Singapore Art Week returns with over 80 art-related events scattered across the island. How do you navigate these? Start with what draws you.
BY PAMELA HO
Published on 3 January 2016
BY PAMELA HO
From skateboard art to Chinese calligraphy, Warhol Polaroids to wall murals, this year’s Singapore Art Week (SAW) boasts a delicious diversity that will awaken the explorer in you. With more than 80 events across a multitude of venues, this nine-day celebration of the visual arts
will feature the newly opened National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris for the first time.
A collective effort by the National Arts Council (NAC), Singapore Tourism Board and Economic Development Board, SAW 2016 is set to not only bring together diverse communities and reach out to new audiences, but also to establish Singapore as an exciting art destination in Asia.
NEW FRONTIERS Expect greater diversity in art offerings at SAW 2016, like film screenings on exhibitions and art works at
The Projector. PHOTO Pieter Van Goethem
“Visitors can expect a greater diversity in the art offerings this year. We see SAW as an enabling platform to galvanise the visual arts and broader arts communities to come together in a cross-collaboration of genres,” says Low Eng Teong, Director at NAC’s Sector Development (Visual Arts).
For art connoisseurs, there are special events at museums and galleries; for those who just want to mingle and soak in the atmosphere, there are after-dark parties and performances that combine art, music and pop culture; and for the restless, guided bus tours and walking tours to explore art on-the-go.
There’s really no right or wrong way to navigate this festival. Be adventurous — explore!
Aside from annual staples like Art Stage Singapore and the Prudential Eye Awards and Exhibition — both of which will see Singapore’s established and emerging artists showcase their works alongside internationally acclaimed artists — a big draw this year will be the offerings by our visual art museums.
Singapore Art Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary with a lineup of exciting exhibitions and late-night events; National Gallery Singapore presents Earth Work 1979 by contemporary artist Tang Da Wu; while the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) shines a spotlight on its current artist-in-residence, Jane Lee, with a solo exhibition entitled Freely, Freely.
“My residency at STPI not only pushed me out of my comfort zone, it also allowed me to interact with a workshop team that widened my perception of art making,” says Lee. “This past decade, I’ve played solely with painting materials, so this experimentation with new mediums of print, paper — even with video and sound — has helped me see many new possibilities.
“As the title suggests, this show reflects on the theme of freedom and entrapment; and the bird is an icon readily associated with those ideas,” she says, adding that this new body of works consists of five installations and several series of works in paper. “Of the eight solo exhibitions I’ve done, this is the only one that will touch your other senses.”
PHOTOS Jane Lee & STPI
For the first time during SAW, the traditional art of Chinese calligraphy will be discussed in English. Through demonstrations, workshops and panel discussions, learn why this art form has prospered for over 2,000 years, how to value scrolls, and distinguish between past and present works.
From traditional to pop art, the diversity of programmes at SAW 2016 continues with Andy Warhol: Social Circus (16-29 January). The brainchild of Ryan Su, a trainee lawyer and art collector, this edgy exhibition will launch The Ryan Foundation, which aims to promote arts education and nature conservation.
On the significance of Warhol’s Polaroids, Su explains, “They give tremendous insight into Warhol’s artistic practice and the production of the paintings he is best known for. They are the genesis of his portraits that are valued in the millions today.”
Curated by Khim Ong, who also curated the Southeast Asia Platform at Art Stage Singapore 2015, Andy Warhol: Social Circus will display some of these Polaroids alongside images of the resulting silkscreen portraits. “Through them, Warhol collected a ‘visual diary’ that gives us a glimpse into the fame and celebrity of ’70s and ’80s New York,” says Su.
PHOTO The Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore
PHOTO Lim Yaohui
Urban art is never far from the heart of SAW. The Aliwal Urban Art Festival returns with Cannot Be Bo(a)rdered, a skateboard exhibition that showcases 16 artists from Singapore and the region. On display are over 50 skateboard decks that have been transformed into paintings, sculptures and installations.
“Through the years, skateboard deck art has grown alongside art initiatives like graffiti art, urban art and even contemporary art. It has evolved and stayed relevant to express the different voices of today,” says curator Iman Ismail. “Cannot Be Bo(a)rdered is a visual exploration of the skate culture and its psyche, where the physical skateboard deck not only becomes the canvas but is employed as the expressing medium.”
PHOTO Speak Cryptic
From skateboard decks to carpark decks, SAW 2016 takes art accessibility a step further with PPC | 珍珠方 : A Public Living Room, organised by [-]yphen.
“People’s Park Complex has to be one of the busiest, noisiest and most ‘public’ spaces in Singapore. Yet, there’s a sense of hidden privacy — both in the living quarters above the shops and in the rooftop carpark space where Lepark is located,” says May Leong, [-]yphen’s co-founder. “A Public Living Room teases out these dichotomies and suggests a different way of looking at things. Expect a high degree of experimentation, site-specific, process-driven work… and a good time!”
