Time Out Singapore: ‘2 Degree Ice Art’ Preview

Finding it difficult to get into the Christmas mood under the unrelenting heat? Fret not, as 20 skilled ice sculptors from China’s Harbin International Ice Lantern Art Association have been working hard since September to bring you a magical winter wonderland just in time for the festive season.

Welcome to a winter wonderland. And yes, it's bloody freezing! Image courtesy of 2Degree Ice Art.

Welcome to a winter wonderland. And yes, it’s bloody freezing! Image courtesy of Century Ice Wonderland.

27 Nov 2013: Finding it difficult to get into the Christmas mood under the unrelenting heat? Fret not, as 20 skilled ice sculptors from China’s Harbin International Ice Lantern Art Association have been working hard since September to bring you a magical winter wonderland just in time for the festive season.

Taking place at a speciallybuilt, thermal-insulated hall next to MBS that sprawls over 4671 sqm – that’s slightly larger than an NFL football field – visitors to the inaugural 2 Degree Ice Art exhibition can experience a blast of winter, as the whole complex will be kept at a chilly -15˚C until May so the pieces stay intact (at a cost of $3.5 million). Nearly 450 tonnes of ice was used to create 36 coloured ice sculptures, including those of various landmarks such as Big Ben, the Colosseum and even our very own Merlion, plus two pretty impressive slides for kids. Aside from the exhibition, there’s a free ice bar that uses mugs made from ice – the drinks themselves are poured in the bar outside, so the liquid doesn’t freeze (bonus: when you’re done with your drink, you’re invited to smash your glass against a target board).

Be sure to wear winter clothes – we strongly advice against wearing shorts, flip-flops or open-toed shoes (trust us, your feet will get really cold). There are also coats for rent at the exhibition for $5 (or if you’re just popping into the ice bar, you can borrow one for free). Bring on the ice!

Time Out Singapore: Edible Art Movement

Founded in the UK in the 1920s to bring art, theatre and food together, the Edible Art Movement makes its first overseas debut here in Singapore at the Affordable Art Fair this month. Gwen Pew speaks to Nicola Anthony (Co-Founder and Chef d’arte), Jane Shishido (Chief Matchmaker and Ingredient Sourcer) and Grace Astari (Identity Mixologist) to find out more about this curious society

A treasure trove of scents. Image courtesy of Edible Art Movement.

A treasure trove of scents. Image courtesy of Edible Art Movement.

12 Nov 2013:

The bio on your website says that the Edible Art Movement combines theatre, art, and food. That’s a pretty unusual mix – can you tell us a bit more about exactly what EAM is about?

We’ve always wanted to build a teleportation machine, to transport us to different times, cultures, realms and imaginary worlds. However, in the process of failing to teleport, we learnt that art and the edible both have the power to transport your mind. Our current-day Edible Art Movement members create spectacular experiences, participatory installations and art happenings to stimulate all five senses. We work from our lively studio (not from a kitchen), and occasionally a science lab. What are we about? High quality contemporary art, but we also seek to create work that is playful, definitely not pretentious, and engages people both inside and outside of the art world. We don’t really create theatre in any traditional sense, although there is a large dose of theatrical spectacle in our installations and we love to encourage our audiences to participate. We must admit, for our upcoming event, a circus influence led us to collaborate with some dancers, which we are very excited about.

Was it really founded in 1920? (That’s an awfully long time ago!) And if so, why is it still relevant today?

Yes, EAM is believed to have been founded in the early 1920s by a group of experimental artists, intellectuals, poets and philosophers. However, much of our history has been passed down the generations through stories and by word of mouth, so it’s quite shrouded in mystery. Of course in the past EAM was a highly secretive movement, until we launched the more contemporary, public version of the Edible Art Movement (which we affectionately call EAM).

Relevancy is very important. Both food and art have the power to connect people, link us to our histories, and help us discover other cultures. Whilst the edible realm is always our starting point, our events are constantly changing and seeking to engage people. Our projects are highly curated, thematic, and based on histories or cultural stories.

Who decided to bring the EAM from London all the way to Singapore, and why?

