Time Out Singapore: Andre Tan

The past, present and future collide in a new exhibition by Andre Tan. Gwen Pew speaks with the time-travelling artist to find out more.

Andre Tan

7 Nov 2014: One of Singapore’s most beloved pop artists, Andre Tan, is back this month with a new solo exhibition. RE is a fresh series of paintings adapted from masterpieces and given a curious, contemporary twist, like an image of Michelangelo’s David brandishing a smartphone. This artist is present – and in the past, and in the future, all at once.

What is the significance of the simple title, RE?
‘Re’ is a prefix, which is placed before the stem of a word. Adding ‘re’ to the beginning of one word changes it into another word. I am using the same metaphor, adding elements into familiar images or famous paintings. RE is an exhibition about recreating, rethinking and refreshing.

Why is the notion of the past so important to you?
I started my research for this series by studying Renaissance paintings. I find it interesting to juxtapose modern elements or materials with Renaissance images. The original context of the image is taken away and it creates another kind of telling. The gesture of introducing another element into the work creates a time void – it’s fascinating. Everything seems to appear within one dimension and is fused into the same time frame. As the series progresses, I shifted images around and toyed with different ideas. I assume that the past is an important factor in my works. Without knowledge of the past – and the original image that I’ve used – the viewer might not be able to grasp the idea of my art.

If this series is an attempt to look back at the past, does it also encourage a look towards the future?
Definitely, I believe that the past provides lessons for the present and acts as a guide to the future.

How long have you been working on this series?
I’ve been working on this exhibition, which will feature my latest body of work, with Galerie Belvedere for about half a year. In the exhibition, I’m revisiting the past and infusing it with the ‘now’.

How do you come up with ideas for new works?
To me, ideas are like rain. They would suddenly appear out of nowhere, but other times, when I wish it would rain, it doesn’t. However when it rains, I would be like a sponge, absorbing whatever is around me. Anything and everything can be a form of inspiration to generate new ideas. It depends a lot on my mood.

The paintings look very digital – how do you achieve this effect?
Usually, I work on a Mac to figure out the ideas for my paintings. It’s like sketching in a sketch book; the only difference is that I use a mouse instead of a pen or pencil. Upon finalising the idea, I will work on the layers of stencils to hand-paint and stencil the artwork. At first glance, the painting might look like a print, but upon closer look, you realise the works are hand-painted.

You’ve said that you hope to address the ironies and social ills apparent in our society today with a humorous approach. Tell us about this. 
Personally, I think that smartphones are one of the best inventions of convenience in our modern society, yet they cause social ills and ironies. For example, in our fast-paced society, we are slowed down by the ones walking ahead of us with their eyes glued to their phones.

Smartphones enable us to keep in touch with the people close to us – especially those who live overseas – but they also estrange the ones beside us. The scenario is often seen in restaurants or cafés. You’d see how one would spend more time on the phone than communicating with those in front of them.

Selfies are cool, but too much makes it a form of narcissistic illness. The Renaissance Man series is based on such narcissism. Ultimately, I don’t find any of this wrong. I just find it an interesting subject matter to work on.

What do you feel is your mission as an artist? 
I’ve been enjoying the process of painting for the last eight years since graduating from Lasalle. I’ve never questioned what my mission as an artist is. I guess it is the passion of creating and painting that keeps me going. Hopefully this passion will fuel me for the next 50 years or so.

Time Out Singapore: Tan Ngiap Heng

Tan Ngiap Heng - Body of Works

17 Oct 2014: One of the most well-known and sought-after performance photographers in Singapore today, Tan Ngiap Heng has long held a fascination with the human body. His next exhibition, aptly named Body of Work, comprises three series shot over three years. He hopes his photos ‘go further than just creating a beautiful image, like I have done previously with my dance photography work’. Among the three series, ‘Portraits in History’ especially caught our eye. The images here consist of portraits with a twist: Tan asked his subjects to bring their old, personal photographs, which were then projected onto their bodies.

