An emerging artist now living and creating in Perth, we follow Rainer Goh’s journey as he exhibits his passion while leaving footprints across the globe.
You may be curious, how does one make a living off art? Just ask Rainer Goh, an up-and-coming artist who’s striking it out on his own in Perth, Australia. “Perth is one of the last places you’d associate with a thriving arts hub, but this is where I’ve met some of the most driven individuals who’ve inspired me to not only grow as a creative, but as a person,” he shares. The 26-year-old dabbles in highly stylised, realist paintings inspired by contemporary illustrations – and when he’s not showcasing his strokes of genius on canvas, the homegrown artist can be found running a boutique gallery. We caught up with Rainer as he discusses his honest thoughts on the local arts scene and how he’s making a name for himself abroad.
How did you get started in art?
I’ve been exposed to art since I was a kid. My mother, who’s an artist turned teacher, is always there to feed me with knowledge and aid me in my growth as an artist. I remember she used to teach me about human proportions through mangas and would buy loads of fine art magazines for me to read up on. It was through my mother’s efforts and love that I discovered artists whom I now look up to as well.
Now that you’re striking it out in Australia, what’s a typical day at work like for you?
I work as a gallery manager at Studio 281, which is an art gallery and picture framer in Perth. I take charge of all the logistics involved to host exhibitions, liaise with emerging and established artists, assist with customer service etc. I work very closely with my director and mentor, who is a master framer and an amazing businessman. Under his guidance, I’ve learned how to get an art gallery running from the ground up. As a small business, every day at work comes as a surprise as there are always new things to learn. Today, I took a break from organising logistics to participate in a framing workshop, where I was showed how to do framing conservation.
What are your thoughts on the local art scene, and how does it differ from Perth?
The contemporary art scene in Singapore is strong, and has an undeniable influence on the industry at large. The infrastructure is in place and many good seeds are being planted, but ironically, there’s somethings about our culture that constricts the growth of many young creatives. On the other hand, Perth is like a sproutling that’s beginning to shoot. For the past years, government bodies have been pouring in massive grants to promote art. We get lots of fresh ideas from passionate individuals who want us to make a change and we’re all on the same page that Perth will have a thriving art scene within the next decade.
What’s an artwork you’re most proud of?
I’m currently working on a series that features portraits of iconic Muay Thai fighters done in a video game aesthetic and I aim to have them put up as motivational posters at local fight gyms. It’s project that ties in with the two things I love – painting and Muay Thai. I go to work excited to start on it and go home looking forward to new challenges!
What were you doing before pursuing this path?
Before travelling, I was slogging it out at an admin job and attending figure drawing classes after work. While Singapore is and always will be my home, I knew from a young age that it wasn’t the ideal place for me to grow professionally and creatively. Back then, I used to do commissions for private and commercial purposes, but now I’m at the stage where I’m taking it all back and making sure my art is mine again. As an artist, it’s something very personal to me and I couldn’t be happier.
Was it tough making a living out of your passion?
I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s not impossible. There are definitely struggles I’ve had to face, but it’s been a fruitful experience thus far. In my humble opinion, I feel that money comes to you when you serve the needs of others which can be provided through a creative service and this makes a world of difference between a starving creative and a successful one.
Have you had any memorable experiences during your time abroad?
Picking mulberries at a friend’s vineyard in Australia – just imagine climbing trees, tossing mulberries down to your buddies’ baskets and playing with dogs on the vast fields of a spring morning. Sometimes, it’s these things that make the biggest impact because we rarely experience them in Singapore.
What are the top three things on your bucket list now?
Make more art, run a killer art show for Australian artist Anthony Lister at our art gallery, and most importantly, doing the simple things in life that matter most.
What are some of the important takeaways you’ve had after embarking on this journey?
I’ve gained the confidence to take things in my own hands and see it through. This journey has taught me how to take full control of my life, and not just set it cruising on auto-pilot.
What advice would you give to those who aspire to carve a career overseas?
Just do it! This world is vast – simply going on an exchange programme abroad alone would open a ton of doors for you. Even it finances don’t allow, there are also plenty of grants and sponsorships available to help you get started.
This article was adapted from the article in Teenage July Issue 2017 out now.
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