Artful Adventures

Published on 26 December 2017

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and this year’s Singapore Art Week provides multiple entry points for that first step to be taken.

By Pamela Ho

Art appreciation can start with an evening picnic on the Padang, watching a multimedia projection show on the façade of the National Gallery Singapore. It can be sparked on a bus tour or a boat ride, watching an artist perform in response to a film of yesteryear. Even chasing ‘Instagrammable art’ can lead to a point of connection in a moment of curiosity. There are multiple points of entry into art, and really, no prescriptive way to start.

Linda de Mello, director of sector development (visual arts), National Arts Council (NAC), shares that three programme tracks have been created for the 2018 edition of Singapore Art Week (SAW) for visitors to discover, experience and engage with a range of visual arts activities. “From family-friendly festivals in the Civic District to public art in the heartlands, or art fairs for the art connoisseur to inclusive arts programming for those from different backgrounds, there is plenty for everyone, regardless of experience or knowledge. All one needs is an open mind and a sense of curiosity!”

A joint initiative by NAC, the Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board, SAW is Singapore’s premier celebration of the visual arts and a platform for galleries, museums, art collectors, art educators, street artists, sculptors, illustrators and designers to jump on and share. This sixth edition will feature homegrown and international artists in over 100 events across 12 days.

PADANG ARTSCAPE

Photo: National Gallery Singapore

The inaugural Civic District Outdoor Festival held last August will return this month as Light to Night Festival 2018: Colour Sensations (19 – 28 January; main photo). Once again, the Padang will be transformed into a sprawling picnic ground in the evenings, complete with a Festival Food Street. A multisensorial art experience awaits all who come, with 30 homegrown artists — including the likes of Brendan Tay, Speak Cryptic, Messymsxi and Sam Lo — collaborating to create Art Skins on Monuments, the biggest façade light show in Singapore.

Using an innovative methodology called Exquisite Corpse, their creation will be projected on the façades of the National Gallery Singapore, The Arts House, Victoria Theatre, Victoria Concert Hall and Asian Civilisations Museum, as well as Empress Lawn and Esplanade Park for the first time.

“Most people think public art is putting a sculpture in the middle of a park and it has to involve a built object. But I’m personally also interested to see whether durational art and ephemeral art have a place in public art,” says festival director Suenne Megan Tan. “We want to explore how we can make use of the built environment, even parks and lamp-posts, understand how people experience these spaces by day, and maybe introduce a completely different element that transforms that.”

Because the Civic District houses cultural institutions that span the visual, literary and performing arts, the question of “how can we — through public art — bridge the connection and extend the discourse between the exterior spaces and the internal spaces, so that we give the festival an inter-disciplinary character?” has also been asked, and will influence the institutions’ programming.

The documentation and discussion of the creative production process of such public art is what lifts the Light to Night Festival beyond the realm of ‘Instagrammable art’. Art lovers are encouraged to engage the artists in dialogue, and talks will also be organised throughout the year as follow-up.

ARTISTS IDENTIFIED

Photo: Melbourne Festival
Photo: Kray Chen

You may have heard of the name Sam Lo or Kray Chen. You may even know of them as the ‘Sticker Lady’ and the visual artist who was a recipient of the 2017 Young Artist Award. But what’s so interesting about them? SAW 2018 is a good time to dig deeper.

Sam Lo (aka SKLO) will be bringing Progress: The Game of Leaders (22 – 28 January, The Arts House) home from the 2017 Melbourne Festival. This highly interactive sculpture — based on a popular block-stacking game — is a comment on Singapore’s current socio-economic landscape.

“Each block has a different trait of what a first-world city is — for example, improving the military, improving the standard of living or having more scholars — and whatever block you take out and put on top symbolises what you want to progress society,” explains Lo. “Essentially, what I want people to take away is that we’re all not that different. If we want progress, some compromises may also have to be made.”