‘I experimented with a combination of poses and photographs on the bodies until I was satisfied with the images,’ he explains. ‘I was exploring portraits not only by what the subject looks like, but also the events in the subject’s past.’

One of the resulting images is of actor Michael Tan, pictured above. ‘The picture projected onto him is from his youth and it shows his sister, whom he was very close to and who has passed away,’ he tells us. ‘I met Michael while I was documenting [Nine Years Theatre’s 2013 play] Twelve Angry Men. For most of my ‘Portraits as History’ series, I had shot relatively young people – dancers and actors whom I knew would be open enough to pose naked for me in portraits – but it was wonderful when he accepted my invitation to be in the series. He and his photographs are older than those of my other subjects, but his presence lends a gravitas to his portraits.’

‘Starlight Sonata’ and ‘Dancing with Light’ are the remaining two series. For the former, which he created in a workshop in Tuscany in 2010, Tan mounted the camera on a tripod, hit the timer and took ‘a long exposure of me prancing around in my birthday suit’, he recalls. Long exposures were again employed in ‘Dancing with Light’, but Tan didn’t feature in these shots. Rather, the photographer captured the whirl of dancers with LED lights in their hands.

Time Out Singapore: Art Fairs Guide 2014

A surge of art fairs, each catering to different budgets and tastes, is crashing onto our shores. Gwen Pew highlights five upcoming editions worth checking out.

Art Fairs

7 Oct 2014:

Milan Image Art & Design Fair 

‘MIA&D Fair is the only art fair that highlights photography and video art production,’ says exhibition director Lorenza Castelli.

First founded by Fabio Castelli in Milan in 2011, this is the first time the fair is held outside of the Italian city, and Castelli is hoping to make it an annual edition here.

Type of art Contemporary art in the form of photography, video and design by both established and emerging artists from Asia as well as Western countries. There will also be a design furniture section in the Singapore edition.

Price range $5,000-$50,000 Highlights Local or locally-based galleries include 2902 Gallery, Richard Koh Fine Art and Sundaram Tagore. Italian galleries to look out for include MC2, Spazio Nuovo and Costantini.

Affordable Art Fair

‘AAF Singapore brings a new generation of collectors into the market by breaking down the barriers for new buyers,’ says fair director Camilla Hewitson.

First founded by Will Ramsay in London in 1999, the Affordable Art Fair has since expanded to 12 other cities, including New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, where it has been held annually since 2010. This year marks the first time the fair is being held twice in a year in the city, and organisers are hoping to keep it a bi-annual affair.

Type of art Affordable paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs.

Price range $100-$10,000 Highlights Artcommune Gallery (Singapore), representing Hong Sek Chern, known for her unconventional depiction of landscapes and urban-scapes; TAG Fine Arts (UK), representing David Spiller, who combines the punchy aesthetics of pop art with his own brand of expressionism; and Eyestorm (UK) representing Jacky Tsai, famous for the floral skulls he created for the late Alexander McQueen in 2008.

Bank Art Fair

‘Some fairs depend on the reputation of attending galleries. But we prefer young gallerists and artists,’ says founder Tomy Kim.

First founded by Tomy Kim in South Korea in 2009, which had originally operated under different names. The first Bank Art Fair, however, was held at Island Shangri- La Hotel in Hong Kong last year. The Singapore edition will also be debuting this year, and will be returning annually.

Type of art Mostly paintings – especially in oil – but also sculptures. The majority of the works are contemporary, and participating galleries and artistshail from all over the world including South Korea, North and South America, Myanmar, Hong Kong and more.

Price range $1,000-$20,000, with most going for $4,000-$5,000

Highlights Aldaza Art Gallery (South America), KHANKHALAEV Gallery and Marta Ashadze Gallery (Russia) and Ashok Jain (US).

Singapore Art Fair

‘The fair will profile Singaporean artists alongside their international peers, driving demand for Singapore’s creative talent,’ says executive director Jason Ng.

First founded by Laure d’Hauteville, who is also behind the Beirut Art Fair, Singapore Art Fair will hold its inaugural edition this year. It will be held here yearly.

