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: 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: Guide to Art Week 2014

We’ve rounded up the best events and places to be on each day of this year’s art week, giving you ample opportunity to check out the dozens of gallery openings, tours, talks and artist appearances around town.

Yuki Onodera's '12 Speed No.04'. Image courtesy of the artist and 2902 Gallery.

Yuki Onodera’s ’12 Speed No.04′. Image courtesy of the artist and 2902 Gallery.

10 Jan 2014:

10 January

5ive Foot Way: Days We Met
Until 24 Jan
Artist talk : 18 Jan, 2pm
The local art collective shows photos taken from around the world.

Gillman Barracks: 7pm

Stephan Balkenhol
Until 23 Feb
Opening reception: 10 Jan, 6pm
Artist talk: 10 Jan, 6.30pm
The German artist makes his Singapore debut with his latest series of rough-hewn wooden sculptures.

Mizuma Gallery
Until 26 Jan
Opening reception: 10 Jan, 6pm
Expect to see works by Japanese and Indonesian artists here, including Indieguerillas, Tomiyuki Kaneko, Nasirun, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, O Jun, Angki Purbandono and Keiichi Tanaami, as they explore the theme of globalisation.

Charles Lim: Sea State 3 – Inversion
Future Perfect
Until 16 Feb
The local artist continues his exploration into Singapore’s history and geography with the third part of his on-going Sea State series. .

Kiko Escora
The Drawing Room
Until 16 Feb
Hailing from Indonesia, the artist’s paintings and charcoal drawings often chronicle scenes where urban subculture crosses path with high society in the lives of his subjects.

Song-Ming Ang: Logical Progressions
FOST Gallery
Until 2 Mar
Not only did the local artist teach himself the piano – and, by extension, the harpsichord – but he learnt how to play a Bach classic front- and backwards to further his signature themes of music and art.

Shin il Kim: Ready Know
Space Cottonseed
Until 16 Feb
Born in Seoul, Kim’s practice predominantly revolves around his interest in obscuring and pushing the borders of categories set by human senses. In his current show, he focuses on the sense of sight and its relation to the acts of reading and believing.

Jane Lee: 100 Faces
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
Until 2 Mar
Known for her highly-textured acrylics, the local artist introduces three new series of works that challenge the ways that viewers look at paintings.

Titarubi: Reading Shadows
Michael Janssen Gallery
Until 16 Mar
The Indonesian artist shows a series of new works.

Nana Funo: The Fish Glitters as its Scales Tremble
Tomio Koyama Gallery
Until 16 Feb
Enter a world of intricate patterns drawn from the natural world as well as written characters through the acrylic works of the Japanese artist.

11 January

Dawn Ng: Windowshop – A Modern Day Cabinet of Curiosities
Chan Hampe Galleries
Until 9 Feb
Opening reception: 10 Jan, 7pm
Having enjoyed immense success in 2013, the creator behind some of the most well-known contemporary artwork in town (including Walter the bunny) is back with a new series of curious objects – all sourced from junk shops around Singapore.

13 January

Singapore Biennale
Various venues around Bras Basah, $4-$9
Until 16 Feb
With Art Week yet to fully kick into action, why not take the day to take a look at the Singapore Biennale before it closes on the 14 Feb?

14 January

Yuki Onodera: The Sanctuary of Topsy Turvy
2902 Gallery
Until 28 Feb
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 6.30pm
Enter the playful world of the acclaimed Paris-based Japanese photographer at her first solo show in Singapore.

Zulkifle Mahmod: Sonically Exposed
The Private Museum
Until 9 Mar
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 7pm
Formerly a local sculptor, Mahmod – aka ZUL – now presents an exhibition that merges sound with visuals.

Randy Chan & Philippa Lawrence: Angles of Incidence
Botanic Gardens
Until 23 Mar
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 6.30pm
The third installation of the cross-country residency AiRx brings together the talents of two artists from Singapore and the UK to create a beautiful installation around an 80-year-old tree.

