Creating art with cosmetics

Amala Balakrishner
Amala Balakrishner2/10/2022 09:03 PM GMT+08  • 6 min read
Creating art with cosmetics
The Beauty of Art exhibition, which runs from now till Feb 27, is held at the East Garden Gallery at The Fullerton Hotel
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Japanese beauty house Shiseido practices social and environmental responsibility by holding an art exhibition featuring canvas creations by special needs children using upcycled makeup

Canvases splattered with paint and watercolours or sketches done using crayons and colour pencils are typically what one would expect to see at an art exhibition. But that is not what you get at the Beauty of Art exhibition organised by the Rainbow Centre and cosmetics label Shiseido Asia Pacific.

The exhibition, which runs till the end of this month at the Fullerton Hotel, features 38 artworks exploring the themes of nature, botany, wildlife, fashion, beauty and landmarks in Singapore. Its unique factor is that all the featured pieces are made using a mix of paint and upcycled cosmetics from the Shiseido Group that are nearing the end of their lifespan. These include lipsticks, blushers, eyeshadow and foundation from the Shiseido, Clé de Peau Beauté, NARS and Laura Mercier labels.

The 26 artists, aged between 13 and 17, are students from the Rainbow Centre’s Artability programme. The Rainbow Centre is a social service organisation housing schools that cater to students with special needs such as autism and Down syndrome. The Artability programme looks to equip students with autism — who have a creative flair — with artistic skills so that they can engage in art-related work opportunities

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Image credit: Rainbow Centre

In this vein, the artworks displayed at the exhibition are up for sale. All proceeds from the sales will go towards the Rainbow Centre and the young artists. By attaching a value to the artworks, the hope is to help the young artists to build up their portfolio and gain the confidence to embark on art-related work opportunities in future.

The Beauty of Art initiative was conceptualised by Fang Jiayun, regional sustainability lead at Shiseido Asia Pacific. Fang was looking for an action project as part of the Company of Good Fellowship back in 2019 organised by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). The fellowship is a talent development programme that grooms high-potential professionals to catalyse change for businesses and the society at large.

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As part of her action project, Fang was looking for ways to create impact in the three areas of people, planet and society — which are also Shiseido’s key pillars. “I really wanted to come up with an initiative that addresses all three pillars, because we always tend to see them in silos,” Fang tells Options in a recent interview. While thinking of a creative way to approach the pillars, Fang realised that she could address the aspect of environmental sustainability by upcycling Shiseido Group’s cosmetic products that were at the end of their shelf life.

To address the “people” pillar, Fang thought of promoting diversity and inclusion by working with artists who are differently abled. She eventually decided to connect all three pillars through the creation of artworks. “I thought of doing art pieces because I’m quite artistically inclined, so I think I can see things in a certain way. Like I can see cosmetics and think ‘oh, these have the potential to be art’,” explains Fang.

Leveraging on the support of her mentor during the fellowship programme and her colleagues, Fang put this idea to test in her action project. She designed several art pieces by herself using cosmetics, and presented her initiative to a panel of judges including personnel from NVPC and Shiseido. The process involved working alongside colleagues across several departments to assess the feasibility of the initiative as well as to get clearance for the use of the cosmetics.

“Everyone was very supportive,” says Fang, noting that the input given by her colleagues enabled her to better understand the usability of the cosmetics. She adds that the feedback from her mentors during the fellowship as well as other fellows in the network also helped her to ascertain ways to better shape the initiative.

As Fang got a nod of approval during the fellowship, she decided to further test her idea. Her first “small trial” was to put up three artworks made by a commissioned mouth artist for an auction during an internal year-end party in 2019. “I wanted to see if this is actually possible,” says Fang, adding that she received positive feedback from her colleagues who saw first-hand what the initiative would look like.

This win pushed Fang to explore ways to come up with an even bigger project. This eventually led her to forge a collaboration with the Rainbow Centre in early 2021. Her initial goal was to have the artworks ready within three months in conjunction with the World Environment Day, which is commemorated yearly on June 5. However, the exhibition was held off till December 2021 so that the young artists could have enough time to conceptualise and perfect their pieces.

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Aside from suggesting the overall themes of nature, botany, wildlife, fashion and landmarks, Fang says the young artists were not given further instructions so as not to curb their creativity.

When asked if she had a favourite painting, Fang points to a picture of rhinoceroses. “This really spoke to me,” she says. The painting transports Fang back to a few years ago when she was volunteering in wildlife conservation works in South Africa and Namibia. She was going through a difficult time and being in nature really helped her to get through her struggles. “Nature is very healing,” reflects Fang.

In any case, all 38 artworks on display are unique and beautiful in their own way. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder — or perhaps in this case — buyer.

The Beauty of Art exhibition, which runs from now till Feb 27, is held at the East Garden Gallery at The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore

Rainbow Centre's Artability programme looks to equip students with autism — who have a creative flair — with artistic skills so that they can engage in art-related work opportunities (Image credit: Rainbow Centre)

Cover image of Fang Jiayun: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore

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