Type of art
 Works by both emerging and established artists from the ME.NA.SA. regions.

Price range $30,000-$50,000 on average, though some pieces do reach seven figures.

Highlights Finale Art File (the Philippines), Artemis Art Gallery (Malaysia), Ode to Art (Singapore/Malaysia), XVA Gallery and JAMM Art Gallery (UAE), and Samar Kozah Gallery (Syria).

Art Stage Singapore

‘Art Stage Singapore leads the Singapore Art Week as its pillar event,’ says founder and fair director Lorenzo Rudolf.

First founded by Lorenzo Rudolf in 2011 as the first international art fair in Singapore. It occurs annually.

Type of art Modern and contemporary art from Asia and the world, with a selection of regions having their own curated platforms. Three-quarters of the works in the 2014 edition were from the Asia Pacific region.

Price range Between four and seven digits.

Highlights White Cube (UK), ShanghART Gallery (China/ Singapore), Tomio Koyama Gallery (Japan/Singapore), Pearl Lam Galleries (Hong Kong/Singapore).

Time Out Singapore: Art Social Haus

Art Haus Social

10 Sep 2014: There has been a whole bunch of co-working spaces popping up around Singapore in the last few years catering to different professionals, whether they’re in need of an ad hoc meeting room or a just a desk to call office. Now, artists can say hello to Art Social Haus, a co-working space dedicated to fresh graduates or other new artists who can’t afford their own studios yet. Opened last month by Sheau Chen, an account manager for a London- based branding agency, and Erica Tsirtsakis, a designer with a boutique design agency – both of whom are part-time artists – the venue is tucked away on the tenth floor of a Tai Seng business hub.

‘We both wanted a place to make art outside our homes, with the possibility of meeting other fellow artists,’ says Chen. ‘I am a printmaking artist, but when I worked at home it always makes such a mess. Plus I have cats and their fur gets all over my works! So for artists with pets or children, this place is perfect.’

The high-ceilinged room is kitted out with lighting that imitates natural light, rows of easels, trolleys for whatever art supplies their members bring in, as well as a manual inking station. ‘Our space is flexible, suitable for painters, printmakers, sculptors, potters and ceramic artists,’ says Chen.

Plus, it’s open 24 hours a day, and members will be given access keys to pop by whenever they wish. For those who want to drop in during the weekend, they will have access to the building’s swimming pool, while monthly members can also use the gym if they need a break to get their creative juices flowing. Chen and Tsirtsakis have also sourced a pretty selection of quirky, homey furniture and created a hangout space in the corner, complete with a fridge, microwave, shelves for drinks and even a sofa for their members to socialise.

On top of that, the pair will be hosting monthly events at the space that are open to the public, including one on poetry appreciation and writing, and a tattoo art exhibition and workshop that will be happening from this month (see their Facebook page for more details).

Art Social Haus #10-08 Oxley Bizhub 2, 62 Ubi Rd 1 (www.facebook.com/artsocialhaus). Tai Seng. Daily 24 hours. Monthly rates start from $280/person-$400/three people; $35-$60 for weekend drop-ins.

Time Out Singapore: Safaruddin Abdul Hamid

With his signature muted colour palette, local artist Safaruddin Abdul Hamid’s layered paintings depict iconic buildings and characters. Gwen Pew takes a closer look.

Dyn

31 Jul 2014: At first glance, Safaruddin Abdul Hamid’s art looks almost digital, as though a bunch of photographs had their contrast level jacked up to 100 and flatly re-coloured with just a few shades; but squint harder and you’ll see the layers of acrylic carefully spread over their canvas frames. It’s partly the visually arresting painting style and partly the instantly recognisable local buildings in his works – his previous pieces have depicted The Cathay, the dome of the Old Supreme Court Building, Singapore’s old playgrounds and more – but it’s impossible to walk past the works and not be drawn into their vivid worlds.