With roots in Europe, the EAM’s stories indicate a strong influence from Asia – particularly via the Silk Road and then the Silk Route by sea – so it feels very fitting to be working with artists in Asia. We travel for food and art. So we had been looking at Singapore for a while – let’s face it, Singapore is edible heaven. We noticed the power of the hawker centre to bring together old, young, rich and poor… It’s very EAM. When one of our co-founders (of modern-day EAM) relocated her art studio to Singapore, well… it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to start working with local colleagues and artists to create events in South-East Asia.

Who are the EAM members in Singapore currently, and how did you guys get involved?

The behind the scene core EAM team members are Nicola Anthony, Jane Shishido and Grace Astari. It was just one of those spontaneous, yet destined moments when likeminded people happen to be inspired by similar things. We are all involved in the art scene, with cosmopolitan backgrounds, and fascinated by how we engage with food. For the first year we are working with a roster of Singaporean and South-East Asia based artists. However our core team is growing and we aim to initiate some more artist members and core team members by the end of 2015. On top of this, we have an amazing team of volunteers and creative elves, and we work with some fantastic interns from the Lasalle-Goldsmiths course.

You’ll be making your local debut at the Affordable Art Fair – what can we expect to see there?

CIRQUE du SCENT will be an interactive, fragrant, art installation. Unlike anything else at the fair, we will not have a traditional white-cube booth, but a darkened, walk-in installation which houses an archive of the food aromas and curiosities which have inspired great artists throughout history (think Manet’s ‘Le Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe’, or Dali’s ‘Lobster Telephone’). Within this we invited six artists to create their own interpretations of CIRQUE du SCENT, the EAM’s scent archive. Visitors to our booth will be following their senses to get the ultimate EAM experience, and are invited to participate. Meanwhile, we have collaborated with local dance company JSLN, so watch out for the EAM pop-up performances all around the fair, and our fragrant dance performance in the entrance space from 6.30-7.30pm on Arty-Licious evening.

What do you hope to achieve with the works that you’ll be presenting?

We aim to allow people to become part of our installation, and give them an experience they won’t forget. We hope it will be like stepping out of the art fair and into another world. Visitors will see work by the fantastic emerging artist Kenneth Lee, and of course, Eugene Soh aka Dude.SG. We fell in love with Eugene’s iconic photograph, ‘The Last Kopitiam’, which embodies our ethos – history, food, art and cultural references are all woven into this artwork that Singaporeans have taken into their hearts. We have also had lots of fun at the Dragon Kilns and have invited three ceramic artists – Michelle Lim, Tok Yu Xiang and Steven Low Thia Kwang.

One of our key goals is to showcase and work with talented, contemporary, Asia-based creatives. We are thrilled to have already begun this journey and to have worked with inspiring professionals such as Jason Lim who has kindly been EAM’s advisor in selecting the perfect ceramists for CIRQUE du SCENT.

What other projects are in the works at the moment, and what can we expect from you guys in the near future?

We’ve received such a positive response from the creative arts community in Singapore and wider Asia that we are busy lining up an exciting schedule of events for 2014. There is a lot of research, sourcing and concept design that goes into each event – we will be expanding our already very strong team, as well as working with some exciting collaborators and venues. Currently it’s all top secret, but we can say that it may or may not involve the following: three turtles, five miles of noodles, one blue rabbit, an indoor snow fight, a vision of liquorice, the chance to dance, many banquets and a large amount of wine!

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: Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze

Now based in Hong Kong, French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze has been spending the past few years capturing the Fragrant Harbour’s organised chaos through his camera lens. He speaks to Gwen Pew following the opening of his exhibition, Vertical Horizon, at Artistry last week.

Hong Kong-based French photographer, Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hong Kong-based French photographer, Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze. Image courtesy of the artist.

22 Oct 2013: 

You’ve lived in Hong Kong for quite a few years now – why did you decide to move there?
In 2009 I was already in Asia, working in Tokyo as a visual artist. Then my contract ended and I graduated from my university in France, but I was not keen on working in France and wanted to keep traveling in Asia instead. In Japan I heard many good things about Hong Kong and how futuristic it was looking. So I decided to go witness it for myself.

