Time Out Singapore: Affordable Art Fair 2013

As its name suggests, the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) offers buyers a whole range of art that won’t break the bank. Nearly 100 galleries will be participating in the fourth edition of the event this year, with all works on sale for under $10,000. Here, Gwen Pew speaks to the directors/managers of three local galleries that suit a range of budgets to find out more about who and what you can expect to find at their booths.

'Heritage' by Beng (aka Benny Goerlach). Image courtesy of Culture Square.

‘Heritage’ by Beng (aka Benny Goerlach). Image courtesy of Culture Square.

6 Nov 2013:

Toni Chan, founder/director, Culture Square

Budget Under $1,000

Featured artists ‘A number of local and regional emerging artists, including painters Tilen Ti, Shelby Dillon and Danya Yu, mixed media artists Deusa Blumke and Fyerool Darma and printmaker Beng (aka Benny Goerlach). We’re also excited to bring work by very talented new artists Tay Lai Meng and Simon Ng Yong Heng, who have never been shown at the fair.’

Highlighted pieces ‘Our gallery showcases a lot of local talent in Singapore, including a variety of locally-themed pieces. Some notable pieces we’ll have featured are Shelby Dillon’s oil on canvas “Arab Street” ($589), Fyerool Darma’s “Anatomy of a Merlion” ($589), which whimsically depicts how our country’s mascot would look if documented as part of a historical anatomical study, and Beng’s silkscreen print “Heritage” ($490, pictured), which questions the cultural costs of Singapore’s rapid development.

Paige Tuieng, gallery manager, HaKaren Gallery

Budget $3,000-$5,000

Featured artists ‘We will be showcasing many collectors’ favourites from the last AAF, like Tian Xu Tong’s Zen series as well as works by Dr Kan Tai-Keung, Liu Jiahua and many others.’

Highlighted pieces ‘You may want to take note of Kan’s ink paintings. He is a 71-year-old world-renowned graphic designer and artist and his paintings range from $1,300 to about $9,000.’

Antoine Perrin, gallery manager, Mizuma Gallery (Japan)

Budget Over $7,500

Who to expect ‘We’re showcasing Japanese artists from our collection like Takashi Hinoda, Aki Kuroda, Natsunosuke Mise, Toru Ishii, Juri Hamada, Ai Yamaguchi.’

Highlighted pieces ‘“Untitled” by painter Aki Kuroda ($10,000). The artist has been living in Paris since the 1970s and is represented there by Galerie Maeght [which worked with major 20th century artists such as Joan Miro, Alberto Giacometti and Alexander Calder]. Another highlight is Indonesia-born Japanese artist Juri Hamada, whose reddish floral compositions – including “The Flower of Joy” ($8,000) – are made using the traditional Japanese painting techniques.’

Time Out Singapore: Guo Yixiu

The fourth edition of the Singapore Biennale – one of the largest events on the local arts calendar – has officially opened. In this first of nine video interviews with artists from various artistic and cultural backgrounds, Gwen Pew delves into the brain of multi-disciplinary artist Guo Yixiu and find out who the man in her colourful installation piece really is.

Time Out Singapore: Cultural Medallion Winners 2013

Established in 1979 by former Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong (then Minister for Culture), the Cultural Medallion is given to the country’s most prominent artists in the fields of dance, theatre, literature, music, photography, art and film. Gwen Pew talks to this year’s three recipients, who received their awards at the end of last month, to find out about their career highlights and what’s next for them.

Cultural Medallion Ivan Heng, the artistic director of local theatre company Wild Rice. Image courtesy of the National Arts Council.

Cultural Medallion Ivan Heng, the artistic director of local theatre company Wild Rice. Image courtesy of the National Arts Council.

23 Oct 2013:

Ivan Heng

Born in 1963, Heng graduated with a law degree from the National University of Singapore but soon decided that his true calling in life was theatre. He went on to build up an impressive resume working with everyone from local theatre pioneer Kuo Pao Kun to the Hong Kong Tang’s Opera Troupe, and flirting with ballet and Shakespeare in between it all. The awards poured in, and the actor-director founded W!ld Rice in 2000, which is now one of the largest theatre companies in Singapore.

Career highlight: ‘[When I was] creative director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games. When the cauldron burst into flames at the Opening Ceremony, it was a dream come true. It put Singapore on the world map.’

