Monday, June 07, 2010

Making Public Private Lives

With a beaming face on a book cover and
a title that screams a basic need we all hunger for,
who wouldn't want this pick-me-up for a read?!

Chef Judy Koh may not be a motivational speaker, but she sure has the persuasive powers to turn you into a baker. Her latest cookbook, Pockets of Happiness, is soaked through with recipes to mouthwatering desserts. The book's also got an unusual 'filling' - poems! Yes, honest-to-goodness poems baked straight from the heart!

Chef Judy has 18 years of professional baking experience and is Managing Director and Principal Chef of baking school Creative Culinaire. She also heads up an in-house bakery and runs Caffe Pralet. Her accolades are many - clinching several national and international records (among them 'The Guinness World Records for the world's Tallest Chocolate Sculpture' and 'Singapore's Biggest Birthday Cake') and having written other cookbooks. With all these to her credit, you'd think she's 'arrived'. Wrong. There's still Cambodia! She has plans to improve lives and livelihoods of the needy in that land. When asked how far off she was from fulfilling her ambition to make good her skills in imparting them to villagers at risk, she puts it down to eight years. I wish Godspeed.

My heart swells with delight as I recount how in The Living Room, we've come to learn of so many entrepreneurs and professionals from various trades who are making their skills count beyond dollars and cents. Last Friday, award-winning photographer Alex Soh was on our show sharing how he was using his photography skills to aid villagers in Cham Resh (a remote village in Cambodia) build a road that would 'help them walk out of poverty'. Alex emailed me today to say that the 3-day exhibition at VivoCity raised close to $12,000! May The Living Room's profiling of such personalities and their acts of selfless giving rub off on you.

My other guest today was also a shutterbug-cum-multi-disciplinary artist. His story is one of pursuing your dreams. At the beckoning of his wife after marriage when they were just 23 years old, he dropped out of LaSalle College of the Arts, bundled themselves onto a plane bound for the US. No contacts, no leads, no clues. Twelve years later today, John Clang (born Ang Choon Leng) is making headlines after confronting his fears. (Con)Front happens to be the name of his solo exhibition that opens this Friday, 11th June at 2902 Gallery.

John strikes me as melancholic, quiet and contemplative. His personality is in stark contrast to New York City where everything is loud, brash and brazen. Despite having lived a decade in the Big Apple, he's a true blue Singaporean. He even proudly exclaims how he continues to speak like a Singaporean in the US and never did adopt the American accent.

(above: A piece of John's work with his dad as the subject matter. In place of his face that's been blanked out, are the Chinese characters that express an apology to his father.)

Being abroad, he admits to missing his family dearly, especially his elderly parents. His works reflect how highly he treasures family ties - yet another obvious Asian trait. In fact, a video installation at his upcoming exhibition portrays that clearly through his communication with them over Skype while based in the US, and how he walks into the projection and stands in place to make it look like a family portrait. Novel!

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