Who says art needs to be indoors? In celebration of SG50, the Public Art Trust (PAT), a new initiative by the NAC, has commissioned three new public art works along the Jubilee Walk, a commemorative trail through historic and iconic locations within the Civic District and Marina Bay area. “This is part of a long-term effort to encourage Singaporeans to appreciate and embrace art around their urban environment,” says Low.
In collaboration with Art Outreach, PAT will be organising a Public Art Walking Tour which will introduce the new works alongside existing art works and monuments in the area.
One of these works is Young Artist Award (YAA) recipient Baet Yoke Kuan’s ‘24 Hours in Singapore’. The giant stainless steel spheres not only attract visitors with their size and fish-eye reflections, they are also audio time capsules of sounds of everyday life — from traffic in the heartlands to coffee shops and MRT trains.
Along the walk, you’ll also see the huge steel plates and monumental granite stone carvings of ‘The Rising Moon’ by Han Sai Por and Kum Chee Kiong; as well as ‘Cloud Nine: Raining’ by Young Artist Award recipient Tan Wee Lit. Located at the Singapore River by the Esplanade Park, this ‘rain cloud’ is the first permanent floating sculpture in Singapore.
PHOTOS National Arts Council
If walking tours are your thing, how about spicing it up with a little heritage?
ARTWALK Little India (19-23 January) takes you on a trail around the Little India precinct.
PHOTO LASALLE College of the Arts
Don’t miss the art works by students of LASALLE College of the Arts, music performances by Lotus Collab and Aya Sekine and Bobby Singh, as well as ‘Temple Tales’ by master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran. Set in Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, this session will see Ramachandran breathe life into Hindu mythology and legends from a distant era!
Bus tours are the buzz for SAW 2016. If you’re in for a ride, check out ‘State of Motion’ by the Asian Film Archive. This guided bus tour brings you around Singapore to five filming locations from iconic Cathay-Keris films of the 20th century. Awaiting you are site-specific artworks in response to each film!
Another art on-the-go event is CONCRETE ISLAND: Bus Tour With Dr Lai Chee Kien. “CONCRETE ISLAND proposes to think of the city less as a built environment than a condition of movement, exchange and intensities,” expounds Kenneth Tay, assistant curator of the NUS Museum.
This guided bus tour by Dr Lai Chee Kien, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Architecture and Sustainable Design pillar at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, is a response to Tan Pin Pin’s film ‘80km/h’, which was shot entirely on the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) — from Changi Airport to Tuas Checkpoint, and traversing the entire length of our island at the then-speed limit. “‘80km/h’ was initially planned to be repeated each year from 2003, as a 10-years series, to record the changes in Singapore’s landscape,” Tay elaborates. “The bus tour will take approximately 40 minutes, the time taken to travel across the PIE at 80km/h, with Dr Lai sharing on the developments of the areas along the way.”
PHOTO Cathay-Keris Films Pte Ltd
PHOTO Tan Pin Pin
Evening drinks and casual conversations — the lifestyle element of SAW 2016 is a draw unto itself! ‘Art After Dark’ is an ongoing initiative by Gillman Barracks, but the SAW edition is its flagship event of the year. “Last year, there was a record-breaking 6,000 visitors in one night!” reveals the NAC’s Low.
“It’s a great opportunity to engage with contemporary art in a convivial setting. The beauty of ‘Art After Dark’ is that you can find art everywhere in Gillman Barracks, indoors and outdoors,” adds Low. “Singapore Arts Club will showcase artworks on the façades of the Barracks’ buildings and roving performance art; while SCOUT, an exhibition housed in shipping containers in a carpark, will challenge the boundaries of where one would traditionally view art.”
Live music will also fill the night, and there will be a bumper crop of F&B pop-ups and an after-party at Red Baron. “Wear comfortable shoes and head down early so that you have ample time to explore the Barracks’ diverse art offerings,” advises Low. “Also pick up a programme and map so you don’t miss out on anything!”
PHOTO Gillman Barracks
Art lovers and film buffs often orbit different planets, but ‘Exhibition on Screen’ at The Projector — which brings Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Matisse to the big screen — will cause their worlds to collide.
“Through these films, we hope art lovers can appreciate art in a whole new way — something they may not experience from walking through a gallery — while film buffs will be enthused at the prospect of film yet again opening up new paths of knowledge,” says Viknesh Kobinathan, assistant programmer at The Projector. “Being a part of SAW 2016 is an indicator that The Projector is more than just a place that shows indie films. Through cinema, we can bring people together and bridge gaps between communities.”
The A List is the official arts media of Singapore Art Week 2016 which takes place at various locations, 16 to 24 January. For details, visit www.artweek.sg.
PHOTO Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
With the diversity of art offered, there is something for everyone. The SAW 2016 team provides navigation tips.
PICK UP A GUIDE Published to help you navigate through the myriad of events, the Singapore Art Week guide provides listings of happenings during the nine days.
PLAN YOUR WEEK IN ADVANCE With so many events going on, it’s important to note down when and where your favourite events are beforehand, so you don’t miss them!
HAVE AN OPEN MIND For the layman, art can sometimes be confusing. Be open to all expressions of art, and have fun learning from different perspectives.