Singapore’s first-ever Affordable Art Fair (AAF) in 2010 was home to 50 galleries, but this figure has since doubled with 101 galleries participating this year. With art works priced between S$100 to $10,000, the mantra of the fair is to correct notions that art is exclusively for the hoity-toity. Art is meant to be accessible.

What’s new at AAF 2013 is the “Under $1000 Wall” where visitors can easily pick out a piece of art they love to fit their purse strings. The fair did well this year. It attracted 17,800 visitors and accumulated a whopping $4.9 million worth of art sales. This traction is what Alan Koh derives satisfaction from his role as the Marketing Manager.

“I like to see the advertisements out in the streets, reaching out to a bigger audience who have never bought art before. I feel satisfaction when I see them coming through the Fair and taking the first step to buy their first piece of art.” – Mr Alan Koh (Marketing Manager, AAF (Singapore))

Site-specific installations were at the tip of everyone’s tongue during the Artylicious Evening on the opening night. As Alan Koh puts it, “art form is perceived differently to different people and creates conversations which connect people together.”

Edible Art Movement’s Cirque du Scent, an interactive, fragrance-based installation and a live painting performance by Australian graffiti artist, Luke Cornish (represented by Art Equity), certainly kept the conversation going.

Luke, please describe your art in three words.

“Photorealistic stencil art”

Pushing the boundaries of stencil art has always been Luke Cornish’s modus operandi. The appeal of stencil art to Luke is simply because there is a “Start and end. As opposed to a painting, where you’re always adding and subtracting.”

Well-known in the street as E.L.K, Luke has impressed the art world with his unique technique of aerosol paint sprayed on layer upon layer of meticulously cut acetate. This attention to detail is what sets him apart from other graffiti-street artists. “Street art is about going in and out as quickly as you can“, Luke remarked. This means pure street artists would be unable to execute multiple layers of graffiti due to time constraints.

Luke’s humble art beginnings blossomed from the anti-establishment roots of Street Art. However, he doesn’t consider himself a Street Artist since his works have been taken out of the context of the street. Now, he just views his works as contemporary art.

Famous for being the first stencil artist in history to qualify for the finals of the highly coveted Archibald Prize 2012 which saw 839 entries. He has more prizes under his belt such as the Metro Art Prize 2011, the Australian Stencil Art Prize 2010 and creating a short film “Me–We” in which was short-listed for this year’s Tropfest.

When asked if there is anything else we should know of his work. He mulls over the question for a while, and thoughtfully quipped, “I’ve always been very honest. Everyone probably knows everything there needs to know.”

Father Bob by Luke Cornish (Archibald Prize Finalist)

This is evident in his piece “Father Bob“, which was shortlisted for the Archibald Prize 2012. 30 layers of paint lends a certain depth of emotion to his works. Luke’s portrayal of a joyless Father Bob Maguire at the lowest point of his career as a Catholic Priest when he was forced to retire; and the melancholy as a result of a close friend, is as real as life goes. What you see is indeed what you get.

As a self-taught artist, he may not be as acquainted with historic art pieces as an artist who majored in art would. But that hardly bothers him since such art works have little impact on how far his art goes.

What’s been done, is done. I don’t want to do more after. Works after Monet have been done before, so I try to come up with something new.”

When asked how he chooses his subject matter, he stated matter-of-factly, “It’s a very intrinsic process. I don’t really question it so much. It’s more of a documentation of the world. The way I see it . There’s a bit of social commentary going on, some of it is very tongue-in-cheek.”

Luke Cornish does not control his processes or future direction, he goes with the flow. Of late, he has been doing a lot of portraiture which might not rake in the moolah, but that is where his passion and motivation resides.

“I’m not motivated by money, I’m motivated by art. Pushing the boundaries of stencil art. But unfortunately I need money to make art. So I’m not making art to make money, I’m making money to make art.”

Spoken like a true artist indeed.

For art to be sellable, it is all about the illusion created. “So what do you think about Damien Hirst?“, I probed.

You can’t deny he’s killing it. He’s got the art world wrapped around his little finger. He’s famous for his ‘little dots’, which he doesn’t even do as he employs someone to sign his prints. Fair enough, you might say it’s conceptual but it’s a slap in the face for anyone who’s trying to make real art. I give him full respect, i like him; I just don’t like his work.”

So what does he think of his contemporaries like Banksy who live behind a veil? Ingenious, really. Luke serves up the harsh reality: Artists are not cool. To his mind, who he truly is would be a “crushing disappointment“.

As for future plans, the world is Luke’s oyster. Hong Kong is probably his next destination where he would sign off and keep on keeping on.

“Artists don’t retire, they just continue making art. So in a way I’m retired.”

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Affordable Art Fair 2013
Date: 21 November 2013 – 24 November 2013
Venue: F1 Pit Building (1 Republic Boulevard)
Admission: General Admission (Public Days): $15
Arty-Licious Evening (21 November 2013): $30
Students & Seniors: $8
Group Package (4 adults): $50 Children under 16: free admission
Website: http://affordableartfair.com/singapore/

For more of Luke Cornish’s works, check out his official site.