Time Out Singapore: Art Week 2016

29 Dec 2015: Gwen Pew and Andrea Cheong round up the best exhibitions, festivals, fairs and tours to check out during the nine-day extravaganza

Art Stage 2015

Art Stage 2015

Art Fairs

Art Stage 2016

Art Stage – the main event around which the rest of Art Week revolves – returns for the sixth year and is once again set to take place across four days. It features 143 galleries from 32 countries, many of which are from Asia. New elements visitors can look forward to this year include the Southeast Asia Forum, and artworks exhibited in the public areas of the fair.

Singapore Contemporary Art Show

Representing both renowned and emerging contemporary artists, the first edition of this art show is themed ‘A World of Art’. Fringe activities include artist encounters, which give visitors the chance to speak to 16 artists from around the world, as well as tours, live painting sessions and activities for the whole family.

Exhibitions

Prudential Eye Awards Exhibition

Running for the third year, this award aims to celebrate emerging artists in the Asia region. After reviewing over 100 nominations from curators, critics and art experts across Asia, the panel of judges has shortlisted three artists for each of the five categories. Their works are all on show at the ArtScience Museum, and the winners are announced on Jan 19.

Singapore Arts Club

This show features works by three local artists: Jack Tan presents an outdoor light installation, Sean Lee invites strangers to hop into bed to have their portraits taken together, and Joo Choon Lin stages a performance piece around an interactive sculpture.

Talks

Forum at NGS: Capturing the Moment

While many artworks are physical objects that you can hold and easily display, there are also those that are far more ephemeral or abstract in nature. Like performance pieces or works that degrade over time. This forum looks at the issues that institutions and collectors face when researching, documenting, archiving and conserving such pieces of art.

The talk is inspired by and runs alongside Tang Da Wu’s seminal 1980 exhibition, Earth Work, as well as a group show titled A Fact has No Appearance, the latter of which examines the impact of fresh ideas that arose in the South-East Asian art world during the turbulent ’70s.

2016 calligraphy exhibition, workshop and bilingual calligraphy forum

The practice of traditional calligraphy is alive and well today, and this inaugural bilingual calligraphy forum presents a series of lectures, discussions and demonstrations in appreciation of the craft.

Roundtable @ SAM

The second of five instalments of the series hopes to spark a conversation on ‘Art and the Big Ideas of a Small Nation’. This discussion is held as part of SAM’s current exhibition, 5 Stars: Art Reflects on Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy and Progress.

Tours

Concrete Island Bus Tour

Inspired by JG Ballard’s novel of the same name and Tan Pin Pin’s 2003 film 80km/h, Concrete Island is a project by NUS Museum that was created as a response to those works.

It comprises an exhibition, a reading workshop, a mobile cinema programme, and a bus tour along the Pan Island Expressway, guided by architect Lai Chee Kian. Taken together, the event is an examination of Singapore’s urban history, movements, and the design of expressways.

Public Art Walking Tour

Learn more about the three new public art installations that were launched along the Jubilee Walk at the end of November: ’24 Hours in Singapore’ by Baet Yeok Kuan, ‘Cloud Nine: Raining’ by Tan Wee Lit and ‘The Rising Moon’ by Han Sai Por and Kum Chee Kiong.

Art in Motion

Back for the third edition, Art in Motion once again features 16 galleries that are part of the Art Galleries Association Singapore – including Chan Hampe Galleries, Gajah Gallery and STPI – where a series of exhibitions, book launches, panel discussions and other events are set to take place.

Festivals + Markets

Aliwal Urban Art Festival

What do skateboards, graffiti and DJs have in common? They’ll all be featured in the Aliwal Urban Art Festival this year, that’s what. For the first time, the event also has an exhibition segment entitled Cannot be Bo(a)rdered, where 16 artists from South-East Asia come together to explore youth culture through skateboard art. Other performers include The A Capella Society, DJ RZPZ and Take Two.

Art after Dark

Once the sun sets, hit up Gillman Barracks’ bi-monthly arts bash, which brings together visual art, music, performances, guided tours, talks, as well as lotsa food and booze. Eleven galleries are taking part in this edition.