For those curious about Kray Chen, he will be presenting 5 Rehearsals for a Wedding (17 January – 11 February) at Objectifs Chapel Gallery. This work continues his investigation into facets of the Singapore identity. “I am Chinese and I’m expected to carry out a Chinese wedding. I’m a rather private person, so the fear and anxiety of thinking about its potential arrival motivated this work,” says the multimedia artist. “As much as the subject is about weddings, I’m also dealing with very fundamental questions surrounding the human condition. I believe these themes will be relatable to anyone.”

ART IN MOTION

EXPLORE ALL AVENUES Artwalk Little India returns with seven new murals, an art trail, free arts performances and a spooky storytelling session on urban legends. (Photo: Singapore Tourism Board)
Photo: 1960 Shaw Organisation
Photo: Samuel Chua

While SAW 2018 is anchored by visual arts events such as Art Stage Singapore (26 – 28 January) — the flagship show of the Southeast Asian art world — Gillman Barracks’ Art After Dark (26 January) and Aliwal Urban Art Festival (the one-day festival takes place on 20 January while the Make a Terrific Artwork Someday exhibition runs from 18 January – 11 February), it also provides entry-points for people with non-art pursuits.

Film buffs familiar with old Singapore films will not want to miss State of Motion 2018: Sejarah-ku (12 January – 11 February), which features a selection of seminal Malay-language films produced by Shaw Malay Film Productions in the pre-Independence years of 1955 to 1965. “These films probably had a different projection of what Singapore would be, so it’s interesting to watch them through contemporary eyes, study them, and see how relevant they are in terms of ideas and discourses, and ask who is still here to acknowledge them and claim them,” says Thong Kay Wee of Asian Film Archive, who explains that sejarah-ku means ‘my history’ in Malay.

Even if you’re not a film aficionado, joining a guided bus tour to visit film locations around Singapore or an off-shore boat ride to Pulau Ubin and Pulau Sekudu, where you get to encounter artworks and performances (curated by the talented Kamiliah Bahdar) by homegrown artists in response to these films, may pique your curiosity. You can also check out the free film screenings and talks at the Malay Heritage Centre throughout the month.

Heritage enthusiasts will also rejoice with the return of Artwalk Little India (18 – 27 January). Themed ‘Urban Mythology’, this fourth edition — with programming led by LASALLE College of the Arts’ arts management students — will celebrate long-lost tales of Little India resurrected through murals, public art installations and free performances; and feature the works of mural artists such as ZERO and Eunice Lim, performances by Ravindran Drama Group and musical fusion band, Lotus Collab, as well as a film screening of K Rajagopal’s trilogy, The Day I Lost My Shadow. You can even try your hand at making puppets inspired by the murals around Little India!

Not to be missed is the storytelling session by Kamini Ramachandran, held at an old shophouse on Campbell Lane. “The young people have always wanted something dark and supernatural, so I’ll be telling urban legends and lore this year, suitable for ages 15 and up,” reveals the master storyteller, who will be incorporating written texts (by emerging Tamil poet Elancharan Gunasekaran and author Verena Tay) in her storytelling for the first time. “It’s good to work with local writers and showcase their works in spoken word format — it also creates awareness for our writing scene.”

OPEN YOUR ART

Photo: Arts House Limited
Photo: Estate of Kim Lim
Photo: Jean Loo & Superhero Me

Gaining new experiences and knowledge often begins with being open. So maybe you know nothing about sculpture or printmaking and you’ve never even heard of Kim Lim — here’s your chance to broaden your horizons!

Kim Lim: Sculpting Light (13 January – 3 March) is a hidden gem of an exhibition at STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery. The late Kim Lim (a UK-based Singaporean sculptor who was married to renowned British sculptor, William Turnbull) is an artist worth finding out more about. Her works (dating from the 1960s till early ’90s) are even in London’s Tate collection! Yet the last time she exhibited in Singapore was at the National Museum in 1984.

“Like Cultural Medallion recipient Han Sai Por, Kim Lim was a pioneer. Back in those days, women in sculpting — especially Asian women — were not common,” says curator Tessa Chung. “While she’s known more for her sculptures, printmaking was just as important to her. She worked with materials like slate, marble, wood, stone and paper, and she was able to command them. Together with her play of light and shadow, she sculpted weightlessness into being.”

