Living With Art Founder Zak Lo Found His Creative Calling By Opening A Gallery
American author Thomas Merton once famously said that “art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”. So it was with Zak Lo, owner and principal art consultant at Living with Art, when life led him on his current path after he first picked up a paintbrush 17 years ago.
The former banker was involved in painting a mural commissioned by Naval Base Primary School. “That mural had an underwater scene, and I remember climbing the three-storey-high scaffolding and painting a dolphin at the top of the wall—I felt so liberated and happy with the experience,” he enthused.
His love of art would only grow from that encounter. After working with local young artists on other projects, Lo took it upon himself to find other platforms to showcase their works. “I started consigning their artworks to shops in town,” he revealed. “Later on, I established Living with Art to showcase their works ourselves.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Founded in 2003, the gallery located at Tan Boon Liat Building is an extensive showcase of works by artists from around the world.
At Living with Art, the eye is drawn every way at once, with the vast 4,500 sqft space exhibiting an inspiring array of artworks and sculptures. A walk through the gallery reveals works by artists as diverse as Indonesia’s Hudi Alfa, Nancy Lang from South Korea, Sri Lankan P.D. Amila Jeewantha, British artist Samantha Redfern and Chen Yi Xi from Singapore.
“It is very difficult for young artists to enter the market through most other galleries here,” says Lo. “Most galleries cater to their existing customers and know what they are already collecting, so they usually work with the same artists to have more pieces for their customers to collect.”
He adds: “We have big walls to fill, and I want customers to come in and have a wide variety of art to choose from. I welcome new artists to come in with their original artworks. If I like their work, they can showcase it and if a customer buys their work, we will work out the commission later. Everybody needs a place to start.” Lo himself goes for bright and cheerful artworks that would sit well in social spaces such as the living room and dining area. “Vibrant pieces elicit a feeling of positivity. They also have a story to tell, so they would make good conversation pieces when homeowners are hosting visitors.”
The recently launched Gallery 1819 is a premium section located within Living with Art. “We hope we can be a long-term service provider to fine art collectors,” said Lo of Gallery 1819. “We help our clients manage their art portfolios, update them on the activities the artists are involved in, how the artists’ careers are developing and also the market price of their works and fluctuations, if any.”
Living with Art also provides a full project management service—the gallery’s consultants can offer advice on everything from the artworks that would complement the colour of the client’s walls to the overall theme of the room. It can also range from something as simple as installing an artwork to decorating walls with art in various cabins on an oil rig; the latter is a project which the gallery fulfilled last year with 142 pieces of art. Living with Art also matches clients who want something truly unique to artists for special commissions, whether in a Western or Chinese style.
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One of the key artists the gallery currently represents is Thomas Yeo, a prominent second-generation Singaporean artist known for his ethereal landscape paintings. Lo met Yeo, who was honoured with the Cultural Medallion accolade in 1984, at an exhibition in September at which the latter was sharing his experiences as an artist.
“I never had a mentor, so Mr Yeo has given me a lot of inspiration and courage to do bigger things,” shares Lo. “After I met him, I knew it (pursuing a career in art) was the right thing to do and I was glad I did it.”
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One of Yeo’s recent collections is Yangshuo Revisited, a series of paintings that currently takes pride of place on the walls of Gallery 1819. Done in gouache, the paintings depict scenes inspired by the southern Chinese county’s natural beauty and are exclusive to Living with Art. “I had been there (Yangshuo) before,” shares Yeo. “After five, six years I returned and saw the incredible change in the town, but the landscape remained the same. I was quite happy to revisit the landscape and do these works.”
Besides managing the gallery, Lo also operates Timeless Gifts, a shop launched at Jewel Changi Airport in April offering Singaporean and Asian-inspired art, sculptures and accessories, as well as its webstore. The brand is inspired by Lo’s national pride—each piece is “handpicked to celebrate our Singapore story, culture and memories”.
Living with Art and Gallery 1819 are located at 315 Outram Road, #02-05 Tan Boon Liat Building
- Photography Benny Loh