Looking ahead: ‘In the immediate future, I will be directing a new production of Jack & the Bean-Sprout, our holiday blockbuster musical for all the family. We’re also in the process of lining up a season celebrating 2015 and we are also planning to restart our Young and W!LD division to nurture aspiring theatre professionals.’

Tsung Yeh

As the music director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, conductor laureate of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta and music director of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, Yeh is the first person to be leading a major Chinese and Western symphony orchestra simultaneously. Born in Shanghai in 1950, he joined the SCO in 2002 and has since taken the company from strength to strength with his innovative vision, with numerous performances every month.

Career highlight: ‘It was my honour to be appointed the music director for Singapore’s National Day Parade 2007. There were many firsts in this event which was truly a memorable moment for myself and for the nation. It was Singapore’s first NDP at the Marina Bay floating platform, the first to feature a combined orchestra of our nation’s national orchestras (the SCO and SSO), have a conductor as music director and feature local classical vocalists.’

Looking ahead: ‘Three directions for SCO – to soar to new heights (go international), to drive forward (be innovative in our programmes) and depth (to engage and serve the community).’

Mohamed Latiff Mohamed

A prolific writer who often centres his works on the struggles faced by the Malay community after Singapore gained its independence, Mohamed, 63, has produced a number of influential poems, short stories and novels. He is a three-time winner of the Singapore Literature Prize and some of his most notable works include Confrontation and Ziarah Cinta.

Career highlight: ‘One that I remember vividly is the World Congress of Poets that I attended in Seoul, South Korea in 2002. The people there greeted us with great warmth and respect. They would crowd around and follow us while we visited the city. Such was the reception that it seemed to me that the people of Korea gave great honour to people whom we call “poets”.’

Looking ahead: ‘To be able to translate all my works into English to be read worldwide.’

Time Out Singapore: Singapore Biennale 2013

Two curators tell Gwen Pew why art newbies should take the time to visit this year’s Singapore Biennale.

A work by local artist Ng Joon Kiat. Image courtesy of Osage Gallery.

A work in local artist Ng Joon Kiat’s ‘Maps’ series. Image courtesy of Osage Gallery.

5 Oct 2013: Founded in 2006 as a platform to stimulate dialogue between works by local and international artists, the Singapore Biennale quickly established its reputation as one of the largest art events on the country’s cultural calendar. Held every two years, this fourth edition returns with a bold theme of ‘If the World Changed’ this month, and while the quality of artworks remains stellar, a lot of changes and improvements have also been made to the structure of the exhibition.

‘This may be Singapore’s fourth biennale, but it’s a first in many ways,’ says Tan Siuli, a curator at the Singapore Art Museum. ‘For one, this is the first time we have done without an Artistic Director for the Biennale [and instead] have a team of 27 curators from around the region.’ Among the curators are a number of notable local faces, such as Charmaine Toh of Objectifs, Tamares Goh, programming officer at the Esplanade, and Seng Yu Jin of Lasalle and The National Art Gallery.

Each curator proposed a few artists to work with for the Biennale, which means there’s plenty for art lovers to feast their eyes on, from paintings to installations and photography to sculptures from over 100 artists around the world. One particular draw, says Tan, is the strong regional focus: ‘This edition has a very strong focus on South-East Asia [and features many] artists who are not on the usual international biennale circuit, so this is going to be a biennale of discoveries.’ Look out for works by President’s Young Talent winners Zhao Renhui and Liao Jiekai, plus largescale commissions by artists such as Suzann Victor, who will create a rainbow circle at the National Museum, and Nguyen Oanh Phi Phi, who will take over SAM’s chapel with a work of Vietnamese lacquer.

And even if you’ve never been to an exhibition before and don’t know anything about contemporary art, the curators promise that it’s still worth taking the time to go check out the Biennale. ‘To quote the Dalai Lama, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before”,’ says Tan. ‘It is precisely the experience of exploring the unfamiliar that expands our mind and spirit; there is bound to be something to marvel at and something to fall in love with.’

Aware that contemporary art may be difficult for some to enjoy, curator Seng advises that one should ‘approach contemporary art with an open mind and critical attitude, and be prepared to end up with more questions than answers, as contemporary art engages with the viewer as an active and critical agent rather than a passive one.’

‘It is worth remembering that contemporary art is “contemporary” – it is very much a product of our time, and more often than not, [it] engages with the issues and ideas of our time,’ adds Tan. ‘Also, don’t expect to like everything. There are bound to be some artists and artworks that appeal to you more than others, so take that as a starting point – find out more about the artist, his or her practice and other works, and from there it is easy to find other artists whose works or styles are similar to what you like. This will gradually broaden your knowledge and appreciation of the contemporary art world.’

