CLEO Change Makers 2018 Tan Yang Er

At CLEO, we’re constantly on the lookout for game-changers who are dedicated to making a positive change in the world. Every year, we seek out young female professionals who are not only great at what they do, but also inspire others. This year, we found 10.

Tan Yang Er, 25, Multidisciplinary Artist

Previously a freelance makeup artist, CLEO Change Maker Yang Er gave up that role almost immediately after she art directed the psychedelic music video of “Keep Me Jealous”, the hit single by The Sam Willows. “A day or two after the shoot, I woke up and saw my makeup trolley bag in the corner of my room. I then thought to myself, ‘This has to go’,” she says. “I had just done an amazing shoot with my team. It was a big production. I told myself, ‘Now, I want something more. I want something bigger.’” She unpacked the bag the very same morning and gave all her palettes and makeup brushes away. “I said to myself, ‘I have nothing left. I can’t get comfortable. I have to hustle like my life depends on it,” she adds.

This NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information alumnus wears many hats when it comes to art, and aside from art directing, she also shoots for campaigns. But she didn’t get to where she is without hard work and some luck.

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My horoscope says that I’m nurturing so here I am, a part of ALDO x Kult’s creative mentorship program! If you’re into photography (and into me LOL I mean ok style is subjective, i won’t take it as a personal attack 🙃), more specifically FILM!!!! Come spend a month with me and I’ll download everything I’ve learnt to u! 1. Had the pleasure to shoot for YTL hotels late last year, and all I brought with me was my trusty Nikon FE. Shooting in harsh conditions (batteries kept dying but a manual film camera? Unaffected 😉), but this was one of my favorite moments on the ski slope, where I waited for these skiers to turn and move into my frame. ~sniper style~ 2. Made a series of pictures with the beautiful @shawnawu in New York, and her alluring fabric creations. 3. This would always be my all time favorite picture, during our time back in school, handmade in the darkroom, featuring my best friend. I spent way too long in there, messing with chemicals and out of an experimentation, achieved this. HAND!!! MADE!!!!!!!!!!!! . 4. Nothing beats being inspired by the talented, loving people around you. Check out the open call and I’m excited to work with u in creating a body of work to be exhibited in August! The only thing I ask – WHAT’S YOUR HOROSCOPE HAHAHAHA jk come thru!!! @aldoshoes_sg

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“When I was [learning photography] in school, I spent a lot of time finding different ways to expose a picture. Narelle [Kheng] was always my subject,” she says. “Back then, it was all just for fun. And because I wanted to create some work, I also did a photo series for her when we went to New York together after graduation. Things snowballed when we came back – I started taking photography more seriously and the work I produced changed. And before I knew it, I was shooting campaigns for her.”

This Change Maker also paints. In fact, she’s sold a couple of paintings, something she still finds hard to wrap her head around. “The first time it happened was after I’d posted a picture of a painting I did on Instagram. A friend of mine saw it and said he wanted to buy it,” she says. “I was like, ‘You want to pay for my feelings?’ I didn’t know how to price it. I told him my cost price and said he could pay me an additional fee on top of it if he wanted. Of course, my friends were like, ‘No, Yang, you can’t do that. That’s not how you price art!’”

Yang Er says that was the only time a painting was sold that way. She adds: “These days, I’ve amazing friends who are willing to ‘help’ me.”

And here’s the thing: Yang Er is a self-taught artist – she picked up painting on her own a couple of years ago because she found it therapeutic. But even though she’s good at it, it took her a long time to identify herself as an artist. “I struggled with the impostor syndrome. I was worried that someone would call me out for not having formal art training,” she explains. “I only became comfortable with the term after talking to a friend. I told her, ‘I don’t dare to call myself an artist. How can I?’ She responded by telling me that I’m an artist because I think like one. I found myself agreeing with her.”

As if there isn’t enough on her plate, this millennial also co-owns 21 Moonstone, a co-working space. And in case you’re wondering, she’s more than proud to be a millennial. “Every generation has its own characteristics and millennials are just another generation that will come to pass,” she says. “I’m just documenting this period with all my work, and in years to come, people would be able to see my influence in different areas. I would also like to think that being a millennial helps me to relate to others better.”

It’s safe to say she has learnt a couple of lessons over the past few years, but one that has stuck with her is the importance of following your passion. “A while back, [before I decided to give up makeup artistry,] my mum suddenly said to me, ‘I don’t think you should do makeup anymore.’ And I just started crying,” she says. “It was then that I realised that until somebody tells you you can’t do something, you may not even know how much you love it.”

Now that she’s in pursuit of “bigger things”, she’s currently working on paintings for an upcoming solo show and plans to do her master’s degree at Parsons School of Design next year. She also hopes to have her work exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York one day. If this isn’t one millennial to watch, who is?