Philadelphia Artist and Singapore Native Meei-Ling Ng Envisions a Beautiful World Using Recycled Materials

Dominique Johnson, for GPA -- After working for some years as a graphic designer in Singapore, Meei-Ling Ng sought to further expand her knowledge of art and move to the city of Philadelphia.

Ng said aside from her creativity needing a boost, she also needed a different environment and structure. She attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, majoring in Specialized Technology in 2D and 3D animation.

“A decade or so back, the art scene in Singapore was not thriving,” Ng said. “Artists were having trouble supporting themselves and many went overseas. There were few spaces for the arts, let alone spaces for the more experimental arts.”

Early in her life, Ng lived in a village setting very close to nature. The surrounding natural environment inspired her, yet she had a strong drive to create images of the things she had lost.

“It ranged from simple things like losing my farm animal friends to the stew pot, to having our village confiscated for a military base,” she said. “As a child, art was my way of dealing with loss. Loss still plays a role in my inspiration. The losses in the natural world -- loss of wildlife habitat, community, humanity, species extinction, climate change, all these issues make me want to create art to raise awareness.”

Ng remembers how she loved to visit the “Substation,” an old power station in Singapore that had been left vacant and was later redeveloped as an art gallery. Visual art was exhibited at the gallery, and there was an outdoor garden for live performance art

“On some weekends, the garden was open to the public for fine art and craft fairs,” Ng said. “I was one of the participating artists selling my handcrafted designer jewelry there. Back then, the Substation served as an incubator for much of the art scene all over Singapore. Now the Substation has become Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts center.”

According to Ng, “Singapore has picked up with foreign investment and just more interest from Singaporeans in their local art.”

Ng has been creating graphic design and paintings for a long time, she said. Though eventually she felt that there was something missing in what she was doing, especially for the visual arts.

She felt that there must be a way to expand her skills and talents beyond painting. “I was thinking that I am very good with my hands and my skill-set can help me be more expressive with sculptures and installations, something three dimensional,” she said. 

“These feelings probably relate to my training in 3D animation. Also, with three dimensional sculptures and installations, I feel that it is easier for me to express what I am trying to achieve, especially since most of my works try to convey multi-level messages.”

Ng added that her mother is a very creative, crafty person who is very good at using her hands to create things, as well.

“I can say she does have some influence on me with the things that were made with her hands,” Ng said.

Ng’s main goal is to use her art installations to raise awareness for a whole host of issues such as preserving nature, sustainable living and organic urban farming.

Her artistic direction now mostly involves installations that have “multi-level messages.” For example, there may be an intrinsic message, like in the use of recycled materials. The installation could include an interactive experience evoking emotion in a more direct way. Then there may be an over-arching theme like, supporting your local farm or global warming awareness.

“I’m hoping my art gets people's attention and has them look more closely at these issues,” Ng said.

Currently, there are a few spring events and exhibits that Ng has been working hard on and preparing for. She has recently been selected by the Barnes Foundation to be featured in their "Artist Spotlight: Fairmount Arts Crawl" program on April 26, 2013.

At the Barnes, she'll be hosting a one-hour discussion on two pieces in the Barnes collection that relate to her work, providing an in-depth explanation of her artistic practice. “The Fairmount Arts Crawl is an annual art event that attracts over 4,000 residents, visitors and art lovers alike to the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia,” Ng said. “This year, Arts Crawl will feature over 50 artists and I am one of the participating artists.”

Lastly, Ng will be part of an outdoor Installation of Sculpture at the Elkins Estate Garden in conjunction with the Turtle Artisans Tour. The Tour is a self-paced, self-guided tour throughout Cheltenham Township and is free.

“This year for the Turtle Artisans Tour Spring 2013, I will be creating the ‘Edible Garden’ installation at the beautiful Elkins Estate garden next to the greenhouse,” Ng said.

Ng will also be doing her first international collaboration with acclaimed Singapore artist, Choo Meng FooWith this project, Choo is documenting Tiong Bahru, a historical Singapore town. The series involves the exploration of the methodology behind the creation of art, an integration of digital photography, manual sketching and collaboration and will be exhibited in Singapore.

“There are so many art scenes happening in and around [Philadelphia] that I can participate in or visit,” Ng said. “There's also plenty of opportunity for social connections. This leads to collaborations with other artists and chances to get around and be involved in the community. Plus, other things are growing so fast in the city, like urban farming and sustainable living that serve to inspire my work. I have to laugh sometimes because Singapore is so strict, getting caught littering means jail time. But here, trash all over the place just means I'll always have material for art.”

To learn more about Meei-Ling Ng, visit her website:

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