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Art of 2020

Ah 2020, what a year it’s been! I’ve found the time to have gone incredibly slowly yet really quickly at different times. Instead of remembering it solely as the ‘pandemic year’, it has in fact been a heavy academic year for me with an unrelenting amount of coursework, reports, exams which I’m glad to be mostly completed with! Despite it all, it’s nice to see looking back that there was still art to be seen in person and online everywhere across the globe. With that, here’s my roundup of art exhibitions in Singapore that I saw this year! 2021 is ‘Almost Arriving’…

| Cover picture: Cao Fei, 浮槎 Fú Chá, 2020 |

Singapore Flyer – Whimsical Reality

Ah Guo 阿果, Carnival in the Sky 长空万里嘉年华, 2019
Ah Guo 阿果, Dreamland of Harmony 清平乐, 2019
Ah Guo 阿果, December Five Foot Way 01: First Snow under the Moon 白色五脚基01:明月初雪, 2017 (left); December Five Foot Way 02: Snowy Hot Kopi 白色五脚基02: 白雪黑咖啡, 2017 (right)

2020 started with a trip to the Singapore Flyer to see the exhibition ‘Whimsical Reality’ featuring watercolour works by Ah Guo Illustration 阿果绘本. I’ve been following Ah Guo’s work for quite a long time, and I love his childlike, light-hearted illustrations of various Singapore scenes!

National Gallery Singapore – Chua Soo Bin: Truths & Legends

Chua Soo Bin, Wu Guanzhong, c. 1980s–1994, photographs, inkjet prints on paper

Spent a day out visiting National Gallery Singapore and went to see the understated exhibition of Chua Soo Bin’s portrait photography. I especially liked these photos of Wu Guanzhong sketching in the streets of London, Bangkok’s floating markets and at Singapore’s Bird Park (this should be Jurong Bird Park surely!) Click here to also see my review of the exhibition ‘Wu Guanzhong: Beauty Beyond Form’ at National Gallery Singapore from 2016.

National Gallery Singapore – Light to Night Festival: Invisible Cities

Nipek and KNOTS, Floating City
Twardzik-Ching Chor Leng, Five Stones
Art Skins on Monuments

The Light to Night festival was also happening in January, and as always, it delivered a fun lineup of light installations and art skin projections. I also found it hilarious that one of Twardzik-Ching Chor Leng’s Five Stones was propped up above the bus stop outside Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall!

I’m not sure why this was here, but this setup of LINE’s Brown in a Merlion costume at Funan mall was so cute!!

Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre – Huat Huat Land

Mural by Lee Xin Li

A display of giant pineapples, mahjong tiles and murals on the rooftop of Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre for Chinese New Year! Huat Ah!

Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre – SINGAPO人

SINGAPO人 is a permanent exhibition at SCCC that looks to discover Chinese Singapore culture. I really enjoyed visiting this and playing with all the interactive sections. There’s this game of ‘Would You Rather’, for example have Coffee or Tea, Eat Out or Eat at Home (as seen above) and after making your choice, it shows the poll percentage for each option!

Peeking into a small hole in a display to see a camera staring back at me!

Had to capture this drip tile from the old Nanyang University’s Administrative Building — especially as I’m studying at Nanyang Technological University now!

CB Summer

And then we hit pause — circuit breaker began in early April, classes went online, and it took a lot of effort to continue to study / work from home.

Over these few months, I also started to tune into art online (here are some of my recommendations!). Although there were also sadly a slew of exhibition cancellations, like the i Light festival, the Picasso and Matisse exhibition at National Gallery Singapore and the ‘Angelica Kauffman’ exhibition in London’s Royal Academy of Arts…

Angelica Kauffman’s Self-Portrait with Stylus, c. 1768, oil on canvas

I’m currently researching Kauffman’s self-portraits and so I’d made travel plans to visit London and to see this exhibition — all cancelled! Ah well, so I made do with buying the exhibition catalogue. Here’s an image of Kauffman’s Self-Portrait with Stylus from the catalogue (excuse the colouring!), which is my favourite of all of her self-portraits! It belongs in a private collection so I really hope to have a chance to see it in an exhibition in future…

Asian Civilisations Museum – Fashion and Textiles Gallery

Ventured back out to see exhibitions again in August, and it felt like a grand affair! Dressed up again to view the new Fashion and Textiles, as well as Jewellery, galleries at Asian Civilisations Museum. The galleries will have a rotating display, and the Fashion and Textiles gallery currently features Chinese dress from the Qing (imperial wear) and modern periods (cheongsams). I thought the Fashion and Textiles gallery was surprisingly small!