The Local People x SAM Art Week Market

Eat, shop and drink to your heart’s content at The Local People x Singapore Art Museum Art Week Market. Expect over 100 locally based vendor booths, while homegrown musicians the likes of Jaime Wong, Amanda Tee, Jean Goh Seizure and Stanley Ho serenade you in the background. Top it off with drinks at The Local Soda Bar for a boozy end to your Sunday.

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Time Out Singapore: Steven Yip, Q Framing

28 Dec 2015:

Steven Yip

Steven Yip, 51, managing director at Q Framing

How did you first get into picture framing?

By accident. I was trained as a marine engineer, but when I was waiting for my ‘O’ Level results to come out, I spent six months at Merlin Frame Maker – probably the oldest framers in Singapore. I did NS in the navy, but I saw some old sailors on the ships and they’re all very lonely. I didn’t want to become like them, so I went back to Merlin and stayed there for ten years. I also ended up meeting my wife, Zoe, there!

You’re a certified picture framer – what does that mean?

There are two trade bodies – the Fine Art Trade Guild in the UK and the Professional Picture Framing Association in America – that offer certified programmes to promote good practice, and I flew to Las Vegas with Zoe in 2007 and we did the examination. We also use higher-grade materials.

What makes museum-grade materials so much better?

Matte boards, for instance, are divided into five grades, and the lower-grade ones will leave yellow stains over time because they contain an acidic material called lignin. The museum-grade ones are made of 100 percent cotton, which don’t contain lignin and therefore won’t leave an acid burn even after many years.

Who are your main clients?

I have a regular group of art collectors, but I also work with high-end galleries such as STPI, Sundaram Tagore and the National Gallery.

Tell us about the most valuable piece of art that you’ve dealt with.

I’d say around 90 percent of Cheong Soo Pieng’s works have gone through us [to be framed]. One of them, called Balinese Dance, was sold at the Christie’s auction in Hong Kong last November for $1.4 million. It’s the work that fetched the highest price at the sale.

Would you say that 2D works are easier to frame than 3D ones?

Every medium comes with its own challenge. Two-dimensional works can be very flimsy and transparent sometimes, and it’s also important not to retain the tension of the canvases for oil or acrylic works, because otherwise the paint might crack and peel off.

How big is your team at Q Framing?

We currently have 17 staff. I don’t hire people with prior experience, because if they come from other shops and they’re used to doing things a certain way, it’s very difficult to change their habits. It’s human nature. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

When we first started the company, it was to convince people that they should get their artworks framed properly. Framing is a very Western tradition, and people here often think it’s just about giving pictures a structure so that they can hang on the wall. But if it’s done well, framing can really protect and even enhance the work.

Would you say that’s also the most misunderstood thing about framing?

Yes, a lot of people don’t see the point in paying 50 percent more than what they’d pay at the mom-and-pop shops. I hope that will change, and people will start demanding a higher quality of framing in the future.

Time Out Singapore: ‘My Forest has no Name’

28 Dec 2015: Artist Donna Ong’s latest exhibition, ‘My Forest has no Name’, invites visitors to look at tropical rainforests from a different light

Donna Ong

Donna Ong

Stepping through the door, we immediately find ourselves surrounded by lush layers of leaves. A few parrots peer at us curiously, while a tiger and a leopard snuggle together on the far end. In the middle of it all, Donna Ong sits at her desk, carefully adding another layer onto the diorama that she’s working on. No, this is no forest – it’s the local artist’s studio, the (faux) flora and fauna all part of her upcoming exhibition, My Forest has No Name.

In it, Ong uses tropical rainforests to illustrate the gap between reality and representation: specifically, how Westerners of the 18th and 19th century painted the tropics with such fancy and exoticism. The forests depicted in paintings and sketches from that era – which were often created by artists who had never stepped foot in these places – were as accurate as North Korean propaganda. Think ferocious beasts among banana and palm trees, with half-naked natives lending credence to the half-baked notion of the ‘white man’s burden’.

The artist hopes that visitors to her show will be immersed in a romantic, imaginary world that she wishes really had existed. As a child, Ong would pore over the pages of The Jungle Book and The Faraway Tree, and dream up fantasies of forests and mountains. It’s a wanderlust that she wants to elicit – and she wants visitors to also question their own impressions, true or not, of the natural world.