Furthermore, there will be a range of activities on the side for visitors to gain a broader understanding of the artists and artworks involved (see sidebar), so there are many ways to help art newbies take their first steps. ‘And don’t worry,’ concludes Tan reassuringly. ‘The Biennale won’t bite!’

Time Out Singapore: ‘World Architecture Festival 2013’ Preview

For its sixth edition, the World Architecture Festival (WAF) will be held at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands this year as structures across the globe compete for the prestigious awards. Having bagged four WAF prizes in 2012, our Little Red Dot has over 40 buildings nominated in 29 categories this time around. Here, the festival’s programming director, Paul Finch, tells Gwen Pew his thoughts about five of them.

The Star Vista shopping mall at Buona Vista. Photo courtesy of the World Architecture Festival.

The Star Vista shopping mall at Buona Vista. Photo courtesy of the World Architecture Festival.

1 Oct 2013: 

Singapore Sports Hub (Kallang), by AECOM

‘Sports architecture and development have increasingly been used to regenerate urban areas, using major sporting events as core magnets, but providing a welcome range of uses for the wider community.’

The Star (Buona Vista), by AEDAS

‘Performing arts have been a subject of increased interest in Singapore in recent years. The architecture of this dramatic building tries to incorporate ideas of movement and action into a local landmark.’

Bethel Assembly of God Church (Aljuneid), by LAUD Architects

‘There was an increase in the number of religious buildings entered for the awards this year. This striking example combines modernity of design with traditional beliefs and rituals.’

Sky Habitat (Bishan), by DCA Architects

‘Singapore has become a focus for new residential architectural thinking, where towers are connected rather than separated, and where landscape ideas are incorporated seamlessly into man-made structures.’

Diamond House (Orchard), by formwerkz architects

‘The architects’ interest in the manipulation of geometry to produce unexpected spaces and volumes is well represented in this immaculate piece of design and construction.’

Time Out Singapore: Halloween 2013 Guide

With All Hallows Eve creeping up on us this month, Gwen Pew and Maddison Capuano round up the best events where you can be scared silly.

Zombies celebrate the season of the (un)dead! Image courtesy of Universal Studios Singapore.

Zombies celebrate the season of the (un)dead! Image courtesy of Universal Studios Singapore.

30 Sep 2013:

Fright Nites

1-31 Oct
One of the newer attractions on Sentosa, 4D AdventureLand is offering three special Halloween options this month. On top of their usual rides Journey 2 the Mysterious Island, Extreme Log Ride and Desperados, which will be showing from 10am to 7pm, visitors can experience after-dark shows as well. Hold on tight in a motion-based capsule and try not to get engulfed by your host-turned-monster in Panic House, or sit on one of the 20 moving saddles and enter a virtual game to slay zombies in The Grip of the Undead. A special Halloween maze called Trapped will also take place on selected evenings (see website for schedule) – escape if you can!

Sentosa 4D AdventureLand 51B Imbiah Rd (www.4dadventureland.com.sg). HarbourFront. 10am-9pm. Children aged three to 12 $26.90, adults $38.90, includes unlimited access to the rides throughout the day.

Halloween Horror Nights 3

11 & 12, 18 & 19, 26 & 27, 31 Oct & 3 Nov
For the third Halloween running, Universal Studios Singapore is taking on a makeover in honour of all things terrifying. The theme park will be riddled with a number of haunted houses and mazes, designated scare zones and photo ops all designed to get your heart racing. This year, the central characters are three witches who have reincarnated as the ominous Daughter of the Undead, Maiden of the Opera and Crone of the Forest. The event is also perfect for those of you who can’t be bothered to dress up – masks and costumes are strictly prohibited here.

Universal Studios Sentosa. (www.halloweenhorrornights.com.sg). HarbourFront. 7pm-1am. $68.

Museum of Horrors – The Twins

18-31 Oct
Organised by *SCAPE with Movie Mania and Singapore Polytechnic, this scare fest returns for its fourth edition. This time, the storyline follows the vengeful spirit of a woman who was murdered by her sister before her wedding night, and participants will have to slither through a maze with seven realistic dioramic sets showing haunted places around Singapore – and pray that they won’t end up with the cursed wedding ring. Also look out for the Horror Workshop, which teaches you how grisly props are made, and take part in their Gruesome Photo Contest for prizes.

