Zi Xi Tan at her studio in Singapore
How did the moniker “MessyMsxi” come about?
When I was studying in London, people always had difficulties pronouncing my name Zi Xi so I had to cook up another moniker. I get really messy when I work and Messymsxi rhymes better than Messyzixi so that kind of stuck since.
What was your childhood like? Does it have a significant effect on your work?
My dad is a Chinese painter and does seal carving, so I spent time colouring books which I loved doing while my dad draws on his art table. Other than that, I would usually tag along with my brother and other boys in the neighbourhood to catch guppies in the big drain nearby or play with my barbie dolls. I was never a TV kid, so I don’t watch cartoons during my childhood. But I did have a naive ambition of wanting to be an artist because of my dad. However, I only realised that I enjoyed doing my work most when I used illustration to communicate my messages when I was doing my Diploma in Visual Communications. Illustration has now become part of my identity, and I have gradually grown very attached to it. Everyday I work on it, look at it, imagine it and think about it. Initially it was an interest, then I endeavored to be an illustrator. But now, illustration is like a commitment. I am constantly learning to be a better illustrator and to make something meaningful with this passion and skill.
How would you describe your art?
I have a fascination with dark humor and tend to have a strange slant on most of my work when I push to exaggerate some of the themes. I am always intrigued by unusual experiences and the oddballs of society. Sometimes I pick up on interesting news articles or I come across some strange documentaries that lead on to more research and then I build a thought around that. My personal mishaps help shape the quirky humor in my work.
What’s your creative process like?
The most difficult part of every project for me is the beginning, when concepts and ideas do not align. Every project begins with research, penning down ideas and sketching. Drawing helps me develop and expand on concepts, it also helps record random thoughts that might spin off into something else in future. However, failing and struggling to nail down an ideal concept is a regular reoccurrence, that has its rewards at the end.
What time of day are you most creative?
I consider myself ‘most creative’ when I am able to generate ideas quickly, but it could happen anytime of the day, as long as I am able to sit and think without having too much going on in my head.
What has been your most rewarding project to date?
Perhaps my artwork for the upcoming Newton Downtown line station, which I spent a year crafting.
Which other designers and artists inspire you?
To name a few, Daniel Clowes, Yoshitomo Nara, Louise Bourgeois, Tim Walker, Rei Kuwakabo, Maison Martin Margiela…
How did you stumble across this space?
Honestly, I did not visit the space before saying yes. As I was going to co-share it with a friend, I plainly trusted his taste and agreed to share the space after seeing some pictures he sent.
How would you describe your studio?
It is peaceful, cheerful, organic, cosy and very MessyMsxi.
What are some of your favorite items in this space?
Definitely my Muji futon which I can rest on if I’m feeling sleepy, some of the toys which I have collected from travels, my customised two meter table, my pencils, and plants.
If your walls could talk, what would they say?
Don’t be fearful.
Do you have any pets? How many?
Yes , I have a cat, named Junior. He used to be my studio cat when I was still working from home, now he lives a luxurious life having the whole house to himself when we are out.
Tell us about your perfect day.
I would be pleased if I am able to pull myself out of bed at 8am, and head out for a morning hike at MacRitchie Reservoir with my husband. Ideally hiking from MacRitchie Reservoir to Bukit Timah Hill, thereafter, we can either have a simple brunch at the market nearby or head back for a simple home cooked meal. Then, spending a few hours in the afternoon to do some painting or drawing. And in the evening we can dress up for dinner with family or friends. And a late night movie with sticky caramel pudding and ice cream on the side to end of the perfect day.
What are your favorite cafes and stores in Singapore?
The food at Ronin Cafe reminds a lot of my favourite breakfast, French toasts with caramelised banana and crispy bacon in London. Favourite stores would probably be Muji and COS.
What other upcoming projects are you working on?
I am currently working on a book illustration, an animation project with a clothing brand, an art collaboration for an architectural space, and also developing a new series of work for my second solo exhibition to be held at The Substation in October 2015.
How do you see the future shaping up for you?
Good, as I am putting all my hope in the Lord.
Famous last words?
Never forget your beginners spirit.