Singapore STPI director reflects on first 10 years

As the Singapore Tyler Print Institute gets ready to celebrate its 10-year anniversary in style with a grand dinner at the Capella hotel, I sat  down with its director Emi Eu to reflect on the first decade.

STPI had a bit of a rough start after Ken Tyler unexpectedly left three months after it was set up. Looking back now, how was that?

Yes, it was a difficult time at the beginning, because we had to grapple with the idea that we had to take it into our own hands. But I think it was the greatest blessing in disguise, because we were given, de facto, a free hand to come up with something that may actually work.

What has been your ethos?

We wanted to create something different, we want to be different. There are great publishers historically speaking in the print world and there was no way we could compete with them because we were just the new kid on the block. On top of this we’re so far away from the rest of the world, and at that time we didn’t even have a direct flight to New York or Los Angeles, like we have now…So we have always had to make it worthwhile for the artists that come here to do a residency.

Describe the organization now?

We’re kind of an amphibian. We’re officially a non-profit organization and that’s why we get an annual grant from the government. All the money we’ve got at hand goes into the programming and residencies. But we also have a profit component with the gallery because we have to make money to support what we do in the workshop, which is completely non-profit. But the money we make in the gallery goes back into the whole operation, because the grant is not enough.

How difficult was it in the early days to attract international artists?

Very difficult. The first international artist we had was Donald Sultan, and he only came because of Ken Tyler, who was still with us. But after Donald left it took us quite some time before we had the next big artist, which was Ashley Bickerton.

So over the years, you’ve worked with artists at very different stages of their careers. Has this been a deliberate strategy?

I like that variety and it’s definitely a conscious decision.

Are there some artists that have stretched the technical abilities of the STPI?

Yes. Probably better to ask the workshop staff, but from my point of view, almost every project has a new innovation.