*SCAPE Warehouse Level 2, 2 Orchard Link (www.museumofhorrors.com.sg). Somerset. 6-11pm. $17-$20.

Cursed Studio

19 & 20, 25-27, 30 & 31 Oct
Once upon a time, we’re told, two radio DJs were murdered and one went missing in their studio after what initially appeared to be a power cut. No one ever found the culprit, but there are rumours that the studio is haunted… This Halloween, you will be given the task of entering the studio to find documents to prove what happened to the DJs – or else you will be trapped inside and become ghost-food. Each team can have a maximum of three brave souls, all of whom must be at least 13 years of age.

Chat Chat Media 30B Smith St (www.chatchatmedia.com/halloween2013). Chinatown. 7.30- 11pm. $48.

Sentosa Spooktacular

19, 25, 26, 31 Oct & 2 Nov
Sentosa and Thai movie production studio GTH are teaming up to bring five Thai horror films to life this Halloween. Through five haunted trails, guests are confronted with reenacted scenes from the films – namely Coming Soon, Shutter, Pee Mak, Body and Dorm – and are given tasks they must complete in order to ensure they survive the night, including finding all the body parts of a butchered corpse (gloves not provided) and bringing peace to the spirit of a schoolboy who died after falling down a well.

Fort Siloso, Sentosa 33 Allanbrooke Rd (www.spooktacular.com.sg). HarbourFront. 7-11pm. $66.60.

Race the Dead

26 & 27 Oct
This 5km dash across Sentosa will see you pitted against the flesh-hungry undead. At the beginning of the race, each runner is presented with two life-tags and must try and make it to the safe haven with at least one of these intact. Not only will this run test your fitness and speed – you will also be confronted by a whole host of obstacles and, of course, attacks by zombies coming at you from all sides. However, the fun doesn’t end once you cross the finish line, and even those who don’t survive the course can enjoy the live music and games happening during the evening. If you’re looking for more zombie action even later in the night, head down the street to Wave House on 26 Oct for the Zombieland afterparty, complete with DJs and dancers.

120 Tanjong Beach Walk (www.racethedead.sg). HarbourFront. 8am-8pm. $79.90.

X-Out Halloween Carnival

26 & 27 Oct
Forget zombies, witches and things that go bump in the night – the most deadly monster out there is your packet of cigarettes, according to X-Out Singapore, who will be hosting Asia’s first and only anti-smoking carnival this Halloween. There will be a number of games and activities to get involved with, such as an anti- smoking playback theatre, as well as the bloodcurdling Cigarette Path of Regret. This horror maze illuminates all the evils of smoking and aims to convince you to quit before it’s too late.

Singapore Expo 1 Expo Dr. (www.x-out2013.wix.com/home). Expo. 11am-9pm. $20.

Tanah Pusaka – Haunting Stories of a Land Possessed

31 Oct
Are you brave enough to let the ghastly monsters under your childhood beds come out at last? Then join MoonShadow Stories on the night of All Hallows Eve itself as Kamini Ramachandran, Verena Tay and others tell you local tales that nightmares are built on, involving characters like the bomoh [witch doctor] and toyol [poltergeist] from traditional Malay folklores.

The Arts House 1 Old Parliament Ln (www.moonshadowstories.com). 8-9.15pm. $25 (www.bytes.sg).

Time Out Singapore: ‘Architours 2013’ Guide

The only festival dedicated to architecture in the country, Archifest is back this month for its seventh year. Organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), the festival features three weeks of events, with the theme ‘Small is Beautiful’ – celebrating projects that are small in size but large in ambition and impact.

A group of people take photos at last year's Architours. Image courtesy of Archifest.

A group of people take photos at last year’s Architours. Image courtesy of Archifest.

16 Sep 2013: The centrepiece of the event is the zero-waste Archifest Pavilion, which was designed by RSP Architects Planners & Engineers following a competition in June and serves as the main hub for the event. The Archifest Conference (1 Oct) sees a string of influential speakers who will share their ideas on building design, and the festival will close with an Urban Picnic (12 Oct) complete with performances.

For those of you who want to get a bit more involved, the popular Architours is your thing. Organised by The Architecture Society at NUS, professional architects and students will be taking visitors into various buildings around town on 13 separate trails. Here, Melvin Lew, president of The Architecture Society, shows us three buildings that are part of this year’s Architours.