Was the city a love-at-first-sight thing, or did it take you some time to get used to it?
At first I felt very impressed by the city, but I was thinking that it was much too packed, crowded and noisy. It took me some time to adapt to this new environment and to fully fall in love with the city’s lifestyle, the messiness of the streets and the unique visual impact of the buildings.

When did you first start taking photos of the city?
When I arrived in Hong Kong I was more focused on visual arts, but little by little, I grew fonder and fonder of the city, and I wanted to record it with the best accuracy I could. So in early 2010 I bought a camera and I started to switch my way of depicting Hong Kong from visual art to photography.

Tell us a bit more about Vertical Horizon – how did this set of photographs come about? What are you trying to show with them?
The project Vertical Horizon came up naturally. In 2011, as I was exploring the different districts of the city, I was taking many photos and among them were a few that I shot with a “Vertical Horizon angle”. In early 2012 I gathered four or five of these photos that used this angle, then the idea of making a larger series came up as I was sure I could find more places fitting this angle in HK. So I went through a thorough exploration of the city in order to find the best spots. My leitmotiv was mainly to share with people an unusual point of view on this city and how unique and impressive it could look.

Your images in this series all show a fascination with shapes and patterns formed by buildings – do you consciously go and look for these spaces, or are they usually places that you just come across?
Since my childhood, I have always been very into geometric shapes. As a kid I used to draw pages and pages of geometric shapes to depict sceneries or totally abstract patterns. So in a way, when I am creating these photos, I am searching for the spaces that will offer me the best way to express my thirst for geometric shapes.

Do you think the concept of Vertical Horizon could be replicated in other places too, or is it unique to Hong Kong?
I think that Hong Kong is definitely the most fitting city most for the concept of Vertical Horizon. Indeed, even by always using the same angle, I can still convey many different concepts from chaos to sleek modernity or even abstractness. It’s all thanks to HK’s heterogeneous urban area. I am pretty sure that in some other big cities I could find some interesting shots, but I don’t think I would be able to get such a variety of patterns and subjects.

Sum up Hong Kong in three words…
Visceral, chaotic yet beautiful.

Time Out Singapore: Qiu Jie

Now aged 52 and based in Switzerland, Qiu Jie was born in Shanghai and grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a period that had a huge impact on him as an artist. Gwen Pew finds out more.

A rather dashing Qiu Jie. Image courtesy of the artist.

A rather dashing Qiu Jie. Image courtesy of the artist.

8 Oct 2013: Now aged 52 and based in Switzerland, Qiu Jie was born in Shanghai and grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a period that had a huge impact on him as an artist. Children were only sent to school for a few hours each day at the time – mainly to learn about the greatness of the Communist Party – and so the young Qiu passed his time by learning how to draw.

‘Chinese people have a tradition of studying a lot and as they had a lot of time at home, they used to practice music, dance or drawing more intensively than before the Cultural Revolution,’ he explains. ‘When I started to learn how to draw [at the age of ten], the only images I could copy were propaganda images. You could say I did not have the choice.’

Qiu went on to graduate from art schools in Shanghai and Geneva, and is now best known for creating works in pencil that merge images from the historic East and contemporary West. Around 30 of those pieces are on display at Art Plural this month, featuring sentimental portraits by a man caught between two worlds.

‘Today, I am inspired by [Chinese propaganda] but also by images in Western adverts. Both represent my identity and my education in China and Switzerland,’ Qiu says. ‘It is not difficult to express this contradiction in my work because I am living it every day. However, this confrontation is hard to live with, and so I always feel the need to show that in my drawings.’

Time Out Singapore: Haegue Yang

Born in South Korea and based in Berlin, Haegue Yang, 42, is the first artist to participate in STPI Gallery’s new initiative Platform Projects, which hopes to raise awareness of contemporary art in Singapore. In this exhibition, Yang tickles our various senses by incorporating local spices and other food items into her works. She tells Gwen Pew what it’s like to play with food.

South Korean artist created works using local food and spices during her residency at STPI. Image courtesy of the artist.

South Korean artist created works using local food and spices during her residency at STPI. Image courtesy of STPI Gallery.