Tan Wee Lit: In the Deadpan Bed Pan
Sculpture Square
Until 29 Jan
Opening reception: 15 Jan, 7pm
Channelling the emotions and thoughts he felt during his mid-life crisis, the local artist makes his solo debut with a collection of sculptural installations that look at life and death.

Han Sai Por: Moving Forest
STPI Gallery
Until 22 Feb
Opening reception: 14 Jan, 6pm
At the age of 70, the Cultural Medallion recipient is still as active as ever, revealing 50 new works created at STPI at this exhibition, examining the themes of nature in richly-coloured paper works.

Tanjong Pagar Distripark: 6pm

Nadiah Bamadhaj: Poised for Degradation
Richard Koh Fine Art
Until 14 Feb
The Indonesia-based Malaysian artist looks at architecture within her adopted country’s social and historical context.

Irene Namok: Puuya Kuntha – Strong Heart
ReDot Fine Art Gallery
Until 1 Mar
All created within the last 18 months, the show presents works by Irene Namok from the Lockhart River Art Community in Australia in her international solo debut.

Neo Folk 2
Ikkan Art Gallery
Until 1 Mar
The group show organised by three galleries from Singapore, Tokyo and Paris features a host of artists working in a range of media – but all of whom incorporate traditional craft elements in their contemporary works.

Sharmistha Ray: Sweet Surrender – Studies in Abstraction
Galerie Steph
Until 1 Mar
Created between 2006 and 2013, the New York-based Indian artist presents a series of rich, colourful abstract paintings that serve as metaphors for different elements of every day life.

FRATERNIZE – Tan Peiling
Artspace @ Helutrans
Until 1 Mar
Young local artist Tan Peiling was given free rein over a gallery space; her resulting site-specific installation, ‘The Blind Witness’, takes viewers through a carefully-constructed environment.

15 January

Marcel Heijnen: Residue
Until 19 Jan
Locally-based Dutch photographer – also the mastermind behind one of the coolest art cafes in town – presents new images from his Residue series to coincide with his newly-published photobook.

Victor Tan: Thoughts from Above – A Ceiling Sculpture Exhibition
F A T Gallery
Until 8 Feb
The new gallery shows off local artist Tan’s sculptures – except this time they’re all presented against the ceiling, and thus physically presenting a different perspective on how to view art.

Chris Levine
Collectors Contemporary
Until 22 Feb
The renowned light artist makes his Singapore debut with a series of light boxes, holographs, laser light installations and more.

16 January

Art Stage 2014
Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre
Until 19 Jan
Back for the fourth year, the event upon which the whole Art Week centres on finally opens. The fair brings together hundreds of galleries from around the world, with the newly-introduced curated Country and Regional Platforms this year serving as an excellent starting point for those hunting for the next big names in the art world. There will also be free daily talks happening for the duration of Art Stage, with topics ranging from ‘Alternative Ways of Resolving Legal Disputes over Western and Asian Art’ (17 Jan, 1pm) to ‘The Art Markets: Hong Kong vs Singapore’ (18 Jan, 1pm). See their website for a full schedule.

Zaw Win Pe
Art Season
Until 15 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 6pm
The Burmese artist emphasises the emotive quality of his oils and acrylics by layering paint directly onto the canvas using a palette knife to explore his country’s diverse socio-cultural environments.

Abstraction and Refinement – Contemporary Chinese Ink Paintings
Gajah Gallery
Until 9 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 7pm
Taking the traditional art form of Chinese ink paintings and giving it a more Westernised treatment, four avant-garde artists from China each give their own interpretations of how landscapes can be represented.

Danny Santos II: Don’t Smile!
tcc – The Gallery
Until 10 Mar
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 6.30pm
The locally-based Filipino photographer picked up the art form as a hobby six years ago and explores who people are underneath their photo-perfect smiles in this show.