National Museum of Singapore – Music For Everyone: Variations on a Theme

This solo exhibition of Song-Ming Ang’s work was first presented in the Singapore Pavilion of 2019’s Venice Biennale and had a re-showing at National Museum of Singapore. The title Music for Everyone ‘references a series of concerts organised by the then Singapore’s Ministry of Culture from 1971 to 1985’, and the exhibition overall also looks at music education in Singapore, like all those recorder music classes (so not for me)…

I especially liked Ang’s Manifesto for Bad Music, as I got quite into twentieth-century art manifestoes in class last semester!

Singapore Art Museum – Time Passes

Ashley Yeo, Drop of light (Pyramid), 2019, paper

Since Singapore Art Museum is currently under renovation, their exhibition ‘Time Passes’ is currently held at National Gallery Singapore. I thought the highlight work was Ashley Yeo’s intricate work of paper, which she makes using 3D printing.

In the gallery next door, ‘An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season’ is also showing at National Gallery Singapore. Both exhibitions are part of ‘Proposals for Novel Ways of Being’, a series of exhibitions and programmes made in response to COVID-19. Both exhibitions run until 21 February 2021.

Esplanade Tunnel – Combing for Ice and Jade

Works by Kurt Tong

This is a solo exhibition of Kurt Tong’s work as part of the 7th Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF). ‘Combing for Ice and Jade’ tells the life story of Tong’s nanny (or majie) who became a ‘Comb Sister’ — ‘a community of women in Southern China who took a vow of chastity’ and left their hometowns to work and be financially independent. I liked the quiet, understated way of showing her life through various photographs, but I especially liked the video at the beginning of exhibition in which Tong discusses this seven-year project.

‘Combing for Ice and Jade’ is ongoing till 10 Jan 2021.

National Gallery Singapore – Georgette Chen: At Home in the World

Georgette Chen, Lotus Symphony, 1962, oil on canvas

The long awaited Georgette Chen retrospective is here! I enjoyed visiting this exhibition, and I will post about it in more detail in a separate post. In the meantime, I wanted to highlight this photograph of Chen painting Lotus Symphony en plein air (outdoors) in her friend’s garden full of lotuses. It’s nice to see a glimpse of the process and the final result situated next to the other.

‘Georgette Chen: At Home in the World’ is running for a long time until 26 September 2021.

ArtScience Museum – Margins: drawing pictures of home 

Nguan, Untitled (2012) from the series Singapore (2007–2020), archival pigment print

‘Margins: drawing pictures of home’ is also included in SIPF this year, and it’s a small exhibition featuring works by 15 contemporary photographers centred around Singapore as home.

Chow and Lin, The Poverty Line, 2010–2020, prints on smooth pearl paper

My sister reminded me that we first saw this work in Hong Kong’s PMQ as part of detour 2015! While there were 1600 photographs there, the 12 photographs included here depicting the daily food choices for those living at the poverty line in different Asian countries still remains as poignant.

Hu Qiren, People Mountain People Sea, 2013, archival inkjet prints

I liked the light humour of Hu’s People Mountain People Sea, a literal translation of 人山人海, which means a huge crowd in Chinese. Hu juxtaposes scenes of Singapore with ‘cutouts’ of the Old Master Q comic character, and I thought it was pretty fun!

Darren Soh, SS24 The Last Train, 2011, prints on smooth pearl paper

My favourite from ‘Margins’ is Soh’s photographs of the last SS24 train to depart from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station (see my photos of the station at this link) before the railway line was officially removed.

‘Margins: drawing pictures of home’ is showing until 28 February 2021.

Gardens by the Bay: Christmas Wonderland’s Walk of Lights

Ending off 2020 with some festive cheer! I wanted to do another re-visit of Christmas Wonderland since this year’s Walk of Lights featured some new light attractions that have not been shown before! Loved all the lights and as always, the luminarie light installations (made all the way from Italy) are so gorgeous and impressive! Here’s to a brilliant 2021!

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