The Artist as a migrant: From one Island to another

An artist’s journal about migration

Recently I moved country: I left Singapore, my amazing tropical home of seven years, to settle in the beautiful country of Ireland. Having grown up in the UK, I know I have always been privileged to live and work in such places. My recent move lead me to think a lot about the sense of home and being displaced. I have made myself and my artwork look more deeply at what I feel is my home, and which borders real and psychological I have had to cross.

I feel it is time to share the reason why I make the work I do, to tell you a bit about my personal transcultural background. This is not written on my ‘artist bio’, but it is the thing that leads me to delve into the sometimes sensitive topics which I explore through art.

I am of Anglo Indian descent, and my family migrated to England in the 60s - a very hard time to be foreign in the UK. Having grown up as “neither one thing or the other”, and not really having a real label for myself, I am fascinated with our human connections to and displacements from the places where we are born: Including where we live, where our ancestors come from, and how this relates to the places we migrate to. 

I myself never really felt like a migrant in the past, but I have inherited an understanding of it, it flows through my family. Interestingly, throughout my whole time in Singapore when as a ‘Westerner’ I was called an ‘expat’ (whilst people from India, Philippines, Malaysia, etc in Singapore are called ‘migrants’). I was very uncomfortable with the term expat as it implies to me a bubble of privilege, a lack of understanding of local cultures. Now I have moved to Ireland and found a network of migrant artists, I have warmed to this new label- Migrant. I feel at home, and more comfortable with this term even though it has been given negative connotations. I have found a great deal of welcome amongst the migrant community who understand what it is like to be away from your roots.

Having said all this, I do feel strongly that my personal motivations to make art should not be the subject of my work, just the spark that begins them. Ultimately I aim to make art which tackles universal human challenges. But of course, we have to use ourselves as a leaping-off point.

Over the next few weeks, I will be adding more to this ‘artist journal’ series of blog posts which aims to give a personal insight into the process of an artist moving country, and being from many places at once.