8 Oct 2013: ‘I was fascinated by Singapore’s diverse culture in general, and the variety of exotic foods and spices that are readily available at the market here is simply inspiring. I discovered these items as I went on small field trips to various places in Singapore, so incorporating these materials in my production at STPI just happened more or less spontaneously. I am always in search of new materials as a sculptor and I felt it was especially important to let myself be inspired by the place during my residency at STPI. It is astounding how much these everyday elements are able to convey – they reference a broader history, encompassing their origins from an evolved civilisation to contemporary life. In this instance, they reflect Singapore’s diverse population and colonial history as a commercial port city of South-East Asia. I was humbled by the materials and wanted to create something simple yet significant with them.

‘The process varies in terms of its execution. In the group of works under ‘Embossed Prints and Juice Dyes’ (pictured), slices of various vegetables, untreated spices and herbs were pressed into fresh paper pulp to create small bumps and unevenness on the surface. It was a relatively simple and direct process. It likens to what we know from our childhood days of creating prints using chopped vegetables.

‘However, not every item we tried printed successfully due to their different consistencies, so we had to constantly test various vegetables to produce the desired work. Another challenge for us was realising that natural juice from pressed vegetables easily fades. I learnt that one had to simply accept this ephemeral nature. The natural product and the questions around it positively challenged me. ‘It was very meaningful to work in Singapore, since my production has taken place mainly in Europe in the last two decades. I loved the hot and humid weather, and the evening breeze with night food. I can almost feel that when I look at these works. I hope viewers can feel that Singaporean air and smell, and sense the joy and melancholia that I, as a visitor and outsider, brought to my works.’

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: Ren Zhe

This month, HaKaren Art Gallery brings the works of Chinese master sculptor Ren Zhe over to Singapore for the second time. In this exhibition, visitors get to see a wonderful collection of 13 bronze and stainless steel sculptures. Gwen Pew finds out more.

A steel sculpture by Ren Zhe. Image courtesy of the artist.

A steel sculpture by Ren Zhe. Image courtesy of the artist.

25 Sep 2013:

What was your inspiration for your latest exhibit, Above Clouds?
The theme for this year’s exhibition is “Above Clouds”. Clouds represent something pure, tranquil and serene, while being an extremely variable element at the same time as it could take on any form at any moment. My perception of clouds symbolizes a realm of life and I’ve translated this inspiration into my sculptures.

You use ancient Chinese warriors in a lot of your work, what is the significance of them for you?
Warriors have a strong yet beautiful physique and spirit. I love the indomitable and determined spirit that warriors portray. The message I would like to convey to people through my work is that everyone can be their own warrior in life.

You’ve said before that the use of metal as your chosen medium enables you to better express yourself in your work. How do you feel metal casting contributes to the story you’re telling in this exhibit?
To an artist, finding a suitable material to work with greatly increases the ability to express themselves in their art pieces. I have selected metal as my preferred medium as I feel that the fluidity of metal allows for each piece of my work to keep the traces of my creativity and using metal as a medium maximizes the shape of each of my creations.

In this collection, I have enhanced the aesthetic of the sculptures with more defined muscle tone and skin texture, intending to give the audience a different feel with each piece of my work. I try to capture moments in my sculptures and each of my sculptures is a recorded event in my life.

The sculptures in this exhibit are quite large in size – how did you decide on these aesthetics?
Creating large sculptures is a great challenge as there are many physical and technical challenges for an artist when it comes to working with large works of art. I personally sculpt all my pieces and the time and effort devoted to each large piece; and the physical demands needed to complete them surpasses what is required to sculpt small pieces. I constantly challenge myself to create big sculptures focusing on every delicate detail and expression. I feel that when working on a big sculpture, a more holistic view has to be taken so as not to lose the vividness of the sculptures.

How will this exhibition differ from your previous one at HaKaren Art Gallery, which was your first in Singapore?
My last show in Singapore was in 2011 and since then, I have created many new pieces of work. For this exhibition, I have selected the most symbolic sculptures that I’ve created between 2011 and 2013. My sculptures have become more prominent in their expressions and emotions. The pieces in this exhibition focus on the delicate gentleness of each character in terms of facial expression and detailing in the sculpting process. This strong contrast to the medium of heavy metal revitalizes each character, giving them a fresh new look.