‘It all started when I was still in art school doing my diploma. I was experimenting with different styles and was particularly interested in flat colours, hard lines, and amorphous, camouflage, pattern-like shapes,’ explains the locally born and based Hamid, who also goes by the moniker Dyn. ‘I was very strongly influenced by computer graphic art and imagery; one of my objectives back then was to create art pieces that looked as if they were computer printed but were actually hand painted and one-off.’

Ever since he earned his Diploma in Fine Art from Lasalle in 2003 – he went on to receive a Bachelors from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia and a Masters from Open University in Lasalle – he has been making the rounds in galleries both here and abroad, including the Singapore Art Museum, the former Valentine Willie Fine Art and Utterly Art. This month, he returns to Chan Hampe Galleries with a collection of new works under a series entitled Everyday Heroes. As the name suggests, Hamid had decided to move away from buildings as his subjects, and instead shifted his focus to people.

‘My work basically deals with nostalgia, and I feel that architecture is a good subject matter and trigger for that, but I began to realise that people also play a big part in creating nostalgia,’ he says. ‘I recently went back to the old neighbourhood where I grew up and the place brought back a lot of memories, but I realised that something was missing. The people I grew up with played a big part in my experience as well, and without the people, the experience felt very different. That became one of the key reasons why I started working on painting people.’ The resulting pieces feature a collection of people who played an integral role in the shaping of Singapore, from Samsui women to the candy and satay men. As with his older pieces, the new paintings are largely based on old photographs from his own personal collection, many of which were taken by his dad. ‘He used to be a photography buff when I was a kid and my childhood was well documented,’ he tells us, but admits that he eventually had to turn to archives and other outlets for the images to have a wider range of perspectives and angles for his works.

By combining a relatively muted colour palette with a poster art look, his subjects turn into vintage memories, just as the physical presence of his characters have now faded into silhouettes of the past. Through these images, Hamid invites viewers to take a break from the city’s dive into the future, and instead travel back in time to remember the local heroes who helped take us to where we are today. ‘To me, Singapore is moving at a fast pace and is ever changing; at times, things and people get forgotten easily. I believe that our past plays an important part in determining who we are now,’ he insists. ‘Even though some of these characters were not from my personal childhood – I only saw them in newspapers and television back then – I feel they played a part in helping to create this nation.’

Time Out Singapore: ‘Chap Lau Chu’ Preview

Student Aurial Lee speaks about a new show ‘Chap Lau Chu – The Re-Opening of Commonwealth Drive’ by students of NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media which features the area’s resident karang guni Mr Chua.

Chap Lau Chu

30 Jul 2014:

With Singapore undergoing constant change over the years, a group of students from NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media decided to explore HDB’s Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) and its effects on people displaced from the evicted estates. They chose to focus on the recently evicted Tanglin Halt area, and when visiting, stumbled across the area’s resident karang guni, Mr Chua, who inspired them to feature him in a series of staged photographs depicting the ‘reopening’ of the estate. Here, student Aurial Lee, 23, explains more about the show.

‘We have been prescribed a generic way of looking at the past, but it is important to understand that history is plural. This project explores the lesser-known narratives that veer away from orthodox versions of how we remember Singapore, and we want more people to uncover these stories.

‘We focused on the Chap Lau Chu (which means ten-storey estate in Hokkien) in Tanglin Halt because of its historical significance – it was where some of the first ten-storey HDB flats were built in Singapore. The flats signified a period of rapid modernisation in the ’60s. It was also adjacent to the KTM railway – the umbilical cord that connected Singapore to mainland Malaya.

‘As our initial aim was to uncover stories from the ground, we explored the area hoping to talk to ex-residents, but the estate was already mostly evicted – its emptiness was jarring. While walking, we spotted piles of recyclable materials that led us to Mr Chua’s corridor/ living space. We found out that he had been a karang guni man for more than ten years, and he sees his job as one that helps save the environment. He had a certain presence in the estate – often the target of complaints among the residents due to the clutter he was responsible for. He kept the corridor of his old house as a holding ground for his stuff, but has since had to move to a new block nearby, where he is unable to continue as a karang guni man due to space constraints.