17 January

Art Apart Fair
PARKROYAL on Pickering
Until 19 Jan
Had a browse through Art Stage but still haven’t found the perfect piece for your home? Well you’re in luck, as Singapore’s first – and so far only – hotel art fair returns, transforming 33 rooms to mini gallery spaces temporarily. More than 1,500 works from emerging and mid-career artists are expected to be displayed.

Prudential Eye Awards Exhibition
Suntec City
Until 5 Feb
The inaugural award celebrates emerging artistic talents from the greater Asia region, with artists from over 30 countries being nominated by a panel of experts. The shortlisted works are displayed here, and the final winner will be announced on 18 Jan.

Pinaree Sanpitak: Cold Cuts
Yavuz Fine Art
Until 23 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 7pm
Eight stainless steel sculptures that embody both the female body and the sacred Buddhist form by the renowned Thai artist are displayed alongside five new acrylic paintings.

Art Plural
Until 28 Feb
Opening reception: 16 Jan, 6.30pm
The group show features most of the artists represented by the gallery, including Fabienne Verdier, Ian Davenport and Pablo Reinoso.

Gillman Barracks: 7pm

Tomoko Kashiki
Ota Fine Arts
Until 2 Mar
The first show at Ota Fine Arts’ new space (also at Gillman Barracks) shows new works by the Japanese artist, which show women suspended between dreams and desires.

Maria Taniguchi
Until 23 Feb
The Filipino artist’s exhibition focuses on her interest in organised structures.

Where Does it All Begin? – Contemporary Abstract Art in Asia and the West
Pearl Lam Galleries
Until 28 Feb
The renowned Hong Kong/Shanghai gallery finally opens in Singapore, and makes an ambitious debut with a group show that explores abstract art from around the world, through the decades.

Paradise Lost
Centre for Contemporary Art
Until 30 Mar
Opening reception: 17 Jan, 6.30pm
Presentation: 17 Jan, 4-6pm
Nanyang Technological University’s Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) opens with a three-woman show as the Asian artists, who are all living overseas, reflect on their homeland.

18 January

Art in Motion Bus Tours
Until 19 Jan
Organised by the Art Galleries Association Singapore, the inaugural series of Art in Motion has 13 participating galleries around town. While there are pop-up events happening around town, the highlight is a curated bus tours of all the venues involved. Visitors can choose from three routes that will each be led by volunteer guides from the arts community. And the best part? It’s free!

Aliwal Urban Arts Festival
Aliwal Arts Centre
The one-day festival removes the formalities of high-brow art and engages with the younger arts lovers by bringing a night of awesome music and street art. Expect to see everyone from soul sister Masia One to RSCLS (aka the group that Samantha Lo, the ‘Sticker Lady’, belongs to).

Roots & The B Team: Makanlah Buah-Buahan Tempatan – Singapura
Gillman Barracks Assembly Hall, Blk 28, #01-07
Until 22 Jan
As part of the on-going arts series, The U Factory, local interdisciplinary studio Roots and Malaysia’s The B Team came together to create an art exhibition about national fruits in the context of Singapore. For their full schedule read here

Christopher Thomas: The Synchronised Power of our Mass
Yeo Workshop
Until 16 Mar
Artist talk: 18 Jan, 4pm
The UK-based Sri Lankan artist makes his Asia debut by exploring art, fashion, mass consumption as well as the way that art is circulated around the world.

Time Out Singapore: Chris Levine

Born in Canada and now based in the UK, Chris Levine, 53, is a renowned artist who has created iconic portraits of Kate Moss and Queen Elizabeth II. Rather than using traditional media like paint or pens, however, Levine is famed for his use of light. As Collectors Contemporary showcases a series of his light sculptures, light boxes, photographic prints, holographic works and laser light installations, he tells Gwen Pew more about his art.

Chris Levine's piece of the Queen. Image courtesy of the artist.

Chris Levine’s piece of the Queen. Image courtesy of the artist.

27 Dec 2013:


While light seems to be a rather unusual medium to work with, Levine has always been fascinated with it: ‘Somehow it resonated with my curiosity – and the more I’ve looked into it, the deeper I’ve gone. I don’t see it as technical, but more that it’s a phenomenon fundamental to life [on Earth].’