1. ‘The House of Interlocking Boxes’, Saraca Road, by Aamer Architects

The boxes that form the basic look of this residential home in Seletar have been cleverly placed to create balconies, terraces and planters that can be accessed by every bedroom on the second floor. Inside the house, skylight streams down from the rooftop swimming pool’s glass floor all the way to the ground level. The building was also designed so that its square grid is rotated by 45 degrees off the boundary lines to catch the breeze. Says Law: ‘The Saraca Road project by Aamer Architects is a shining example of contemporary Singapore architecture by a local small firm. With a repertoire of landed properties in its portfolio, Aamer Architects continues to push the envelope in the area of designing for homes. The project is a design by a small firm that finds the ideal solution to a combination of factors, including site, climate and structure. Given the role of local small architecture firms in the design of homes in Singapore, Saraca Road achieves aesthetic perfection and represents an achievement by the local architecture community.’

2. 25 Chapel Road, by RichardHO Architects

This quaint single-storey Art Deco-style bungalow was a legacy from parents to their children, and has now been restored and revamped to suit modern needs. The renovations included a new wing with a larger space, as well as a swanky private lap pool – the Architour, unfortunately, doesn’t include taking a dip. Says Law: ‘25 Chapel Road showcases the conservation prowess of small firms. Originally built in the early 20th century, the home was repaired and reinstated painstakingly by RichardHO Architects, including many of the bungalow’s unique and distinguishing features. Careful personal attention paid by the architect ensured a smooth restoration and further addition to the original property, giving this home a second lease of life, and winning the 2010 URA Architectural Heritage Award.’

3. PARKROYAL on Pickering, 3 Upper Pickering Street, by WOHA

Opened in January this year, the award-winning four-star hotel embodies the ‘hotel in a garden’ concept and features over 15,000 square metres of greenery, waterfalls, planter walls and a zero-energy sky garden. Its stacked exterior is inspired by the rice-paddy fields of Bali, and energy-saving elements such as solar panels and rain harvesting devices are incorporated into the building. Says Law: ‘PARKROYAL on Pickering was selected as it is a rather large scale project, completed by a relatively small architecture firm in Singapore. The hotel is an exemplary project that showcases the capability of small firms to achieve award-winning status even for major projects that are usually handled by the bigger firms. The level of detail in this project is also remarkable, given WOHA’s extensive experience with smaller projects in which everything is thoughtfully detailed down to the smallest detail.’

Time Out Singapore: President’s Young Talents 2013

4 Feb 2013: Founded by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) in 2001, the President’s Young Talents (PYT) is a commissioning exhibition that gives the most promising emerging young local artists – all national or permanent residents of Singapore aged below 35 – a chance to be mentored through the process of art making. There are a number of familiar names in this year’s crop, who were each nominated by an independent curatorial committee of local art professionals and selected based on their existing portfolios and a series of interviews  Each artist was paired wither two mentors, who provided guidance and feedback throughout the process – among the mentors this year are Singapore Biennale 2013 curators Tay Swee Lin and Tan Siu Li (of SAM), Lasalle and SMU educator Shirley Soh, ceramics artist Ahmad Bakar and artist Cheo Chai Hiang.

As a new incentive, up to four of the PYT artists this year will be selected to further develop their work for the Singapore Biennale 2013, which is scheduled to take place from 25 Oct. Gwen Pew chats with the six selected artists to hear what their new works, now on display at SAM until 15 Sep 2013, are about.


President’s Young Talents 2013. Photo by Gwen Pew.


'Mirror' by Boo Junfeng. Photo by Gwen Pew.

‘Mirror’ by Boo Junfeng. Photo by Gwen Pew.

Why did you choose Bukit Brown as the area for your film?
It is a place that is rich in history and biodiversity. During a workshop with the actor, Irfan Kasban, we laid down among the tombs for several minutes and took in the tranquility of the cemetery. It really is beautiful. It’s no wonder why an estimate of 100,000 people chose it to be their final resting place. It’s a pity a highway is going to run right through it and destroy all of that.

