Vince Low has turned his dyslexia and his doodling into works of art, taking the jumble of lines he sees and weaving them into portraits that tell a hidden story.
The jags and whorls of Vince Low’s scribbles mesh together to create some fascinating portraits, but it also reveals his own journey of self-discovery. Most artists claim that their art has led them to unlock some unknown part of themselves, but rare are the ones for whom the two intersect so profoundly.
Low’s “scribble art” had its beginnings in a publicity campaign he worked on six years ago where, as an illustrator with an advertising agency, he was requested by his art director to come up with an unusual technique. The campaign was for dyslexia awareness, and it was only while working on it that Low made a life-changing discovery: He was dyslexic.
It was a huge shift in the 37-year-old artist’s life. “The more I learned about how people with dyslexia saw words differently or had trouble reading, the more I started to realise that was exactly how I was!" he says. "Up till then, I thought everyone saw words like that. I just discovered myself that day.”
The shock of knowing he was dyslexic left him anxious, Low says, and it took time for him to accept the condition as a part of him. But the anxiety gave way to a higher level of confidence.
“My whole life, I’ve wondered why I couldn’t do what seemed so easy to everyone else, which was to read. This was especially because there was very little understanding about how to deal with the issue when I was young. Now that I understand my issue, I feel much more positive about myself,” Low says, adding that he’s a massive supporter of Persatuan Dyslexia Malaysia, because he doesn’t want anyone else to go through what he did.
In its own way, his dyslexia has always coloured his work. Having always stumbled over his words, Low says he found art a much smoother way of expressing himself. And being unable to refer to books and written instructions left him much more open to experimentation.
“The only way I could improve my art or learn something new was to just try anything and everything that came to mind. Maybe that’s why my work, like my scribble art, feels different because I’m so used to letting myself experiment.”
Sure enough, Low’s work has made waves internationally, and his story has been told in The Daily Mail UK and The Huffington Post US. He's also amassed a worldwide following on the Internet and through social media sites. It's not hard to see why. His stunning portraits of famous personalities, ranging in size from A3 to A0 and composed entirely of ink scribbles, are absolutely arresting.
Taking at least 10 hours to produce (and up to 24 hours for some), the pieces conceal a huge amount of attention to detail. The closer you look, the more revealing the tightly-wound ink spirals, sharp zig-zags, free-flowing curves and playful figure-eights become, proving just how much artistry goes into moulding the wild lines into an image. There is a wonderful energy to the pictures, capturing the exact spirit of the person depicted.
A humorous portrait of Charlie Chaplin is all curling curves, creating a sense of playfulness, while rock guitarist Slash is drawn with wild, jagged strokes that speak of his brazen personality. Bruce Lee is brought to life with a densely packed mix of scrawls, the very depiction of his tightly-wound strength and power. Low says he chooses to do portraits of people whom he feels have stories to tell.
“The pose and expression I choose to show them in is very important, as it shows the story I want to tell. How the energy flows in the artwork is very important. That’s the challenge, to get the right force,” he explains.
Despite having been invited to show his work in Britain and Germany, Low's exhibition called Simply Scribbly in Singapore is his first. “Being new to this whole thing, I actually declined opportunities to show my work abroad because I didn’t know what to expect. My dream is to have an exhibition in my hometown KL. I’d especially love to show my work in KLCC.”
Scribble art, Low concludes, is special to him because it comes with an important message: There can be more to something than first meets the eye.
“Scribbles are something we all do and often throw away without thinking twice about it. Yet, I used those same scribbles to create these portraits. I’d like to tell people that just because something doesn’t seem important, it doesn’t mean it can’t be something great.”
"Simply Scribbly" is showing at tcc – The Connoisseur Concerto, The Gallery, 51 Circular Road, Singapore until June 2. Opens 11am-12mn Sunday-Thursday and public holidays; 11am-2am on Friday, Saturday and eve of public holidays. Free admission. For details, call (02) 64792445 or email