Launched in August 2018, Audience with an Artist is a monthly artist talks programme alongside a cumulative broadsheet, hosted by the Singapore Arts Club. The goal of this programme is to introduce the visual arts to fresh audiences in an engaging, personal way, while representing the diverse practices of artists in Singapore. Each month, the Singapore Arts Club invites two contemporary artists from different generations and who have rather different practices to dialogue with a new audience that extends beyond the art industry. The language and content of this talks programme will be made accessible by noteworthy moderators from other industries, ranging from technology and design, finance and business, F&B and hospitality, to lifestyle and fashion. He or she will pose questions to the artists about their practice, inspiration, and their ways of seeing, thinking and being.

We all inhabit distinct communities that speak the same language, rely upon constant rituals, and assume a shared history. Through our own idiosyncratic vocabularies, we circle back and forth within these silos, maintaining consensus and perpetuating specific agendas. Though often walled and coded, these communities are nonetheless vital. They speak to our very nature — they affirm our universal need to belong.

But as we move into the second decade of the millennium, with all of its upheavals, and with the resurgence of a hazardous form of guarded, prideful nationalism, we must become more self aware. No longer can we gate-keep according to the same tendencies — whether conscious or not — that we leaned on before. We must take deliberate steps towards understanding and building bridges.

Within the art community, however open or progressive it may assume itself to be, these walls also exist. Unfortunately, they are constructed by the same building blocks that support the entire ecosystem. Between the two, indivisible pillars of art history, its storied academia and erudite criticism, and the art market, with its elitism and opacity, the visual arts are often set apart behind closed doors. Perhaps only a select few are privy to a regular, deep and meaningful engagement. As a format of and platform for exhibition-making, the artist talk has become the most requisite centre of such engagement. But who attends these artist talks? Who is in the audience? Who speaks to the artists? It is not enough that the same select few speak to each other, when we know the dialogue is of enough relevance and gravity to expand the context of the exhibition. For where else is this context, if not amongst the public?

It was these pressing questions that inspired this initiative, Audience with an Artist. Piloted by the Singapore Arts Club, a sister brand of Yeo Workshop which has been engaged with the local community in public arts programming since 2014, Audience with an Artist presents opportunities to speak to artists, and to each other with intentionality and openness.

Each month, the Singapore Arts Club invites two Singapore-based contemporary artists — often from different generations and whose practices are even more varied — to sit down with a moderator whose own world extends beyond the visual arts. In this way, the programme opens the gates of the traditional artist talk to a new audience. This audience is one that may not know curatorial vocabulary nor the finer points of aesthetic theory, but is nonetheless interested in understanding brilliance wherever it may be found, especially within the halls of an art gallery.