Can you give us a sneak peek of what it will be about?
It is about an injured soldier who is lost in the forest, among the tombs.
How was the piece conceived, and what were you inspired by?
I was inspired by a tour I went on in Bukit Brown which was led by volunteers who cared deeply about the historical and ecological value of the place. Their passion in wanting to preserve it was very admirable, but there’s also a sense of helplessness when it’s just the few of them versus the government agencies. I wondered if things like history, heritage and nature really mattered less just because only a few people cared.
What is the message that you’re trying to get across with this work?
I don’t think there is ever a singular message.
What was the most valuable thing you feel that you gained from the mentorship? Did it go the way you expected it to?
My mentors introduced me to the concept of Expanded Cinema and the philosophies of other film artists. In the process of making ‘Mirror’ gave me an opportunity to question and deconstruct filmmaking conventions, which was on its own very inspiring.


'Brothers' Quarters' by Liao Jiekai. Photo by Gwen Pew.

‘Brothers’ Quarters’ by Liao Jiekai. Photo by Gwen Pew.

Your piece consists of an installation with film projections – but what does it actually show?
Talking heads, the act of remembering, emotions and feelings, age. Architectural motifs, religious icons, passage of time, parallels, deterioration – [these] are words that came to my mind when I saw the film projections.

How was the piece conceived, and what were you inspired by?
The piece was not conceived like the way Newton discovered gravity after seeing an apple fall from a tree; it was not an immediate surge of inspiration, but rather a long drawn journey of research, interviews and looking at the installation site. It is a project that evolves at every step of the way, even right now. I did quote from Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” in my artist statement, and I think that in recent years, my practice had been drawing more influence from literature compared to any other art forms.
Did you choose to centre your work around SAM because that is where the exhibition will be hosted, or have you got any other – perhaps more personal or sentimental – attachment or curiosity about the place?
When I first received the commission, I visited SAM and walked through the site where the Panorama exhibition was still on. More than looking at the art works, I got interested in the construct of the gallery space; how the place assumes this neutral state of a white cube and recedes into the background as the art pieces take center stage.  Inspired by the SAM building and architecture, I decided to make a work about SAM because I don’t want to see it as a Museum. I am curious; I want to investigate the history of the place through the process of art making.
Do you think, after having completed this project, that the past and present of buildings can be reconciled?
I don’t think that it is about having any form of reconciliation between past and present, because time is always presented as a continuum in everything around us. New things grow old as old things disappear. One very interesting discovery was that the newly constructed buildings in SAM contain architectural motifs that are a simplified or stylized version of the ones in the preserved/restored buildings. It helps distinguish the past and the present, to make clear the very distinct periods of history. After all, the building’s current identity as a Museum will also eventually become part of its history, and an even larger one at that.
To what extent do you believe that buildings should be preserved, rather than demolished to make room for the new? Is there a balance?
I must admit that I began the project as a cynic, thinking that there is a certain bias towards our colonial legacy in the preservation process in Singapore; colonial buildings tend to be favoured for preservation while modernist buildings like our former national library and national theatre have to go and make way for development. But as I move on in my research, I realised that these debates are much more complex, and like all other people, we want to simplify things because it makes it easier to justify our cause: whether it is preservation or progress. Preservation is also a doubled edged sword at times; a building may be preserved and restored in its physical form, but depending on the new social function or institutional identity it assumes, perhaps a certain spirit or aura about the place will be lost, that I feel is more precious than anything else. I think that the more important question that we should be asking ourselves, is why are we preserving, and what does progress mean to us?
What were some of the difficulties you encountered in putting the work together?
Working on a close-to-obsolete medium like film is very challenging in this part of the world. I had to purchase most of my second-hand film equipment, and to process and print the film in America. It is also challenging because film is not a medium I usually work with – the last time I used celluloid film was in 2006 as a student in Chicago. There were many things and processes I have to familiarise myself with again in order to get the project going.


'Refuge' by Grace Tan. Photo by Gwen Pew.

‘Refuge’ by Grace Tan. Photo by Gwen Pew.

How was the piece conceived, and what were you inspired by?
Refuge was conceived as a symbolic gesture/form of my artistic practice and identity. it revisits my training as a fashion designer and the starting point and progression of my practice (how it all came about and where it will lead to). It is a challenge that I set myself with – to work beyond my comfort zone and to see/get to know myself. It also questions my methodology and nature of my working process that juxtaposes logic and intuition.