‘But Mr Chua remains unfazed. He told us very matter-of-factly that he would “just get another job”. His tenacity with regards to finding a new home or a new job was what inspired the satirical approach for the project – we asked for his involvement as the central figure in our photos, and after understanding his role in each shot, he even gave us some input as to how he should stand or which props to utilise.

‘The photoshoot had a performative aspect, which we followed up with a showcase at the Chap Lau Chu void deck that brought together ex-residents and like-minded individuals. Our previously over-romanticised presumptions on “memory” and “past” have been altered by Mr Chua’s resolve to carry on with the everyday. Each stage in our project created a new layer of meaning for Tanglin Halt – the beauty lays therein the dialogue about memory, space and progress that kept growing as more people learn about our project.’

Time Out Singapore: Singapore Virtual Art Galleries

With everything going online these days, art is no exception. Gwen Pew rounds up a few new initiatives to log on to.

Virtual Art Galleries

3 Jul 2014: There’s no shortage of galleries and art fairs both in Singapore and worldwide – but while not all of them are impenetrable fortresses of artspeak and designer outfits, it’s not surprising that some find the idea of injecting themselves into the scene intimidating. And that’s where the internet comes in.

The past few years have seen a rise in e-galleries, from both individual spaces and initiatives such as the Google Art Project. To date, the latter has over 40,000 high-res artworks from top galleries such as London’s Tate and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which can be viewed and used by the public for non-commercial purposes for free; over 5,000 images of iconic street art around the world were also added in June. Not one to be left out, Singapore has also jumped onto the e-wagon.

Founded in June last year by local lady Talenia Phua Gajardo, The Artling is an online platform of curated contemporary works from local and international artists, enabling customers to shop for art with just a click. Gajardo first started sourcing for art pieces when she worked in renowned architecture and interior design firm Zaha Hadid in London and, as she tells us, ‘discovered that there was a gap in the online space focussing on quality art from the [South-East Asia] region; I wanted to make it accessible to an international market.’ To date, they represent 35 galleries and almost 100 artists from the region, with the latest additions being Singapore-based FOST Gallery and Richard Koh Fine Art. All works are priced below $12,500.

For those who are more into street-art-style prints, keep your eyes onThieves Market, which is slated to launch at the end of July 2014. ‘The idea started because I wanted to sell my own work,’ local artist Mriz Sidah reveals. ‘It eventually evolved into an independent online gallery selling the work of other artists as well. We want to give a wider public greater access and to promote the discovery of emerging Asian art.’ He adds that as ‘people are increasingly buying everything online for various reasons like ease, access, convenience and mobility, it’s just a natural progression for art to follow suit.’

Taking on a slightly different concept, artist Eugene Soh (aka Dude.sg) has been inviting people from all over the world to enter a virtual world since April with his pet project, Gallery.sg. His first exhibition featuring a selection of artists who adopted domain names is on until 19 July, 2014, and visitors can use the keyboard to control their movements and wander around the gallery – with a glass of virtual wine in their avatar’s hand – as though they’re in a video game. While the first edition also has a weird and whimsical world outside with oversized golden skulls and a massive whale chilling out in the ocean at dusk, the second show will be cut down ‘to reduce file size and streamline the whole process,’ Soh says. The e-exhibition is modelled after New York’s Hawkeye Crates gallery, who will be holding the same show offline simultaneously, titled Spoken – A Virtual Art Show, from Brooklyn to the World, co-curated by Soh and local artist Stephen Black. There will also be an option for digital visitors to directly purchase the works at the show, which are priced between three to five digits.

Also launching in July 2014 is the new version of local gallerist Benedict Tan’s Arts Portal app. Developed and released last March, it will be adding two sections – one for International Events and the other being a search function – to its existing ones, Artist Portfolios and Art Spaces. It will also be turned into a cloud-based app to make the downloading process faster.

The initial idea was conceived after Tan collaborated with another studio to create two art-gaming apps called Photo Findings and Painting Findings. ‘I’ve always had a strong belief to use mobile apps to promote art,’ he says. ‘As far as I could remember now, it’s more a strategic idea to tab publicising art to the tremendous growth in mobile app usage than an inspired idea.’ If you see a piece of art you’d like to purchase, there’s a section for you to contact the artist or gallery directly.