‘I want people to look at the forest as a whole and from different angles,’ she explains. ‘Imagine a building with many windows. I want them to look at the interior of the building through different windows.’

The little diorama that she’s working on, which comprises cut-outs of various plants and animals from natural history books that are sandwiched between sheets of acrylic, forms the central part of the show. Several of them are placed within modified wooden lightboxes, which are dotted around a room filled with the leaves and animal figurines that greeted us.

‘Oh, I bought these from antique shops. Some of them are from Carousell,’ Ong giggles as she gestures towards her exotic porcelain menagerie. ‘When I went to collect these from people’s houses, sometimes the owners would ask me what I’m planning to do with them. I’d try to explain that I want to use them for an exhibition, but sometimes they don’t really get it.’

Besides the figurines, the other works on display include photographs of artificial rainforest landscapes that Ong found within hotels and botanic gardens around the world. There’s also a treasure chest filled with items like guns, bones and condoms – things that have been linked to the jungles in various newspaper articles that she collected – to expose the dark side of the woods, lest we miss the forest for the trees.

Time Out Singapore: Best of 2015 – Arts

25 Nov 2015: We round up the top highlights of this year’s cultural calendar

National Gallery Singapore 2

Photo by National Gallery Singapore

Best theatre festival

Singapore International Festival of Arts

Helmed by festival director Ong Keng Sen, the Singapore International Festival of Arts returned this year with a theme of ‘Post-Empires’, a decidedly local flavour and an ambitious mini dance festival on top of it all. We especially loved Wild Rice’s Hotel and Drama Box’s It Won’t Be Long – The Lesson.

Up-and-coming actor

Thomas Pang

He’s 24 years old and just finishing up his final year at Lasalle, but we were very impressed with Thomas Pang in his professional debut earlier this year. Taking on the role as Billy in Pangdemonium’s production of Tribes, he was quietly confident and portrayed a difficult character convincingly. We’ll be keeping our eye on this rising star for sure.

Biggest arts hero

Sukki Singapora

Sukki Singapora is beautiful, brainy and brave. Not only did she teach herself the art of burlesque by watching YouTube videos, she took on the Singapore legal system and convinced the authorities to legalise the dance form earlier this year. On top of that, she’s set up a programme to bring arts to underprivileged and vulnerable kids. Can we love this lady any more?

Best new arts series

Art after Dark

Gillman Barracks is quiet on most days, but the arts cluster comes alive at Art after Dark, a bi-monthly party that brings together visual art, music, performances, guided tours and talks. Paintings are always easier to digest with a glass of wine and a burger, we say.

Best new arts venue

National Gallery Singapore

Here’s a no-brainer. The National Gallery is without a doubt the most important addition to the Singapore visual arts scene this year. Spanning a whopping 64,000 square metres, it’s home to thousands of works by local and regional artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Time Out Singapore: ‘Pepper and Juno in a TV-less World’

Pepper & Juno

10 Nov 2015: It started, as many great things do, with a child’s tantrum. Juno Tay was six and bored at home – her mum, Pepper See, had been sleeping – when she acted up. But she wasn’t banished to the dunce corner. Instead, See gave her paint and a canvas: ‘I tasked her to surprise me with anything she paints, and I asked her to wake me up once she’s done, so I can surprise her back by adding something.’ Sure, it helps that See is an artist herself.

The day after completing the work, the duo received an offer to buy that piece, christened ‘Tantrum’. See and her daughter were on to something. And now, three years later, they’re putting together a show of their collaborations.

The works in Pepper and Juno in a TV-less World feature bright swathes of colour colliding with light-as-air characters, set against whimsical backdrops, that flesh out the connection between mother and daughter. ‘We don’t have a TV at home,’ says See. ‘Art is our lifestyle. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like taking Juno out, we just stay home to create.’

But what happens when the inevitable creative differences arise? Like the one time Tay painted her entire canvas in the colours of the rainbow – it was impossible for See to add anything of her own. ‘My favourite part is when mummy has no idea what to paint over my backgrounds,’ the nine-year-old chirps. ‘I do whatever I want. But sometimes, I’ll listen to mummy. Like when she tells me no more rainbow colours.’