Nature has always played a role in my work although they tend to be more obscure. I couldn’t help but think of imageries in nature – of flowers in bloom, dense foliage and clouds as I started work on the project. I was also looking at the amazing webs found in nature.
Why were plastic price tags chosen as your form of medium? Did you consider any other materials?
I wanted to set a challenge for myself for this commission. I have always worked with fabric, paper, and more recently, metal, but I was inspired to look beyond my comfort zone for a new material. I knew I needed something that could be connected to form a large interlocking structure. Somehow, repetition and working with a singular unit/component have always been in my work and it was natural that I looked for something that could come together to form some sort of a form.
Where did you find the plastic price tags?
I saw the polypropylene loop pin in a stationery store and its design caught my attention. Somehow, it reminded me of the stamen of flowers. It looked organic to me. It also works as a single unit that could be linked to form a structure. I bought some and started playing with it and in no time, I found a language to connect them. It resembles a knitted structure and with the multiplicity of loops, it creates a beautiful and organic 3D form when hung.
What will the final piece look like?
The loops are linked and connected to form cloud-like clusters suspended from the ceiling. It is not possible to tell how the work/installation will look like at this moment as it is a work-in-progress (this is usually how I work). I have some diagrams as a guide for the composition but I will only know when I start installing the clusters on site. As I am working with a physical 3D space, the composition and intention of the work will only reveal itself when it is in the space.
What I know is that it will form a landscape of some sort and it will envelop and wrap the visitors as they walk up / down the staircase in the gallery.
What is the message that you’re trying to get across with this work?
This work is personal to me as it questions my identity and practice as an artist and what my work means to me. I hope the people who have participated in this work (people involved in the assembly, production, installation as well as the museum, curators and visitors) will make their own connections and meanings with the work.
What was the most valuable thing you feel that you gained from the mentorship? Did it go the way you expected it to?
The dialogues and insights. Personally, this nomination came at a critical juncture of my artistic practice. I’ve been questioning my methodology and identity as an art practitioner and the conversations reiterates some of the questions, uncertainties and views I have been pondering. I find the mentorship to be a meaningful process. The conversations also made me think deeper about my work and it is a part of my artistic growth and development.



'Unveil the Curtain to the Window with no Ledge' by Ryf Zaini. Photo by Gwen Pew.

‘Unveil the Curtain to the Window with no Ledge’ by Ryf Zaini. Photo by Gwen Pew.

I know that you will be creating an installation with lamps and switches, but what will your final piece look like? How will the lamps and switches be presented?
The final outcome of the work depends on what you gather as the viewer. I think that the work has several levels that will present differently to different people. The lamps and switches are just one aspect of the work. But in creating the installation, a series of other works tend to identify the objective of the work. Thus, the work is designed in such a way where, it really depends on the viewer. To the inquisitive, they will see a much more intricate process that weaves to the final outwork, whereas for the ones who aren’t, will picture a totally different final outcome.
Will the public be able to interact with them?
The nature of the work requires exploration. It’s up to the public to be inquisitive and curious enough to venture further from the obvious to see if it’s interactive.
How was the piece conceived, and what were you inspired by?
To be honest, the site itself became the inspiration. The historic heritage of SAM building as an institution played a very significant role in constructing its framework. I would like to bring that essence within the context of this installation, by formulating them in a more modern representation, by the use of lamps and switches. The design is based on how SAM instigates the growth of knowledge and information. And that this form of understanding somehow seemed to make the subject matter clearer by providing answers and results in a way, that ‘enlighten’ us.
What does the title mean or signify?
I’d like to place the title as a prelude to the installation. It beckons questions more than it does answers as it tries to riddle past the mind, and makes one try to understand the meaning of the work.
What is the message that you’re trying to get across with this work?
Like all things, when we uncover a certain information or knowledge, it seemed to enlighten us, to bring ‘light’ to the matter. This is what I’m trying to present, to the public. And that knowledge only comes to those who explore and are interested about the subject matter. Information does not retain with our minds, if we are not keen on its subject matter.
 We should not go thru the phase of the forced institution where we are coerced to learn things that we are told is important to us. Knowledge is better received with interest and understanding towards the subject matter. It should not be pressured by the society to uphold, both in economics and financial standing. It should be something worthwhile that drives the human spirit to live their lives.
What was the most valuable thing you feel that you gained from the mentorship? Did it go the way you expected it to?
Interacting with mentors is certainly a great privilege. The dialogue we had certainly helped in the progress of my work, as their advice stems from experience, knowledge and their expertise within the field. The work has since expanded to areas where ideas were never thought upon, but at the same time, re-directing it towards a more concise objective. The supervisor’s role is to challenge your ideas at times to a point of debate, but then you’ll realise that their intent is the same as yours, to iron out the work and make them more effective. They offer on many countless occasions only suggestions, never obligatory decisions.


