Day 24

30 Days Of Art With NAC: Wordless comic that speaks volumes

To inspire and uplift readers as the country emerges from the Covid-19 circuit breaker, The Straits Times, supported by the National Arts Council as part of the #SGCultureAnywhere campaign, has commissioned 30 works by local writers and artists on the pandemic and what it will be like when all this is over

It’s Not The End, by graphic artist Koh Hong Teng, opens with a full-page panel (left), but gets crowded with more panels in the subsequent pages (right) as it documents the spread of the coronavirus around the world.
It’s Not The End, by graphic artist Koh Hong Teng, opens with a full-page panel (left), but gets crowded with more panels in the subsequent pages (right) as it documents the spread of the coronavirus around the world. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF KOH HONG TENG
It’s Not The End, by graphic artist Koh Hong Teng (above), opens with a full-page panel, but gets crowded with more panels in the subsequent pages as it documents the spread of the coronavirus around the world.
It’s Not The End, by graphic artist Koh Hong Teng (above), opens with a full-page panel, but gets crowded with more panels in the subsequent pages as it documents the spread of the coronavirus around the world. PHOTO: COURTESY OF KOH HONG TENG

Award-winning graphic artist Koh Hong Teng has an eye for detail.

This is on full display in the first page of the e-comic, It's Not The End, which he has created for the 30 Days Of Art series. It is a detailed line drawing depicting vendors and shoppers at a wet market.

As the comic unfolds, more and more panels crowd the pages, documenting the spread of the coronavirus around the world.

The 51-year-old, who holds a diploma in graphic design from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and an honours degree in graphic design (illustration) from The London Institute, says: "This project feels surreal as the constantly evolving Covid-19 situation unravels around me every day.

"What strikes me about the virus is that we are learning new things about it along the way. We have to learn how to work together to fight back as hard as it hits us. It started incongruously, but developed with such intensity and pace. Then it exploded into such an unprecedented scale that was mind-boggling."

The real world inspired his wordless comic. "This set me on the idea of starting with a full-page panel, and the panels would multiply in the subsequent pages."

While most people had to get used to the work-from-home routine, the home-based artist says the circuit breaker period did not impact his routine much - except, in true Singaporean fashion, he missed eating out with friends.

"I also missed my weekly kickabout sessions and I did feel inconvenienced as I could not get my art supplies when I needed them urgently," he adds.

He worked as a graphic journalist and design director before becoming a full-time artist in 2002. His collaboration with Oh Yong Hwee, Ten Sticks And One Rice, about the life of a hawker and bookie struggling to adapt to a changing Singapore, won the bronze prize at Japan's 7th International Manga Awards in 2013.

Besides books, he also paints. His artworks are available from Mulan Gallery.

This project for the National Arts Council and The Straits Times was a challenge, he says, because of tight deadlines. "I have to sieve through the sheer amount of information and gather the important parts to ensure the visual narrative flows nicely."

But he adds: "As an artist, I have a need to feel the pulse of things happening around me. To be sensitive and work at such a pace is something I have to learn quickly."

On the final work, he says: "I hope that I can help people relate and make sense of things around us while being entertained. It would be great if readers could walk away with a positive take in whatever situation they face."

Download Koh Hong Teng's e-comic, It's Not The End.

For more local digital arts offerings, go to a-list.sg to appreciate #SGCultureAnywhere

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2020, with the headline 'Day 24: Wordless comic that speaks volumes'. Print Edition | Subscribe