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Four ex-graphic design students—Jackson Tan, William Chan, Alvin Tan and Melvin Chee set out to form a rock band. However, when they realised that their musical talents didn’t match their artistic talents, they decided to trade in the band’s guitar for an Apple Mac. “There was no commercial reason for getting together. We just shared the same interests,” says Jackson. The Phunk collective was born, but in the early stages the former Lasalle students weren’t clear on what the collective should be. “We tried to start a t-shirt label, but we had no idea how to start a business, so we never made any money out of it. We also started a magazine, but again, we didn’t know how to sell advertising,” says Jackson. However, out of the 30,000 people who got to see Phunk’s magazine in Singapore coffee shops, were the MTV team. “They were just setting up their office in Singapore and were looking for graphic designers for their branding, so while it looked like a disaster at first, it worked out in the end.” Any money the team earned commercially would be used to create personal art. Galleries started to show their works and people started to commission. At first the collective had different styles, but within 10 years says Jackson, they had created a “Phunk style,” which they like to call controlled chaos. “We are part of a generation of Singaporeans who grew up in an era when Singapore was often referred to as a “cultural desert.” In the last decade, it has transformed into an exciting, emerging creative city,” say Jackson.The guys now pursue individual projects and run their own businesses, but they still come together to work as the collective. They have just finished a two-year project with legendary Japanese pop artist Keiichi Tanaami. As well as producing pieces for Art Stage, they are also busy preparing and documenting their work as they plan to hold a show to mark their 20th anniversary at the end of the year. So why not go it alone after all this time? “It’s more fun to work as a collective,” says Jackson.

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