Teamwork is key in creating his works: ‘Most of my work involves quite a few people and the bringing together of complementary talents. I have a great team of collaborators. Some key players in my story are Dan Siden, the brilliant engineer who oversees all aspects of development and production, Jeff Robb, my guru of 3D imaging, and the Haberdashery team, who fabricate most of my projects.’


Amidst the wires and light bulbs, the thing that he finds most challenging ‘is to keep [the pieces] soulful. For the work to be evocative, it has to somehow transcend the physical aspects of its production and work on a sensory and experiential level.’


The pieces that are most special to him are his portraits of Kate Moss: ‘I always knew I would work with her; as a cultural icon, she was right at the top of my wish list as a subject for some time. The work went down really well and all kinds of positivity have transpired as a result.’



If he didn’t become a light artist, he’d have been… ‘A drummer in a rock and roll band! I gave up drumming when I went to art school because you can’t practice quietly and I drove everyone crazy at 3am in my hall of residence. [I’m trying to bring] sound back into my work. I’m fascinated by the idea of seeing sound and it’s part of my future plans and themes.’

Time Out Singapore: Ho Tzu Nyen

After representing Singapore at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, local multimedia artist Ho Tzu Nyen marks his first solo show on home soil in ten years with PYTHAGORAS – an exhibition of four films shown simultaneously in a darkened room (lasting just over a half hour), touching on themes of control and being controlled (they’re also each named after historic figures: Newton, Milton, Gould and Pythagoras). Gwen Pew finds out five more things to know about the 37-year-old video and theatre artist.

Local artist Ho Tzu Nyen

Local artist Ho Tzu Nyen. Image courtesy of Michael Janssen Gallery.

28 Nov 2013:


The last solo show Ho did here was in 2003, but he’s been far from slacking: ‘Since 2003, I’ve made a number of theatre pieces (including King Lear at the 2008 Singapore Arts Festival), a TV series (4 x 4 – Episodes of Singapore Art, 2005) and a feature film (EARTH, 2009 – select scenes are remixed into MILTON). I’ve also been involved with some projects outside of Singapore.’


Although many of his works involve theatre, his preferred type of live performance is actually music (GOULD is named after pianist Glen Gould): ‘To be honest, I don’t really enjoy going to the theatre. However, I do love the small things [about theatre] such as the lights, the speakers, the mechanisms. And I think this is apparent in the exhibition.’


He’s ‘always been a little obsessed with curtains’, which the titular film is projected onto: ‘[They are the] most ordinary and most mysterious of objects. They make known the presence of wind, they catch light, and they hover so elegantly between the inside and the outside.’


Summing up his thoughts on PYTHAGORAS, Ho says: ‘I think of this exhibition as a theatrical machine caught in a loop, where the ghosts of former works have been summoned to accompany a choir of melancholic machines.’


Looking ahead… ‘My next project is called Ten Thousand Tigers, and it is an attempt to tell the story of this region through the history of Malayan tigers – real, spectral and metaphorical. This will be a live performance next April.’

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: Nathan Slate Joseph and Sohan Qadri’s ‘Beyond Canvas’ Preview

While their styles are vastly different from one another, Nathan Slate Joseph, 69, and the late Sohan Qadri are nonetheless both known for their innovative painting techniques. Gwen Pew finds out more.

'Silksanroute' by Nathan Slate Joseph. Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

‘Silksanroute’ by Nathan Slate Joseph. Image courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

30 Jun 2013: While their styles are vastly different from one another, Nathan Slate Joseph, 69, and the late Sohan Qadri are nonetheless both known for their innovative painting techniques. The former blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture by incorporating discarded steel shards in his works, while the latter drenches paper in acid-free water, then dyes and carves the surface when it’s still wet. Various pieces by the two artists are currently displayed alongside each other at Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

‘Our gallery has a focus on East-West dialogue and these two artists were friends for a very long time before Sohan Qadri passed away in 2011, so I wanted to bring them together in an exhibition,’ says New York-based gallerist Sundaram Tagore. ‘This show celebrates Sohan’s legacy and the deep attachment they each share toward art making and materials.’

