Pop art for the selfie generation

Iskander Walen with his artwork, Instant Fame, the exhibition's titular piece.
Iskander Walen with his artwork, Instant Fame, the exhibition's titular piece. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Stefanie Hauger's artwork will be part of a pop art exhibition that will run at the Visual Arts Centre from Jan 17.
Stefanie Hauger's artwork will be part of a pop art exhibition that will run at the Visual Arts Centre from Jan 17.PHOTO: STEFANIE HAUGER

Selfie fans might get a kick out of graffiti artist Muhammad Sufian Hamri's new work titled SelfieObsessed.

The piece is a life-sized painting of himself spray-painting the letters "i" and "e" onto the words "Self-Obsessed" in a characteristic act of wordplay.

Better known as TraseOne, the 37-year-old says: "It's quite ironic... some graffiti artists wish to stay underground. But after painting something illegally, they take selfies of themselves."

This is one of four paintings he has spray-painted on canvas with the help of stencils, which will be part of a pop art exhibition that will run at the Visual Arts Centre fromJan 17.

Called Instant Fame, it will showcase about 40 works by Singapore-based artists Billy Ma, Stefanie Hauger, Leo Liu Xuanqi, Andre Tan, Justin Lee, Iskander Walen and TR853-1 (TraseOne).

Paintings of pop artist Andy Warhol-inspired soup cans, sculptures of bubblegum and urban art are among the works featured.

Pop art, an art movement that began in Britain and the United States in the 1950s, borrows imagery from popular culture and advertising, and has the tendency to be playful and ironic.


Billy Ma's Muzik Elev8s. PHOTO: BILLY MA

The exhibition is organised by Orange Gallery Singapore and Utterly Art Gallery.

Iskander Walen with his artwork, Instant Fame, the exhibition's titular piece.
Iskander Walen with his artwork, Instant Fame, the exhibition's titular piece. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

  • VIEW IT / INSTANT FAME

  • WHERE: Visual Arts Centre, 01-02 Dhoby Ghaut Green, 10 Penang Road

    WHEN: Jan 17 to 22, from 7pm on Jan 17, and 11am to 8pm daily from Jan 18

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: Go to facebook.com/orangegallery or call 9873-7663

Dutch artist Walen, 44, who curated the exhibition, hopes the show will raise the profile of pop art here and foster a stronger sense of community among artists. "The pop art movement is a bit scattered in Singapore, with everyone doing his own thing," he said.

His titular exhibit, Instant Fame, an acrylic on canvas painting of canned soup next to the instructions "mix with ambition" and "done in 15 mins", is a reference to Warhol's statement that "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes".

The tongue-in-cheek piece is a "sign of our times", Walen says, where anyone can be "famous" if something he posts on social media, however banal, goes viral.

It is also an era of instant gratification: "Everything is bite-sized, click, click click... people don't want to put in any effort anymore."

Meanwhile, artist Andre Tan, 39, said his works' cross-cultural references are a nod to the "interesting mix of cultural heritage" in Singapore. For instance, Porcelain Friends, his 122 x 122cm acrylic on canvas piece, juxtaposes cartoon characters such as Bambi, Tin Tin and Mickey Mouse with traditional Asian motifs.

Walen believes the exhibition will appeal to people who are interested in the here and now.

"Pop art is always current," he said. "It's about very relatable things we deal with all the time.


Justin Lee's Untitled 1. PHOTO: JUSTIN LEE

"Pop artists have the tendency to have a sense of humour... which is not always the case for fine art... We communicate something, but also want people to have a good time."


Andre Tan's artworks Porcelain Friends (left) and Her World 01. PHOTOS: ANDRE TAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'Pop art for the selfie generation'. Print Edition | Subscribe