In 2023, Dia felt she had established enough of a name for herself and was ready to become a full-time artist.
That year, Dia was nominated for an art residency programme under NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. The programme, called Studio Residencies for Southeast Asian Artists in the European Union, facilitates artistic and cultural exchange between Southeast Asia and Europe.
Dia was one of three Southeast Asian artists selected and she spent three months in the Netherlands.
“There, I made a lot of connections and though I wasn’t local, it felt as if I could fit in,” she said. “They were welcoming, open to sharing about their art, and passionate about the industry – I’d love to bring that culture here in Singapore.”
In the Netherlands, Dia also learned to adopt more creative and artistic ways to highlight issues such as race relations and post-colonialism in her work.
One way was through the use of sound, which is a huge part of her art. Take her multimedia artwork, Sap Script, which is showing at Singapore Art Week in 2024.
The work focuses on the experiences of workers in rubber plantations in Melaka, Malaysia, and digitally combines the surrounding atmospheric sounds of the plantations with the distant and indistinguishable voices of the workers. It allows the viewer – and listener – to immerse themselves in the unfamiliar experience of being on the plantation themselves.
“Working with sound brings the viewer into the experience and history of the art piece,” she said. “I wanted to let people know that sometimes you can’t see things even when they’re in front of you, so you’ve got to engage the rest of your senses, too.”
Her work has also allowed her to push the boundaries of what it means to be an artist in Singapore.