According to Tagore, Indian-born Qadri came up with this unique way of making his pieces through ‘meditation, which he began to practice from the age of seven, the same age that he started painting.’ He used to paint with oil on canvas, but the strong smell of turpentine would ‘wake him up from the state of Dhyāna [meditation]. He then devised a new method of painting and switched to using thick artisanal paper and dye, so he did not have to struggle with canvas, brush, paint and palate knife.’

Joseph, who was born in Israel and grew up in the Middle East, however, gets his inspirations from a much more concrete place. ‘Jerusalem is sectionalised by brick walls and, as a kid, I remember walking around and seeing these walls everywhere. The bricks were cut from rocks that have been around forever and over time the colours change and somehow they speak to you,’ he says. Like Qadri, he started out painting on canvas, but wasn’t entirely comfortable with the medium. Then, when he was walking around Mexico one day, he ‘noticed the incredible way that pigment on metal oxidised over time in the outdoors, [and instead] began to concentrate on working with metal. My work is about my experiences in life – how I think, who I am.’

Time Out Singapore: David Chan

Finally emerging from his three-year hiatus and making a return with a new series of works, award-winning local artist David Chan tells Gwen Pew where he’s been hiding the whole time, and what his latest pieces are all about.

'Misdirection' by David Chan. Image courtesy of the artist.

‘Misdirection’ by David Chan. Image courtesy of the artist.

3 Jun 2013: While I have not been as active in the arts scene, the last three years have been a rather fruitful experience in a different way – my wife and I had our first child in 2011 and I became deliriously distracted for a good long while. Having said that, I took the chance to catch up on my reading and researched on new themes. Hence, the creation of this exhibition: Every Trick Only Needs One Truth.

‘The idea behind the title and the works is that tricks and truth are like conjoined twins; one cannot exist without the other. In order to trick a victim, one has to provide a hint of truth. Although the rest of the information may be fake, striking the right cord will convince the victim to act to your fancy. On the other hand, to foster one’s “truth”, you need to employ the tricks of marketing and promotion to appeal to the masses.

‘I decided to use animals instead of humans to represent life, because if you were to consider mediums like story books, movies, animations, etc, it’s quite amusing to realise that sometimes animal narratives seem to be able to move people more than humans can. Moreover, as humans, we respond to facial features almost instantly, whether old, young, pretty or ugly; we have preconceived ideas of faces the moment we look at them. I wanted to avoid that by using animals instead. Naturally, I have to say they are definitely more fun and challenging to paint than humans. On top of that, I have also realised that even harsher depictions become more humorous and palatable when animals are used.

‘“Misdirection” explores our obsession with this validation process and not physical beauty itself. This diptych is made up of two portraits, each obstructed by a large rosette with the words “CHAMPION” and “1st” written on them respectively. Did you notice that one of the portraits is that of a cocker spaniel while the other is of a wavy-haired girl? Perhaps at the end of the day, the subject doesn’t even matter anymore. What matters are the prizes associated with it.’

Time Out Singapore: Joo Choon Lin’s ‘Resolution of Reality’ Review


Joo Choon Lin's 'Resolution of Reality' in situ. Photo courtesy of Singapore Tyler Print Intstitute (STPI).

Joo Choon Lin’s ‘Resolution of Reality’ in situ. Photo courtesy of Singapore Tyler Print Intstitute (STPI).

29 Nov 2012: The latest exhibition at Hermès’ third floor exhibition space is another site-specific installation – this time by young local artist Joo Choon Lin, who specialises in stop-motion animations with various media (such as her video segments in ‘Too Big in the Tank’, which was featured at the Esplanade Tunnel as part of the 2011 Singapore Arts Festival).

