Her multilayered panoramic works comprise photography, light installations, videography and painting. Each of those fields is difficult to master in itself, but Sarah Choo relishes the challenge of working in all of them, and doesn’t identify with just one medium. The results are complex and compelling, and have earned her multiple awards: the gold award for fine art in the 2016 PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris; and the Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu photography award in 2013.
Though she found her passion for art only in her late teens, Sarah was always inspired by random things when she was growing up, items we never would have thought were art because, to her, art is everywhere: “You know the little twisty toy machines they used to have at the neighbourhood shops? Those affected me in a creative way. I just didn’t know that then. When I was a kid walking along Orchard Road, the fashion items placed on the mannequins were very much also art to me,” she reminisces with a certain joy.
Her works are often depicted in theatrical form; the pieces frequently mimic a Singapore scene and reflect themes that most Singaporeans would be familiar with: loneliness, abandonment and ennui. Sarah’s art has been described as “uncanny” by international audiences, and the 29-year-old is a natural at being uncanny. She works intuitively on her pieces, from the strategically spaced trees to the well-lit alleys she depicts. And she only realised their unique quality when she heard from others how deliberate her set-ups looked.
“I never really noticed it, but when my peers from other countries started to point that out, I realised that the structure of my art was derived from the way I was brought up. As Singaporeans, we’re very used to structure. I think having that in my pieces really defined my voice as an artist,” she says.
She is, in some ways, a truly Singaporean artist. And that’s not because her works are heavily patriotic or explicitly about Singapore. Having lived in cities all over the world, Sarah still considers Singapore as the place she can “draw the most creativity and inspiration from” because she feels most comfortable in a place she can call home, where she can distill everything she feels into her indelible works.
This story was first published in the May 2018 issue of Her World.