By: Andre Frois
6 compelling reasons to check out (Re)collect: The Making of our Art Collection at the National Gallery Singapore
Published on 14 May 2018
Soon turning three, the National Gallery Singapore is home to the largest display of Southeast Asian artworks in the world. Employing an array of styles, materials and media, these works created by the region’s respected thought leaders are part of the gallery’s new exhibition, (Re)collect: The Making of our Art Collection, which celebrates the history of Singapore through art. From 11 May to 19 August 2018, visitors can see Singapore through the eyes of iconic Singaporean and South East Asian artists. While some loaned artefacts and sketches will be returned to their donors afterward, the art pieces themselves will remain as a part of the National Gallery Singapore’s permanent collection, which now comprises a staggering 8,630 pieces of art in total.
A List was fortunate to have been introduced to these seminal new additions by Russell Storer, Deputy Director of Curatorial and Collection for the National Gallery Singapore.
Here are his 6 favourite pieces from the collection, and reasons to visit the exhibition for yourself!
Discover an artist who speed paints without brushes
Self-Portrait by Affandi
An uncanny artist, Indonesia-born Affandi’s unique method of creating his visual art is in itself performance art. Sans brushes, he kneels before a blank canvas and squeezes paints from tubes at frenetic pace. From this seeming chaos, forms gradually take shape, in this case, his own visage. “Affandi’s portraits are very impressionistic, and this piece is special because it was created on the spot in the gallery,” Russell reveals.
Lock eyes with a revered master
Self-Portrait by Chuah Thean Teng
“Through this very different style of portraiture (from Affandi’s), Chuah Thean Teng expresses himself on batik here, but in a very modern style.” A piece that needs to be experienced in person, his gripping self-portrait glares through the canvas at the viewer. “This particular piece is much more considered than Chuah’s other works,” describes Russell of this endeavour, which the artist used to experiment with light and shadow, as well as figuration and abstraction
Explore hidden messages
And Miles to Go Before I Sleep by Cheo Chai Hiang
An untitled piece that was later named after the Robert Frost quote stencilled onto it, And Miles to Go Before I Sleep had been tucked away in a storage facility after its exhibition in 1976. It was only rediscovered in the 1980s and then donated by the artist to the National Collection. “This piece is really important as it explores both language and text,” shares Russell of this sculpture, made from a laundry board and a log of wood, salvaged from the home of the artist’s grandfather. “Cheo Chai Hiang is one of the region’s first conceptual artists, who has recently been playing with neon shop signs and Chinese characters, in careful art pieces that sport influences from his time living in the UK and Australia.”
Admire unlikely endeavours by international icons
Family Portrait by Georgette Chen
“For this iconic artist who seldom paints large works and rarely paints more than one subject in each work, this family portrait (161.5 by 130.2cm) is quite unusual. It exudes a sense of intimacy and warmth, nonetheless, that Georgette is known for. Fans of Georgette Chen will be pleasantly surprised when they come to view this piece, which to me is quite dramatic,” remarks Russell. This family portrait is of the family of Chen Fah Shin, Georgette’s old friend. Georgette sketched each member individually, as they posed for her, before she painted them in rich brushstrokes and pastel tones.
See and feel the experiences of cross-cultural painters
London Tate Gallery by Lim Yew Kuan
“This piece is quite romantic and self-reflective. The artist studied in the UK and this piece conveys how much the Tate Britain (formerly known as the Tate Gallery) meant to him and influenced him, as back in 1961, Singapore did not have an art museum. This painting has strong composition and draws you in,” Russell says of this Cultural Medallion recipient and his vibrant piece.
Walk through transformable artworks
Naga by Kim Lim
“Kim Lim is a fabulous sculptor and Naga invites you into a close experience of this art piece, which is not separated from the admirer and almost becomes a part of his or her space, similar to her famous horizontal sculpture, Irrawaddy” describes Russell. “Kim has been recently getting her due acknowledgement and just had an exhibition at STPI. Her modernist sculptures like Naga experiment with forms and displacement, and can be reconfigured into different arrangements at each exhibition.”
The (Re)Collect exhibit is located at the Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery B & C at the National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957, Opening hours: 10 am – 7 pm, Telephone: 6271 7000
The exhibit is part of the General Admission Tickets.