With more options to appreciate and purchase art than ever, there’s no excuse for anyone not to check out the latest works by talented artists hailing from our own shores or further afield – you can even stay in your pyjamas if you want.

Time Out Singapore: Annie Leibovitz

With a huge collection of renowned American photographer Annie Leibovitz’s images having arrived in Singapore last month, Gwen Pew looks back at her life and career.

Annie Leibovitz

8 May 2014: Annie Leibovitz is without a doubt one of the biggest and most sought-after names in the world of photography today, and anyone who’s anyone has likely been shot by her at some point. Whether or not we’ve been aware of it, we’ve all likely seen a Leibovitz picture: from iconic portraits such as Yoko Ono and a naked John Lennon curled up next to her (taken hours before he was shot) to a barebodied and heavily pregnant Demi Moore, or more recently, her series of A list celebs dressed up as various Disney characters (such as Taylor Swift as Rapunzel and Jessica Biel as Pocahontas) to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on the much talked about cover of last month’s Vogue.

Now 64, Leibovitz has had a glittering career that began in 1970 with Rolling Stone magazine, which was just starting out at the time. She became their chief photographer three years later, and held that post for the next decade before working for Vanity Fair, Vogue and other esteemed titles. Known for having a sharp eye for aesthetics and for being an uncompromising artist who doesn’t stop until she gets the image she’s after, Leibovitz has earned a string of awards and honours in recognition of her efforts.

Since last month, a collection of nearly 200 Leibovitz photos taken between 1990 and 2005 has been on display at the ArtScience Museum. Entitled A Photographer’s Life, the exhibition was originally shown at Brooklyn Museum in New York and features a mix of images she took as part of her assignments, as well as more private ones from her personal life. While there’s no shortage of celebrity images (such as the cover image of a young Leonardo DiCaprio with a swan draped around his neck), the more poignant images are perhaps the blackand- white ones showing the laughter and tears Leibovitz shared with her friends and family, including her three daughters and renowned essayist and writer Susan Sontag, with whom she had a romantic relationship until Sontag passed away in 2009. Here we present a selection of her more personal pictures on display.

Time Out Singapore: June Yap

As the Guggenheim’s No Country exhibition arrives in South-East Asia, Gwen Pew talks to its Singaporean curator June Yap.

No Country

6 May 2014: When June Yap was selected by a committee of experts at New York’s Guggenheim Museum to be the curator of their first UBS MAP Global Art Initiative exhibition, No Country, she was handed an enormous task. Not only would the chosen works be displayed in three different cities – New York, Hong Kong and Singapore – but they would also be introduced to the museum’s permanent collection. ‘When I considered the artworks, I wasn’t just looking at whether they work well with each other in a single exhibition, or just what is most trendy,’ says Yap, who is locally born, bred and based. ‘They have to have a life beyond the exhibition and possess a weight and significance that fits into a broader art history.’

Named after a line in WB Yeats’ poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, No Country is a five-year project that will be divided into three parts, each focussing on a different geographical region. With her wealth of experience in dealing with South and South-East Asian art, having worked at esteemed local institutions such as the Singapore Art Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art for many years prior to becoming a freelance curator in 2008, Yap is the perfect candidate for the first edition of the series, which is centred on this part of the world. She’s always been fascinated with the region simply because ‘there are lots going on that we still don’t know, and there’s still so much to learn,’ she tells us. ‘The art world tends to gravitate towards certain centres, but there are always peripheral places that get missed out, and that is unfortunate.’

At the same time, many people do tend to have specific preconceptions about Asia, which is something Yap was very conscious of, particularly when considering some of her New York audiences who would first see the show. ‘I didn’t want people to go into the show and immediately say, “Oh that’s Asia”,’ she says, explaining why she went to great pains to ensure that the selected works did not confirm to any stereotypes or presumptions.