Resolution of Reality features several new animations in the form of a series of videos entitled ‘Vaporised by Sunrise’, in which she uses acetone to corrode various hand-made Styrofoam models of old-school electronic devices. She depicts the objects in various stages as they melt away into shapeless puddles – quite entertaining to watch.

The exhibition’s title piece features three screens depicting a laser printer printing out sheets of reflective paper in three different locations – a park (with the video subtitled ‘life’), a cemetery (‘death’) and by a pond (‘spirituality’). Along a similar vein is the exhibition’s centrepiece, ‘Multi-Tiered Falls’, which consists of a dot matrix printer suspended from the ceiling and printing a series of 14 images of the ocean onto a roll of continuous paper, which cascades down to the floor. It’s perhaps the most intriguing piece on display just for its simplicity; it’s meant to mimic the process of watching a film – in this case, a very, very slow film. Where regular videos show approximately 30 frames per second, Joo’s installation produces one frame every 15 minutes.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what the purpose is of all these somewhat quirky creations and videos – certainly, there’s a fixation on various technologies old and new as well as nature (as evidenced by the natural settings in ‘Resolution’ and the ocean frames in ‘Multi-Tiered Falls’). Beyond that, explaining any sort of connecting theme or deeper meaning gets a bit obtuse. Still, they’re fun experiments – we particularly like the cute Styrofoam replicas shown in ‘Vaporised’; the sad remains of which are hung up behind the exhibition space.

Time Out Singapore: Agostino Bonalumi

'Bianco', 1963, by Agostino Bonalumi. Photo courtesy of Partners & Mucciaccia Gallery.

‘Bianco’, 1963, by Agostino Bonalumi. Photo courtesy of Partners & Mucciaccia Gallery.

11 Dec 2012: Agostino Bonalumi’s retrospective exhibition at Gillman Barracks displays he’s made in in the past 50 years – Gwen Pew takes notes on the most important things you need to know about the Italian master.

Agostino Bonalumi was born in 1935 in Vimercate, a city near Milan, Italy. His works were first exhibited when he was just 13 years old, and by the age of 21 he had his debut solo show at the Galleria Totti in Milan. He soon established a name for himself at the centre of the Milanese art scene, and has gone on to have exhibitions in important venues all over the world.

Aside from being a painter, he is also known for his poems and books on philosophy. In 2001 he was awarded the President of the Italian Republic Prize for his contribution to the arts. Although he is now approaching 80, he is still very active as an artist and continues to produce new works each year.

His works are first and foremost an exploration of form and shadows.Unlike his good friend Lucio Fontana, who wanted to express the idea of space by making sharp slashes directly into his painted canvas, Bonalumi wanted to create something with more movement.

He rarely uses more than one colour in his paintings – especially in his earlier works. Instead allows the light in its surroundings to accentuate the contrast between the different shades within them, and to create various other shapes across its surface. As a result, his works are rather easy to name, for he just titles them after their colour: Rosso (Red), Bianco (White), Blu (Blue) and so on.

Most of his earlier works are painted with a type of paint known as vinyl tempera. His more recent ones (made in 2000 and onwards) are done with acrylic.

His works can be separated into several distinctive phases.In the ‘50s and ‘60s he was mostly preoccupied with creative curves in his canvas; in the ‘70s he moved on to straight lines; in the ‘80s he combined the two forms; in the ‘90s until present day he has reverted back to curved lines, but the pieces are now more pictorial in that there’s more going on than just geometric patterns. They are also no longer necessarily a hundred per cent monochromatic, and instead have slight variations in shading.

His works are deeply rooted in research and he dedicates much of his time looking into different ways of seeing things. The most important part of his creative process, however, is the preparation, as he painstakingly measures all of his geometric shapes or lines to ensure that they would create the exact effect that he had in mind.

If you want to show off some ‘artspeak’ about Bonalumi’s techniques, these are two of the terms you need to know. Evagination – when parts of the work are made to protrude out by having bulges and other structures inserted behind them; de verso – when an artist works from the back of the canvas.