Free guided tours of the exhibition are available on Saturdays at 2pm and Thursdays at 11.30am. Besides getting to know a lesser-known late sculptor, what about exploring how to start an art collection (see sidebar) or experiencing inclusive arts?

Is Anyone Home? (17 – 31 January, National Museum of Singapore) is an exhibition by inclusive arts movement, Superhero Me. “We adopt an Inclusive Arts Approach that purposefully brings together artists and children of diverse abilities to create art together. It’s a conscious choice to not just work with children with one particular special need or from a particular background, but to expose them to each other’s ways of accessing the world and to use this shared experience as a platform for self-advocacy,” says co-founder Jean Loo. “After three years, we felt it was a good time to enable some of our children to go deeper into exploring their childhood and sense of identity.”

The art exhibition involves six children — some with special needs like autism and cerebral palsy — who share what childhood means to them. The work involves sensory stimulation, so the audience can access and understand it not just with their eyes. There are also opportunities to co-create work with the artists and children, and to sign up for workshops.

If out of curiosity, you step out of your comfort zone, you may find yourself wide-eyed and bushy-tailed once again — even if you consider yourself an art expert or connoisseur. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As German philosopher and theologian Meister Eckhart wisely put it, “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”

SAW 2018 is on from 17–28 January. For a full listing of events, visit www.artweek.sg or follow www.facebook.com/sgartweek.

As Singapore Art Week 2018 takes off, we suggest events that will get this month’s cover girl, Joanne Peh, excited — whether she’s glamming up or dressing down!

For Everyday Joanne

Photo: Vertical Submarine

LARGER THAN LIFE: THE UNSPOKEN HISTORIES OF JURONG NEIGHBOURHOOD
Till 28 January, Jurong East Central

Explore Jurong and learn about its narrative and people through a showcase of public art and events curated by art collective, Vertical Submarine. Joanne and her kids can also discover more about the neighbourhood’s history and culture through guided tours, workshops and artist talks.

Photo: Arts House Limited

M.A.T.A.S
18 January — 11 February, Aliwal Arts Centre

Explore art in a funkier sphere with Make a Terrific Artwork Someday (or M.A.T.A.S), which touches on Singapore’s street art community’s commitment to stay relevant in the face of pressures and tensions. Urban art collective RSCLS and interactive artist Ryf Zaini collaborate for the first time, which will be exciting!

Photo: Gillman Barracks

ART AFTER DARK
26 January, Gillman Barracks

Put on sneakers and go gallery-hopping as Gillman Barracks — Singapore’s own visual arts cluster — opens its grounds from 7pm till late. Enjoy contemporary art, live music, food & beverage pop-ups and DISINI, a new site-specific festival featuring outdoor sculptures and murals, workshops, and retail pop-ups.

For Glam Joanne

Photo: ART STAGE

ART STAGE SINGAPORE 
26 – 28 January, Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre

Themed ‘Interactions’ this year, the region’s flagship art fair will give attendees a chance to encounter the best of Asian contemporary art — from diverse works and performances to exclusive previews of private collections to captivating dialogues and panel discussions.

Photo:
Photo: Art Outreach

IMPART COLLECTORS’ SHOW
18 – 28 January, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre

Artworks from the private collections of two Singaporean collectors will be featured in this exhibition curated by Kamiliah Bahdar, winner of the inaugural IMPART Curatorial Award by Art Outreach. What might be interesting is the panel dialogue with prominent collectors from the region, moderated by Tan Boon Hui, vice president of Global Arts & Cultural Programs and director of Asia Society Museum.

Photo: Danysz Gallery & Joao Moreira

ART FROM THE STREETS
13 January – 3 June, ArtScience Museum

Appreciate street art in air-conditioned comfort! Southeast Asia’s first major retrospective of street art will trace four decades of this artistic movement and feature 50 of the world’s most renowned street artists — with a special spotlight on emerging Southeast Asian street artists.

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