A Singapore-based Dutch artist does amazing things with canned food

Singapore-based Dutch artist Iskander Walen, known for his larger-than-life installations and paintings, is back with an interesting exhibition titled CAN! come Jul 28. The series features faces of prominent figures on processed food cans to express emotions and joyful jabs. Here Iskander tells us a little bit more on his inspiration and expression of his artwork.

What inspired you to associate cans with your expression of art?

I consider canned food to be very similar to the canned life that people are now getting addicted to through their smart devices. People prefer getting little emotional jolts from accessing all sorts of information and images through their phones and tablets. We seem to like it so much; it is eating into our human interaction time. I see people, families, couples, friends, each one disconnected from the others, staring at their phones while there are real living people sitting in front of them. I understand there is a real chemical reaction in the brain when we process any information that is delivered through our smart devices, but I believe it has the same “nutritional” value as food from a can, which is very little. Occasionally you can eat canned food, but if you eat it all the time, eventually it will damage you. I think Smart devices will do the same to our mental health.

, A Singapore-based Dutch artist does amazing things with canned food
Left: Aunt Ruth’s Instant Justice, right: Aunty Mah’s Instant Gratification

What do you hope to express through your artwork?

I like to draw people’s attention to what is happening around us every day which we hardly pay attention to. Usually things I think should be considered more carefully, and usually these are things people would rather not think about. I think most people don’t want to calculate how many hours a day all their “checking up” is really taking. Because we know there’s something wrong with the incessant checking of messages, Facebook, entertainment, games, etc. And we don’t want to think about it. I am fascinated by this human trait of ignoring things that obviously should be given more thought.

, A Singapore-based Dutch artist does amazing things with canned food
Left: Instant Fame (Orange), right: Uncle Tong’s Instant Cheer​

How did you decide on the prominent figures to be featured on your cans?

When I think of an emotion, or a state of being, I can quickly associate it with a famous figure. Warhol was obsessed with fame and one of the first public figures who not only admitted it openly but made his art about being famous. He famously said that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. That time seems to have arrived since “viral” fame can be achieved without effort, but it is short-lived.

You also feature LKY.

I chose Lee Kuan Yew because he is such an accomplished man, who has had a very powerful impact on this nation. For most people he represents an era in which this nation was made great and everything was going up and up. He will forever be associated with the best of times. Now that he has passed, his memory represents instant nostalgia for an earlier, better time. Famous people are often associated with very basic feelings which fits in with our craving for quick, temporary and most importantly effortless access to any given emotion.

  , A Singapore-based Dutch artist does amazing things with canned food
Left: Cooky Phil’s Home-Cooked Artificial Empathy, right: Papa Lee’s Preserved Nostalgia

Catch Iskander Walen’s exhibition CAN! on from Jul 28 till Nov 24 at Goodman Arts Centre. Find out more about the artist here.