Gilbert Tan Y. L., born 1961, was an Architectural Draftsman for Hitachi, designing elevators, glass lifts and escalators before his spinal cord injury in 1983. He broke his neck in a dive into a swimming pool and is a C4 Quadriplegic on wheelchair. Though paralyzed from chest down with complete loss of finger movement, he learnt to paint with a brush held in the mouth. He started as a stipendiary with the Mouth and Foot Painters Association (MFPA) in 1989 and was promoted to Associate Member in 1994.
With numerous local and overseas group exhibitions, Gilbert’s paintings have been displayed in Japan (Osaka, Sapporo and Hakodate), Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Lisbon and Taiwan. He has works in permanent collections in the Smithsonian Institute Washington D. C., London and San Francisco. His artworks were purchased by Nokia, SingTel, SmithKline Beechams, Maybank, The Culture Society and private collectors.
A member of the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS), Gilbert’s other passion is music. Besides songwriting and composing, he produced 4 albums of own compositions, with 5 more albums in collaboration with the Singapore Wataboshi Movement. Gilbert won the 6th Singapore Wataboshi Music Festival in 2001 and represented Singapore amongst 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific Wataboshi Music Festival in Kaoshiung, Taiwan. He performed his winning entry ‘Live Life’ in a nationwide live telecast.
Besides regular appearances in local newspapers and television features (AM Singapore, Tuesday Report, Remember Our Date, Voices of Hope, Channel U’s ‘Amazing Grace’), Gilbert has performed in the Singapore Arts Festival and was Master of Ceremony in fund-raising events. A regular in the VWO circle, Gilbert sings in charity and fundraisers like NCSS Sharity, NUS Charity Bang, NTU Glowing in the Dark, Singapore Cancer Society and Tan TockSeng Hospital. He headlined a live telecast on Channel 8’s ‘True Hearts’ Community Chest fundraiser with celebrity singer Francis Yip, completing a Chinese painting in a few minutes.
He gives talks to inspire and motivate in schools, JCs, churches, companies and hospitals. In 2002, he was invited to speak to students of Hokkaido International School and at the pre-event of the Disabled People International Seminar (Sapporo 02) in Hakodate Social Welfare Center, Japan. At Equata’s ‘Above & Beyond’ disability arts conference held in Cheltenham UK, Gilbert was the only Asian invited to be conference speaker in this international event in September 2003.
A member of Handicaps Welfare Association, TTSH’s Spinal Support Group & Tetraplegic Workgroup and Disabled People’s Association, Gilbert actively participates in community work and contributes time to visit and counsel the needy in befriender schemes.