like the old adage, Jahan wants young artists to never stop believing in themselves and to risk stepping out of their comfort zones to try something new, even if it doesn’t yield the results that they hoped for.
“Going down this path as an artist is not easy, especially when you are from Singapore. There is a lot of negativity associated with artists, but we just want to bring positivity and love into the world,” added Jahan.
Leslie believes that with the rapid advancements in technology, photography is now ubiquitous and anyone can be a photographer with their smartphones.
“However, when it comes to conceptual photography, you will want to have an audience who wants photography like that, support photographers like that, or buy their prints, because it gives them a certain motivation, power, or strength about their works,” shared Leslie.
He encourages youths to know what they want to deliver through their photographs as that is key to building their followers.
You can now view both Leslie and Jahan’s works at The Doraemon Exhibition from Nov 5, 2022 to Feb 5, 2023.