40 home-grown artworks on show at comprehensive Prudential Singapore Eye

The show, Prudential Singapore Eye, also marks Singapore's 50th birthday

Billed as one of the most comprehensive showcases of the country's contemporary art scene, Prudential Singapore Eye opens today at the ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands.

The exhibition, which runs till June 28, is part of the celebrations to mark Singapore's 50th birthday.

Forty works by 17 home-grown artists are on show, including paintings by Kumari Nahappan, known for her red-hot chilli and bell pepper sculptures cast in bronze in public spaces such as the National Museum of Singapore; Jane Lee, known for creative experiments with squiggles of paint; and Jeremy Sharma, known for his recent series of layered artworks made of high-density foam.

It is organised by the Prudential Eye Programme, which builds partnerships between artists and galleries around the world. The initiative was set up in 2008 by prominent London-based art collectors David and Serenella Ciclitira, and is sponsored by life insurer Prudential.

A book titled Singapore Eye: Contemporary Singapore Art, which features 62 Singapore artists and is edited by Mrs Ciclitira, has been released in conjunction with the exhibition.

Coming on the heels of guides to other countries' art scenes such as Korean Eye and Indonesian Eye, it aims to be a key resource of the contemporary art scene here.

More than 300 copies will be donated to schools, institutions and libraries.

Mrs Ciclitira said at the media conference yesterday: "I very much hope and believe that the book accompanying the exhibition will provide a long legacy for curators, researchers, students and artists after Singapore Eye finishes its run."

The works on display were picked from 110 entries by an international panel, whose four members comprise Mrs Ciclitira; Ms Honor Harger, executive director of ArtScience Museum; Mr Nigel Hurst, chief executive of London's Saatchi Gallery; and Mr Tan Boon Hui, group director of programmes at the National Heritage Board.

Asked by Life! about what the panel looked for and if there were any notable omissions, Mr Hurst said: "It is impossible to include everything. What we were looking for is the breadth and diversity of art."

He called several of the works on display "innovative" and "showing incredible life and energy".

The show, he added, presents "an arresting insight into the future of art in the region".

For example, there is Lee Wen's Ping Pong Go-Round, an interactive installation where viewers can pick up the paddle and play around a doughnut-shaped ping pong table that wowed critics when it was shown at an art fair and a South-east Asia contemporary art survey exhibition in Hong Kong and Istanbul respectively last year.

Quirky elements can also be seen in several other works on display, such as A Secret Garden by award-winning sculptor Yeo Chee Kiong, a site-specific installation made of wool. Visitors can walk through the wool suspended from the roof to get a feel of a tropical rainforest.

Some works, however, touch on more serious issues. Adeline Kueh's photography series En Passant, shot at the defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, explores themes such as the fleeting nature of time and place in a changing city.

Paintings stand out as one of the key highlights of this exhibition.

Nahappan said: "The presentation here turns into a very reflective space because the dialogue extends beyond what you see on each of our canvases, to a discourse on what is the very material that makes a painting."

The exhibition next travels to London's prestigious Saatchi Gallery.

deepikas@sph.com.sg