The exhibition was put together after three months of country-hopping and speaking with artists Yap had previously worked with as well as ones who she’s so far only admired from a distance. The final tally comes to 40 works by 27 artists, comprising a variety of media, from paintings and sculptures to videos and photographs that were all created between 1994 and 2012. After first opening at the New York Guggenheim in 2012 and showing in Hong Kong’s The Asia Society last October, 19 pieces by 16 artists from the show will be arriving in Singapore this month.

Of course, with the shift in the works’ context from a representation of Asia in the West to them being shown in their native region – which Yap views as a home-coming of sorts – comes a change in audiences as well. Although she acknowledges that many people in Singapore have yet to make gallery-going a regular activity, Yap has faith that the collection of works in No Country will be able to pique the public’s interest.

‘Love Bed’ by Indian artist Tayeba Begum Lipi, a double bed made out of razorblades, which is a brilliantly eye-catching piece that hints at the idea of domestic violence. Vietnamese- American Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s ‘Enemy’s Enemy: Monument to a Monument’ – a baseball bat beautifully carved with a monument to Thich Quanc Duc, a monk who immolated himself in 1963 in protest against the Diem regime – encompasses both the artist’s dual identity and a wonderful juxtaposition between violence and serenity.

It’s been two years since Yap first selected the works, but she’s clearly still infatuated with them. ‘I’m still amazed when I look at them, and I still want to touch some of those pieces!’ she laughs. ‘Revisiting them is like re-reading a good book. They’re familiar, and yet I’m still finding new things about them.’ At the time of print, she is working with the team at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) at Gillman Barracks to install the show, but also to put together a programme of guided tours, artists’ talks and screenings for the public to learn more about the works.

‘I don’t think one should judge how successful a country’s art scene is by the number of people going to the museums, but rather by asking whether or not they are producing exciting works that make people want to come in and see and find out about them,’ says Yap. ‘I believe that it’s about finding that personal experience with the art, and to encourage them to continue and be unafraid [to question their meanings].’ The rest, she insists, will follow.

Time Out Singapore: Nathan Coley

The Turner Prize nominated artist, Nathan Coley, brings his famous lightbox installations to Singapore.

Nathan Coley

3 Apr 2014: 2007 Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley’s debut solo show in Asia is both intriguing and unexpectedly calming. Perhaps it’s the neutral colours he uses in most of his works – black, white, grey, with a blush of purple and a shimmer of gold here and there – or maybe it’s the seemingly reassuring words beaming from two of the lightbox installations: ‘FAITH’, reads one, and the other, ‘HEAVEN IS A PLACE WHERE NOTHING EVER HAPPENS’. The words are taken from Ed Ruscha’s painting, ‘Faith’, and American new wave band Talking Heads’ ‘Heaven’ respectively, and they are the indoor versions of his famous outdoor works, where the words are spelt out in light bulbs on scaffoldings. ‘I saw Ed Ruscha’s painting and I just fell in love with it, and while “Heaven” sounds like it could be a line taken from a religious text, it actually refers to a gay nightclub in London,’ says the 46-year-old Scot.

Indeed, while the pieces seem quite innocent at first glance, they do in fact tackle some pretty complex issues, such as spirituality and protest. Take for example ‘Choir’, a group of powder-coated steel blank placards that were created in 2012. With words absent from the pure white sculptural piece, Coley shows that he is more interested in the idea of protesting than what people may be marching about. Plus, he expects his audience to ‘work a bit’ to figure out what could be there, though he adds that he likes it when his art is ‘read and misread’.

‘My worst nightmare is when people ask me what the works mean. That’s not for me to decide, that’s for the viewers to decide,’ he says. ‘I don’t make work to be understood – I just want them to be exciting, or to change your day.’

Other works on display are three black-and-white photographic images from his 2012 Honour series, showing a public square in Brasilia and Auguste Rodin’s famed ‘Burghers of Calais’, each with specific details blocked out by gold leaf and leaving the viewer to wonder what it’s all about. Together, they form a great intro to Coley’s works.