Singapore Art Week

Greetings from Sticker Lady

Also known as Sticker Lady, Samantha Lo (above) is launching a book of postcards and a retrospective exhibition, both titled Greetings From Singapore, today.
Also known as Sticker Lady, Samantha Lo (above) is launching a book of postcards and a retrospective exhibition, both titled Greetings From Singapore, today.PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Also known as Sticker Lady, Samantha Lo is launching a book of postcards and a retrospective exhibition (above), both titled Greetings From Singapore, today.
Also known as Sticker Lady, Samantha Lo is launching a book of postcards and a retrospective exhibition (above), both titled Greetings From Singapore, today.PHOTO: ONE EAST ASIA

Samantha Lo's cheeky stickers and signs have been compiled into a book and will be launched with an exhibition

Urban artist Samantha Lo - perhaps better known as Sticker Lady - has come a long way from her guerilla paste-and-run days.

Lo, who was arrested five years ago for her illegal graffiti of Singlish slogans, has put together a book of 38 photos of her tongue-in-cheek stickers and signs placed in public areas around Singapore, taken at unidentified times.

The 30-year-old will be launching Greetings From Singapore - the photos are printed as postcards - in conjunction with her second solo exhibition of the same name.

The three-week exhibition, a retrospective of her work from 2011 till now, opens today as part of Singapore Art Week at art gallery One East Asia in Scotts Road.

To be able to document her work in print feels surreal, says Lo, who is single.

  • VIEW IT / GREETINGS FROM SINGAPORE EXHIBITION

  • WHERE: One East Asia, 09-03 Thong Teck Building, 15 Scotts Road

    WHEN: Till Jan 31, noon to 7pm (weekdays), noon to 5pm (Saturdays), closed on Sundays and public holidays. The artist will be giving a talk on Jan 18 at 7pm

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: www.oneeastasia.org

"It started off as a prank - I never thought about having a book or a show. It felt like a dream that was too far away at the time."

In 2012, she found herself on the wrong side of the law after she stencilled "My Grandfather Road" on several roads and pasted stickers bearing captions such as "Press Once Can Already" on traffic light buttons. She was eventually sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

The controversy fired up her career as a full-time artist. In 2015, she held her first solo exhibition, titled Limpeh, inspired by the death of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and also founded collaborative platform Indigoism.

Her images poke sly fun at the quirks and habits of Singaporeans as well as the rules that dictate their lives.

A sticker on a lamp post proclaims: "Anyhow paste kena fine". Another next to a plate of food at a hawker centre reads "Photo Opportunity". A rubbish bin is labelled "Suggestion Box".

Of course, if you were to visit these places today, you would find no sign of the stickers.

One East Asia chief consultant Veronica Howe, 52, says of Lo: "Her work can reach not just art collectors, but also heartlanders. She wants everyone to be involved in her work."

The exhibition's highlight is a 160cm by 90cm photo print of Lo's "My Grandfather Road" installation. Her biggest work to date, she stencilled the words in chalk paint on a 170m stretch of Circular Road in November last year, as part of street carnival Circular Spectacular!.

The law was on her side this time, but the weather was not. She and her team of volunteers started painting at 1am in the morning, only to get caught in torrential rain.

"It was crazy," she recalls. "We watched the rain wash away all the work we had done."

The team went home and returned at 8am, but the rain proved relentless and they finished painting only at 2pm.

"It was exhausting," says Lo. "What was meant to be three or four hours' work turned into 12 hours."

She quickly snapped photos of the finished artwork with a drone before it could get washed away again or effaced by the feet of thousands of visitors.

"It was the best way to prove that we did it. If we put a lot of effort into something and you don't see it, does it mean it didn't happen?"

While she would like to have a permanent installation at some point - something like Colombian artist Fernando Botero's sculpture Bird next to the Singapore River, perhaps - her dedication to street art means she must continue to embrace transience.

"What I want is to reach as many people as possible and public spaces are something I feel a lot for. I spend a lot of time walking around Singapore and looking at people, and it's those same people for whom I make my art.

"If that means it has to be temporary, it's cool. I don't think things should last forever."

At first, she had intended her book to be a sticker book, a nod to the Sticker Lady moniker the public bestowed on her in 2012 after she put up the stickers.

She decided later that it should be a book of postcards, which could be detached and sent around the world.

"I wanted to document in this book all these things that are distinctly Singaporean. I hope when people look at this stuff, they'll get some idea of what we are like here."

•Greetings From Singapore (Math Paper Press) is available at $29 from major bookstores, BooksActually and at the exhibition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'Greetings from Sticker Lady'. Print Edition | Subscribe