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Prospect and Refuge | In Architecture, Art and in Life

I first read about this term ‘Prospect and Refuge’ a few years back, and I’d always planned to put it up as a post title but haven’t gotten the right post to go along with it. Things have moved pretty quickly, I feel, since moving back to Singapore from Hong Kong last June, and then it was a whirl of re-exploring, getting used to living in this bright and sunny city again, landing my first job, heading back to Hong Kong for my graduation, thinking and then thinking some more about future plans, to the point that I suddenly realise that it’s been almost a year since I’ve been back in Singapore.

I currently find myself in a spot of free time that inadvertently came along unplanned, which leaves me feeling a little unsettled since I always want to know what direction I’m moving in. But, for now, I am enjoying this break, and I’m trying to make time to pursue my interests, and it feels nice to have this pause to think back on the past year.

But to go back to what ‘Prospect and Refuge’ is in the first place, it is a theory coined by the geographer and academic Jay Appleton in 1975 relating to architecture and how we perceive our spaces by looking to fulfil two desires of prospect (opportunity) and refuge (safety). A simple idea is like how I like to hang out in cosy cafe corners yet have a view of the outdoors while I blog, right about now!

While in Singapore

Under the giant awning at South Beach.

Thinking further on it, I just thought it was a perfect way to sum up the feeling of having big dreams and wanting to keep moving forward but also wanting to stay comfortable. Last June, it felt really difficult to move away from Hong Kong because it was letting go of an amazing experience that I didn’t feel ready to move on from, though it is necessary for practicalities to come first (sometimes).

Though, of course, moving back to Singapore isn’t a bad thing at all! I spent a lot of time at first wandering around this sparkling, beautiful city.

While in Singapore

Made my first stop of my exploring at the Apple Store which opened last May in Knightsbridge Mall (what a fancy name). I’m so grateful for it now because I sent my very precious Macbook there for repair when it broke down last month and the service was so good!! Just sharing my appreciation. :D

I also caught art exhibitions – like the massive Yayoi Kusama exhibition at National Gallery Singapore that I completely forgot to share on any platform whatsoever – that I plan to share here later as a way of catching up with everything over the last year. Art museums here are mostly housed in old, grand, colonial buildings with a touch of contemporary glass and chrome elements which Singapore is so good at at adding to old buildings.

While in Singapore

When the polka dot phenomenon took over Singapore last summer.

While in Singapore

A good mix of old and new in the National Museum of Singapore.

But geez, that transition between graduation and full-on ‘adulting’ is a tricky one! Despite all the well-meaning ‘advice’ you hear, you don’t really know what to expect until you start the job application grind, and thankfully, land your first interview and then the job (!!) after months of seemingly unending waiting time. But that’s if you decide to enter the workforce – making the decision to continue in postgraduate studies or to go out to work was even tricker to me.

While in Singapore

Oh, the dilemma.

While in Singapore

Revisited this gem The Thinker by Rodin at OUE Bayfront except it’s now politely barricaded. And I’ve got a much better-working phone camera with me now compared to the last time I captured this in Sculptures on the Street which I worked on 3 years ago now and I’m still so proud of!

While in Singapore

Also saw this crazy hyperrealistic figure of a security guard by Marc Sijan at OUE Bayfront. Almost thought ‘he’ was real but it’s on a podium so it’s a piece of art, see!

I always took my (tertiary) education seriously, so I wouldn’t want to pursue postgraduate studies only for the purpose of ‘escaping reality’, but really to expand my knowledge and pursue my academic interest in a specific field (art history, of course!). That’s all and well, but then also comes the deciding factors of where I wanted to enter, funding matters, and the unavoidable point of your age matched to your amount of work experience (hi, real job, what internship?).

While in Singapore

Another new photo of an old favourite: Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor outside Artscience Museum.

In my final year of undergraduate studies, I asked a few professors about choosing between work and studies and I realised that there wasn’t one answer that could solve it all for me. After choosing to work first, when talking to colleagues about postgraduate studies, everyone also has varying ideas about how many years you should work first before studying further.

So, to anyone who happens to be stuck in this dilemma, weighing the pros and cons, considering the weight of what you might be losing out on or gaining in return, all I can say is: funnily enough, the quite unpleasant application process would help clear up whether or not you are ready for it, so plan ahead and give it a shot if you really want to do it!

While in Singapore

Open call-out to SMU: please add a didactic next to this! It’s Bright Idea by Sir Michael Craig-Martin, isn’t it? I think it fits this university campus setting much better than the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, doesn’t it?

With that said, going out to work was great in propelling me out of my ‘refuge’ zone and in seeing what my prospects are. Identifying those prospects also gave me goals to look toward, one such as the ideal yet probably not very reachable ‘work-life balance’ (hahaha, in Singapore/Hong Kong, the ultimate dream).

While in Singapore

Stopped for a photo break while cycling from East Coast Park to the Marina Bay area on a sweltering hot day last June.

Half-joking aside, work gave me a literal case of expectations vs. reality. For many of us art history students, the career goal is always to become a curator. Same goes for me! We might get student curating projects, and some people might remind students that to become an curator at the point of actually curating exhibitions takes a long time.

Side note: it’s funny and ridiculous how everything is ‘curated’ these days. Let me give an example: Reader, you are currently on Wording Art, a blog of curated art posts! Okay, but enough of that – curating is way far more than putting objects together in an exhibition and writing about it. It was only after beginning work in the field that I realised how wide the job of being a curator really is, which I think is great for managing my expectations of the job and seeing how I would like to keep moving forward in work.

While in Singapore
While in Singapore
While in Singapore

Loving these boards for a store that is coming soon at Wisma Atria… What is it?? A fantastically themed cafe or retail concept? I’m just dying to know!

I suppose I’m writing this to ground myself somehow in my current stage of in-between-ness. The very wise words by Lewis Carroll couldn’t be more fitting for what I’m thinking about right now. And right now, I’m also really glad to have this little digital space of my own here that in one way, I see as a record of all the art things I’d seen and where I was at, and in the same way, this post serves the same purpose too.

While in Singapore

Looking down from the 8th floor of the Central Public Library, where I discovered their fantastic reference section of art history books!

With all that said, here’s to new opportunities and good things ahead! And to more posts overcrowded with pretty pictures, as per usual, hahaha!

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