With Tay’s exams just around the corner, however, their biggest challenge now is to find time to make art when Tay’s grandmother – ‘Juno’s schoolwork monitor’, as See puts it – isn’t looking. Don’t let their efforts don’t go to waste, and be sure to check out their heart-warming pieces at Artistry when you pop by this month.

Time Out Singapore: National Gallery Singapore

26 Oct 2015: The wait is over, folks – the National Gallery Singapore has finally opened, promising loads of artsy activities in a beautifully restored space. We find out more about the new jewel in the Lion City’s crown

National Gallery - NGS

Photo by National Gallery Singapore

Sixty-four thousand square metres, spread across two monumental buildings, with thousands of pieces of art on its walls. That’s the scale of the National Gallery Singapore, which has finally flung its doors open after five years of renovation works. The culture vultures in us are already salivating. We picked our jaws off from the ground to hear more about the Gallery’s grand plans from curator Adele Tan.

How will the two buildings – City Hall and the former Supreme Court – be used differently?

The Supreme Court building will be home to the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery, while the DBS Singapore Gallery will be featured in the City Hall building, along with the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery.

The Keppel Centre for Art Education, Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden Gallery and other F&B and retail spaces will also be housed in the City Hall building. In addition, there will also be smaller galleries and event spaces across both buildings.

What can we find in the permanent exhibitions?

We have more than 10,000 artworks in Singapore’s national collection, approximately 8,000 of which are to be displayed in the Gallery. At any one time, about 1,000 pieces from the collection will be on display. The Gallery will focus on displaying Singapore and South-East Asian art from the 19th century to the present day.

Some highlights include Chua Mia Tee’s ‘Epic Poem of Malaya’ and Raden Saleh’s ‘Wounded Lion’, which will be featured in the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery, as well as Liu Kang’s ‘Artist and Model’ and Cheong Soo Pieng’s ‘Drying Salted Fish’ in the DBS Singapore Gallery.

Tell us about the curatorial process.

Our team of curators work in full gear to put together the exhibitions – from researching new aspects of the art history of the region and selecting pieces for the exhibitions, to working closely with regional scholars, artists and curators.

We also establish relationships and build trust with art collectors and art institutions around the world to loan key artworks that complement our collection.

What temporary exhibitions will be hosted?

The Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery will feature exhibitions curated and presented in collaboration with art institutions from around the world. Our first collaboration with Centre Pompidou [from Paris] will be presented in April 2016, followed by our second international partnership with Tate Britain in October 2016.

What will the visitor experience be like?

Visitors can expect a unique experience that is inspiring, engaging and moving, through the Gallery’s presentation of art perspectives that are meaningful and thought-provoking.

Other than showcasing one of the world’s largest collections of modern South-East Asian art from the 19th and 20th centuries, we also offer interactive art programmes and activities at the Keppel Centre for Art Education to nurture the next generation of art lovers, and for visitors to continue their art journey beyond the galleries.

What are some of your personal favourite pieces from the collection?

I don’t like playing favourites, but I enjoy the uncovering of unexpected finds in the collection or the serendipity in the process of commissioning new or reconstructed works.

I was quite chuffed to discover the late Malaysian artist Ismail Zain’s ‘From There to Now’ (1986). I had encountered it by chance at our Heritage Conservation Centre (where the nation’s artworks are stored) and was surprised to realise the complexity of its pictorial composition and the vividness of its colours.

The work was badly photographed when it was accessioned into the collection database, which probably contributed to it being overlooked. At that point, it was the only work by Ismail Zain in our collection, although I am pleased to say that we have more now: a set of prints from his seminal series of digital collages.

So when is it opening, already!

The Gallery will open its doors on November 24, and a key highlight of the celebrations will be the National Gallery Opening Festival, titled Share the Hope.

The festival will be held at the Padang from November 27 to 29, with events and performances – including film screenings and a spectacular façade show – for both the young and old.

We will also be launching the Art Connector, and we will be holding tours, talks and discussions about the new galleries, as well as Singapore and South-East Asian art.

