Singaporean to create art for Tokyo Olympics

Art director Theseus Chan is one of 19 artists picked to make poster artwork for the Games next year

Art director Theseus Chan.
Art director Theseus Chan. PHOTO: ETHAN CHAN

Singaporean art director Theseus Chan will make his mark at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as he has been selected to create an artwork for the world's most prestigious sporting event.

The 58-year-old is one of three overseas artists - along with 16 Japanese artists - who have been selected to produce works of art for the Games, said the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in an announcement on Tuesday.

Chan, art director of local design studio Work, is often dubbed the godfather of Singapore's graphic design scene.

He was named Designer of the Year at the 2006 President's Design Award, which was started by the DesignSingapore Council and Urban Redevelopment Authority to recognise designers whose works make a difference in the lives of locals and in the global community.

It is the first time a Singaporean has been picked to contribute artistically to the Games.

The other two overseas artists selected are Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen and Senegal-born artist Philippe Weisbecker.

It's excellent that there's international recognition for Singapore's artistic community, in addition to Singapore's gold medal at the last Olympic Games.

ART DIRECTOR THESEUS CHAN, referring to swimmer Joseph Schooling's win at the 2016 Games

"It's undoubtedly a tremendous honour to be invited to contribute my work to the Olympics," Chan told The Straits Times in an e-mail interview.

"It's excellent that there's international recognition for Singapore's artistic community, in addition to Singapore's gold medal (by swimmer Joseph Schooling) at the last Olympic Games.

"I hope my expression of the spirit of the Games will be energetic and positive. The world we live in today is highly complex and divided and I hope the message of sports to bridge the world can be conveyed," he adds.

Over the course of his career, Chan's works have been greatly influenced and inspired by Japanese designers, artists and musicians.

His self-published magazine, Werk, which he started in 2000 to experiment with design production, was featured in the direct mailer campaigns of Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo's label, Comme des Garcons, in 2016.

For Tokyo 2020, Chan will join the ranks of Japanese artists such as internationally acclaimed manga artist Naoki Urasawa, known for 20th Century Boys and Pluto, and calligrapher Shoko Kanazawa.

Each artist will produce a poster artwork that encapsulates themes from the Olympic and Paralympic games by the end of the year.

The works will be displayed in public spaces and featured on licensed products to raise awareness in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020.

Posters have been commissioned by the organising committees for the Olympic Games since the 1912 Games in Stockholm, where an official Games poster was created for the first time through an artistic competition.

In recent years, posters for the Paralympic Games have been created specifically for each edition.

Promotional posters, with easily recognisable imagery iconic to each edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, have formed the main artworks that help establish each Games' look and feel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'Singaporean to create art for Tokyo Olympics'. Subscribe