'The Quiet and the Alarming' by Robert Zhao Renhui. Photo by Gwen Pew.

‘The Quiet and the Alarming’ by Robert Zhao Renhui. Photo by Gwen Pew.

Why did you choose the wild boar controversy as a starting point of your work?
When I was told to come up with a new work for the exhibition late in April last year, the wild boar situation was something that I was talking about a lot with my nature loving friends. There were contrasting perspectives on the situation but they were all largely man-made. I wanted to see if art has anything to offer when looking at the wild boar in Singapore.
What will your photographs be of? Is there a storyline that links them or are they simply a collage of images?
I have just finished the last touches of the installation in my studio. It looks rather grim. There’s a rather dark storyline flowing through the images. The images are taken during my many wild boar sighting trips and referenced from the media. There’s this image of the ‘first wild boar hunt’ in Bishan Park that I recreated that quite summed up the situation quite nicely. Then there’s another image of wild boars being hunted in the 60s because I think it’s good to remember wild boars have always been a part of our landscape. Then there’s another image of a blown up image of the fur of the wild boar which looks pretty much like stars in the sky.
Will there be anything unusual in the way that they are presented?
It’s very dark. I think it’s mainly because I have been observing the wild boars mostly at night. I actually spent more than 60 nights trying to photograph a wild boar.
What is the message that you’re trying to get across with this work?
I don’t really have a message with this body of work. I think the point of the work is that all meanings will fall flat the more you try to seek for one. I think everyone has opinions on what a wild boar is doing in Singapore. There is no definite position which one can take when talking about wild boars. Ultimately, it’s just an animal that has become too visible.
What was the most valuable thing you feel that you gained from the mentorship? Did it go the way you expected it to?
I think having a constant dialogue when creating a work was a really good way of working for an exhibition.


'Revising Art: The Ten Year Series' by Zaki Razak. Photo by Gwen Pew.

‘Revising Art: The Ten Year Series’ by Zaki Razak. Photo by Gwen Pew.

What is the significance of the title, ‘Revising Art: Ten Year Series’?
‘Revising Art: The Ten Year Series’ signifies a decade of artistic practice (2003-2013), which has inflicted upon my understanding of art – looking back at the series of realizations from the beginnings of graphic design to the foray into street art; from understanding the complexity of the contemporary art world to the daily dosage of absorbing and reflecting the Holy Quran. The title paradoxically references the ‘ten-year series’, a familiar term for Singaporeans, who have gone through Singapore’s educational system and the yearly revision I have enquired on the definition of ‘art’. A platform apt and timely for my proposition on the pedagogies of understanding art, I aspire to ‘build’ or propose an art school based on facilitating the public with knowledge and learning experiences. Throughout nine months, there will be ten ways of learning by ten selected facilitators (including myself), each taking on respective subject such as dance, classical studies, theatre, science, music, spirituality, business and food – all to be conceived under one tent.
How was the piece conceived, and what were you inspired by?
I have always wanted to ‘build’ or start an art school – one that emphasizes on the pursuit of knowledge rather than for the sake of commodity or economy. You must have asked why despite of the two prominent art schools we have here in Singapore. The problems on the pedagogies of understanding art, which I have experienced in these schools aspires me to conceive this project.
You and your accomplices will be delivering lectures throughout the event – what are some of the topics that you will be discussing and how did you come up with them?
There will be topics inherent in art schools, topics, which interest me for almost a decade and topics lacking in art schools. It will be a compilation of diverse subjects which focus lies on criticality and creativity. What considered primary is to advocate the slogan of ‘unlearning’ – not to indulge in ‘fixed’ system of learning, to ask more questions that being content with answers and to participate regularly in collaborative efforts (being multi-disciplined) in order to battle the dominance of specialization of respective faculties.
What was the most valuable thing you feel that you gained from the mentorship? Did it go the way you expected it to?
The process of the mentorship is the best element of the President’s Young Talents. Not only I am fortunate to have negotiated thoughts and ideas with Cheo Chai Hiang and Shirley Soh, the understanding of our concerns with regards to the nature of this project and its relation to society and the happenings of the global stage were critically addressed. This mentorship, in fact, is indicative of the foundation that a school should adopt. It is grounded in reality. Indulgence in spectacle and illusory perceptions are absent.