Time Out Singapore: River Nights 2015

23 Oct 2015: Get off the couch and get in on the arty party happening at Empress Place this weekend. Held in conjunction with the River Festival, River Nights comprises a series of art installations and performances taking place around the Asian Civilisations Museum with the theme, ‘Colours of Life’. The artworks will be around until October 31, but the bulk of the performances are taking place this weekend. Here are five cool things to check out.

River Nights 2015 - Artwork- Li Hongbo; Photo- Asian Civilisations Museum

Li Hongbo’s ‘Ocean of Flowers’. Photo by Asian Civilisations Museum

‘Ocean of Flowers’ by Li Hongbo

Asian Civilisations Museum

You might have seen this Chinese artist’s works before – his amazing plaster-like paper sculptures were shown at Art Stage earlier this year – but here they are again in their full multi-colour glory. ‘Ocean of Flowers’ is an installation that takes up an entire room at the museum, and at first glance, it looks like a pretty landscape of arches and towers. But then you realise that when folded shut, each component is actually in the shape of guns or bullets. It invites visitors to consider the relationship between beauty and destruction, and the price that has to be paid for there to be peace.

‘Les Voyageurs’ by Cédric Le Borgne

River Promenade

The last time Le Borgne’s art visited our shores was at the Singapore Night Festival, where his huge chicken wire sculptures of birds rested on the branches outside the National Museum. This time, he brought over his human-shaped works instead. Suspended beneath the canopy of leaves beside the river with the CBD lights glittering behind them, these Peter Pan-like figures highlight how fleeting our existence is in relation to our surroundings.

‘Walter’ by Dawn Ng

ACM Hardcourt

Singapore’s favourite bunny is back! The dorky, somewhat disproportionate – but still very lovable – Walter has been popping up guerrilla-style around Singapore since 2010. He exists to get people to re-examine the spaces around him, and this time, he’s set to invade the space in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum to remind us of the link between art and history.

New Opera

Oct 23; 10.30pm; Empress Place Lawn

Intimidated by opera? New Opera Singapore is here to demystify the art form and make it more accessible to the general public. The group is set to perform a series of songs, including ‘Habanera’ from Carmen in Mandarin, as well as ‘Una Furitva Lagrima’ from L’elisir d’amore and ‘Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille’ from Les contes d’Hoffmann, as a tribute to the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall nearby.

Zingo

Oct 24; 10.30pm; Empress Place Lawn

Let your heart beat to the sound of ZingO’s drums during the closing performance of River Nights. The local percussion collective combine traditional and modern techniques, and hope to swing the spotlight on Chinese culture, music and education.

Time Out Singapore: Chan Hampe Galleries’ Fifth Anniversary

Eugene Soh - Creation of Ah Dam

Eugene Soh’s ‘Creation of Ah Dam’

14 Aug 2015: In just five years, Chan Hampe Galleries has built a name for itself as a popular, exciting and successful art space. It regularly sells out at art fairs and the young local artists it represents are among the most sought-after both in Singapore and overseas. Now, with its reputation consolidated, the people behind the gallery want to do something different.

‘Money is important, of course, but nowadays everywhere you go, people are always flogging you something,’ says the gallery’s co-owner and director Benjamin Hampe. ‘I mean, what happened to just looking at art, y’know? There’s a real dearth of not-for-profit art spaces in Singapore, and we’d like to fill that gap.’

The opportunity to do so came up when Angie Chan and her husband Nick Davies – both co-owners, too – bought a home on Lorong 24A in Geylang. It’s no ordinary space: the beautifully renovated shophouse is part of development consultancy firm Pocket Project’s Shophouse Series.

The project paired seven local architects with eight shophouses from the ’20s. They were tasked with marrying the structures’ old world-charm with contemporary sensitivities. So Chan and Davies live upstairs, in a home filled with brightly coloured furniture and pieces of art adorning almost every surface, and they’ve ‘donated’ the ground floor to build a ‘gallery’, named Shophouse 5 after its unit number.

Stepping through the blue-grey front door, the first thing we notice is how quiet and enclosed the space is. Shophouse 5 is decidedly cosier than Chan Hampe Galleries, and Hampe tells us that’s precisely the idea: ‘We want this to be a space for quiet contemplation, an intimate place for people to get to know the art and the artists. We’re not looking for foot traffic here. It’s for those who are in the know. People should go and look for art, otherwise it’s not worth it!’

