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(Clockwise from top left): Cinematographer Shyan Tan, composer Wang Chen Wei, visual artist Melissa Tan, poet Daryl Lim, and composer Julian Wong. IMAGES: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL

5 Stars Arising: Recipients Of The 2023 Young Artist Award

'Tis the season to be jolly, and we celebrate not only the festive season with great joy but also end 2023 on a high note by shining the spotlight on a quintet of remarkable talents recently honoured with the Young Artist Award (YAA) at the Istana.

On 5 Dec, poet and editor Daryl Lim Wei Jie, contemporary visual artist Melissa Tan, cinematographer Shyan Tan, and composers and educators Julian Wong and Wang Chenwei were each conferred the YAA by Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Edwin Tong.

Introduced in 1992, the YAA is Singapore's preeminent commendation for aspiring arts practitioners in the fields of visual arts, literature, and others, under the age of 35, and comes with a grant of $20,000.

It recognises their outstanding artistic accomplishments and unwavering dedication, and also serves as a form of motivation for other young talents to persist in their pursuit of artistic excellence.

To date, 178 artists across film, literary arts, performing arts, and visual arts have been honoured with the YAA. Past recipients include singer-songwriter Charlie Lim, poet and spoken word performer Marc Nair, and composer Zulkifli Mohamed Amin.

The ceremony also saw guest-of-honour President Tharman Shanmugaratnam presenting the Cultural Medallion to three individuals – award-winning writers Meira Chand and Suchen Christine Lim, and veteran dancer and choreographer Osman Abdul Hamid – for their invaluable contributions to the literary arts and local Malay dance scenes, respectively.

Here, we take a closer look at the this year's YAA recipients:


Daryl Lim Wei Jie, 33

The poet, editor, translator and literary critic is the author of two poetry collections, Anything But Human (2021), which was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and A Book of Changes (2016).

“Poetry requires an extraordinary level of belief. It is an art form with a limited audience. It is ultimately built on sheer belief in the power of words, often without the guiding force of narrative, to move and affect us as humans," says Daryl, who curated the first anthology of literary food writing from Singapore such as Food Republic: A Singapore Literary Banquet (2020), which earned a Special Award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2023.

The founding member of, an online encyclopaedia of Singapore poetry, and a mentor for the Creative Arts Programme by the Ministry of Education since 2017, also wants to foster interlanguage literary exchange: "I’m also keen to continue translating works from Singapore Chinese poets, and to more generally encourage exchange between the different language literatures in Singapore – something that I feel has been left by the wayside as Singapore literature in English has become more dominant.”


Julian Wong, 35

The musician, music director and educator believes in the importance of championing Singapore stories, his pride in Singapore’s musical heritage fully evident in productions like Wild Rice’s Don’t Call Him Mr. Mari Kita (2022), The Theatre Practice’s The Nursery Rhymes Project (2017 onwards); and NAC-Esplanade’s KoFlow-MFO: A Turntable-Orchestra Programme (2017-2018).

He takes a leaf out of the late Singapore musician and 2008 Cultural Medallion recipient Iskandar Ismail's book: "“I always think of that electrifying moment I witnessed as Mr Iskandar Ismail conducted the orchestra at ‘Chang & Eng’ – it took me out of myself, inspiring and opening me up to sounds, ideas and worlds I never knew existed. It affected me in a most visceral way. I try to recreate that sense of wonder and possibility for others, and to serve them through my practice."

Julian adds: "I will continue to work with companies and practitioners who are at the forefront of investing wholeheartedly in local artists and local works. Through my work as an educator, I will pass on the knowledge and values that I have gained from my own teachers.”


Melissa Tan, 34

Melissa is a visual artist who derives inspiration from nature and composes different methods of mapping it. She was the youngest artist in the 2016 edition of the Singapore Biennale: An Atlas of Mirrors, and has had her work exhibited in London and France.

“My current work involves hidden imagery from mythologies across various cultures and times which some may find familiar. I reference paintings, sculptures and antiquities. I find great joy in sieving through these materials to find what I feel works best for the characters whose voices I try to convey to viewers," says the artist who has hosted several internship programmes with various art schools, and also mentored aspiring artists and curators who have gone on to establish themselves in their respective fields.

"I hope this award opens up new avenues of conversation with professionals from different fields who share aspirations and concerns of contemporary life," she says.

"In addition, I hope to exhibit more on the regional arts circuit to create dialogue with our neighbours and for them to sample the creativity of Singaporean contemporary art. I believe our local art scene has a lot to offer.”


Shyan Tan, 35

Over the span of his decade-long career, this cinematographer has had the privilege of working with respected local directors such as K. Rajagopal, Royston Tan, and more. He is also an alumnus of the esteemed Asian Film Academy in 2014 and the Golden Horse Academy in 2017.

In 2021, his work on Strawberry Cheesecake, directed by Siyou Tan, led to a screening at the Pardi di domani section of the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, and featured in Uppsala Short Film Festival and AFI Fest.

“Through my craft, I aim to enable the audience to become deeply immersed in the universe I perceive and share the emotional resonance I experience. By doing so, I strive to craft a cohesive viewing that allows the audience to become fully invested in the narrative," says Shyan, who considers being granted the YAA an immense privilege.

“It stands as a validation of my endeavours and my impact on the local film landscape. This recognition serves as a motivating force for me to persist in my pursuit, recognising that even though my contributions may seem modest, they have a ripple effect within the film community. This honour reinforces my resolve to remain committed to my craft.”


Wang Chenwei, 35

A composer and researcher of Chinese music, Chenwei is also the Composer-in-Residence at the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, and a council member of the Singapore Chinese Music Federation.

His numerous works have been featured in two National Day concerts, the Singapore Youth Festival, professional orchestras in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao.

“In crafting transcultural compositions, I seek to further examine how music from diverse traditions can be fused to create hybrid works that are culturally appropriate without cultural appropriation," says Chenwei, who hopes to elevate audiences’ appreciation for musical traditions beyond their familiar horizons and showcase Singapore’s vibrant multicultural tapestry.

“This national accolade not only affirms my past efforts but also bolsters my ongoing commitment towards Singapore’s music scene. The recognition and publicity will empower me to share my dreams with broader audiences and advance meaningful causes," he adds.

"With this award also comes a responsibility to uphold a high level of artistry in composition, and impart it to emerging musicians.”

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