Shirley Bok is no stranger to tough times. In 2016, after leaving the hospitality industry, where she’s worked for more than 30 years, she decided to pursue a new career as an artist.
“It’s not easy to be an artist in Singapore; I had to prepare to get by. I’ve loved art since I was young; I started painting abstract art in 2010 and wanted to devote myself to it after quitting my job. But the turning point came when I got to customise a painting for a private collector’s home. Now I want to do my part to help others,” says Bok, whose works feature in Giving HeART, which takes place from now until 16 August 2020.
The online charity art exhibition is part of A Magazine’s first anniversary celebrations, and features a collaboration with The Saturday Movement to raise funds for the elderly poor in Singapore affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Sale proceeds from the pieces (less delivery and/or third-party costs and taxes) go fully to The Saturday Movement.
Bok, whose works depict scenes in nature – flowers, skies and rivers – in her vibrant abstract style, has participated in various exhibitions and community initiatives in Singapore. That’s not all; she’s served as editor-in-chief for Splendid Art City, published by Life Art Society, and Brilliant Art Rhapsody. The latter was published by International Art & Culture (Singapore) Federation, Singapore International Art Forum & Art Exchange Exhibition to commemorate Singapore Bicentennial 2019.
Why was it important for you to be part of Giving HeART?
I was very touched by how The Saturday Movement wanted to help the elderly poor affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. I was also inspired by the team’s selfless spirit in reaching out to the vulnerable. Coming together for Giving HeART allows us to make a difference in others’ lives. So, when I was approached to participate by donating my artworks for the charity exhibition, I saw it as an opportunity to give back for a worthy cause.
In what ways does art help comfort the soul especially during these troubled times?
I believe there are many who turned to art for comfort during circuit breaker in Singapore. Art can start at home in the form of simple drawing and painting that strengthen bonds between children and parents. For me, I tried to stay connected to the art community by learning from international artists and sharing knowledge online.
The Giving HeART charity exhibition features 9 of your lovely paintings. What inspired these works?
Since Covid-19 struck, we’ve had to deal with sad news [of people losing their health, loved ones or jobs, among others]. So I wanted to help brighten up the mood for others with my natured-inspired paintings in happy colours. By doing them in the abstract style, I hope to give art lovers a “space” to enjoy the beauty of flowers and landscapes and to spark their imagination. These are challenging times as we experience changes to our lifestyle and must adjust to the new normal. I believe the beauty of nature will help bring cheer into our lives, as we look out of our windows and enjoy the glorious sunset or admire the flowers and trees.
Where in Singapore is your favourite place to seek inspiration?
My art seeks to express the beauty of nature, from the fragrance of garden blooms to charming islands where flowers dance under bright open skies. Being close to nature is a wonderful experience for me, and Singapore is a Garden City with clear blue skies and lush greenery that I treasure. I love Gardens by the Bay most, where I can enjoy an afternoon discovering and taking pictures of beautiful flowers; my favourite is the peony because of its pretty petals. And, I don’t mind admiring nature’s best in air-conditioning comfort!
How have changes or experiences brought on by Covid-19 helped you evolve your art?
I am thankful that I am blessed with good health and able to continue with my passion in art during this challenging time. I want to keep art alive and will continue to create colourful abstract paintings to brighten up spaces and encourage others to imagine, enjoy and support the arts.
To help the elderly poor and own one of Shirley Bok’s beautiful abstract paintings, visit Giving HeART here.