In order to further differentiate itself from Chan Hampe, Shophouse 5 is a place that Hampe hopes can host more controversy. ‘We’re not looking to offend people; this is not a platform to push any sort of political agenda. But we want the works to explore truths and discuss issues that should be talked about,’ he explains. He pauses, then adds with a grin: ‘Though, I’ve always told my artists that if they can get my gallery shut down, I’d be very proud!’

‘Not another SG50 show’

In celebration of Chan Hampe’s fifth anniversary and the opening of Shophouse 5, the two venues are holding a joint exhibition, Common Ground. The idea started when Hampe gave gallery director Samantha Segar a curatorial challenge: to put together a show that explores what binds – and divides – Singaporeans. It features 21 works by 16 artists that Chan Hampe has worked with in the past, but Hampe didn’t want this to be ‘another SG50 show’, as he puts it. ‘A nation’s story is made up of so many different stories. Some stories are of pain, or loss, or disagreements both politically and socially, but they’re all still real.’

Highlights include Eugene Soh’s ‘Creation of Ah Dam’ – a play on Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ – that Hampe describes as having ‘an immediate sense of humour and irreverence, but also has a lot of small, interesting socio-political elements’. Another is Alvin Ong’s oil painting, ‘Swee Chai’, which depicts Ang Swee Chai, a surgeon living in exile in London. ‘She’s an activist, although not a bitter one,’ Hampe says. ‘But still, this isn’t a work that will be collected by the National Gallery!’

The works on display, many of which are commissioned especially for this exhibition, are loosely divided by theme: the ones at Chan Hampe are mostly about the nation and identity, while those at Shophouse 5 are more concerned with universal topics such as nature. The works at Shophouse 5 can only be viewed on a by-appointment basis, although there will be an open house on August 15 and 16.

Although Common Ground is curated in-house, Hampe prefers to be hands-off with the projects at Shophouse 5. ‘There’s so much you can do with this space,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to have another commercial gallery.’

 

Time Out Singapore: Alternative SG50 Logos

6 Aug 2015: We got ten artists and designers to put their spin on the unfortunately ubiquitous SG50 logo. They’re way better than the actual thing, if you ask us. Here are three examples

Wanton Doodle - SG50

By Wanton Doodle

‘It’s often said that the people make a nation, but I feel that our city’s skyline also speaks volumes. This pieces personifies the past structure as they co-exist with current and future ones.’

Yen Phang - SG50

By Yen Phang

‘I was exploring the idea of (an also paying tribute to) Singapore as a garden city, particularly the beautiful improbability of man-shaped nature within an urban city.’

Darren Soh - SG50

By Darren Soh

‘I used People’s Park Complex as the backdrop. It’s neither new nor fancy, but it embodies a small island growing into nationhood when it was built in the ’70s.’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Paul Husner on Bali ‘

1 Jul 2015: Gwen Pew talks to Paul Husner about his artwork

Paul Husner - Arma IV

Paul Husner’s ‘Arma IV’

Swiss artist Paul Husner’s first love led him to his second. It started when his anthropologist wife, Tine, wanted to study the Batak culture in Sumatra. The couple arrived in 1983: ‘Tine to conduct her research, me to draw and paint,’ he tells us. It wasn’t long before the couple settled down in Ubud, Bali – and more than three decades later, Husner still spends his time capturing the beauty of the Island of the Gods.

‘The light in Bali has a remarkable quality that captivates me. It’s unlike light you can find anywhere else in the world,’ he says. ‘The light, to me, represents the spirit of the environment. I knew I was in a place that best allowed me to express myself.’

His oil paintings are characterised by their bright colours and bold lines; viewers can almost feel the tropical heat radiating from the canvas.

But they’re more than just pretty landscapes, Husner insists: ‘I do not view [Bali] as merely an exotic locale; it is a magnificent conduit whose light allows me to give form to colour, and composition to form. As an artist, I do not aspire to merely create things of beauty. I wish to faithfully represent the truth of my subject matter through analysis and a distillation of structures to their simplest form.’