Arts Picks: Koeh Sia Yong Art Museum, National Archives' New Light On An Old Tale

The Koeh Sia Yong Art Museum features close to 200 works by second-generation Singaporean artist Koeh Sia Yong. PHOTO: STRAITS GALLERY

Koeh Sia Yong Art Museum

This museum, in a nondescript concrete slab tucked in the middle of a light industrial estate in Ang Mo Kio, is worth the trek. It features close to 200 works by second-generation Singaporean artist Koeh Sia Yong.

Those who remember him for Here They Come! - his dynamic 1965 work at the National Gallery Singapore capturing illegal hawkers fleeing from the police - and his graphic prints will get to see a broader variety here.

The works range from a series of sunflower paintings, evidently inspired by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, to a quirky series of deliberately "uncute" panda ink-on-paper works.

Mainly known for his social realist works, as befitting a member of the Equator Art Society, Koeh has also produced more commercially accessible paintings, as the canvases here prove.

A series of Singapore River landscapes showcase his eye for detail, as one can tell what cargo the bumboats are carrying, depending on the gunny sacks and the presence or absence of seagulls (birds mean rice is the cargo, as the animals scavenge for spills). Watch out especially for a pair of beautifully detailed woodblock prints of the Singapore River, accompanied by the original carved blocks.

A few pieces are for sale, although the majority belong to a private collector.

A series of Singapore River landscapes showcase Koeh Sia Yong's eye for detail. PHOTO: STRAITS GALLERY

A note of warning for visitors, though. The signage is non-existent in Northstar @ AMK, a giant building where the museum is located.

My advice is to enter by Serangoon North Avenue 4, which takes you to the carpark entrance. Turn right after the carpark gantry, head to the end of the building and look for lift lobby 1. On the fifth floor, look right on exiting the lift lobby and you should be able to see the giant unit sign for the museum at the end of the stretch of industrial units.

Where: Straits Gallery, 05-39 Northstar @ AMK, 7030 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5
MRT: Serangoon
When: Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 7pm; Mondays by appointment. E-mail Straits Gallery or call 8223-9493
Admission: Free
Info: Straits Gallery's website

New light on an old tale

A wide selection of military campaign sake cups marks Japanese military's ambition across Asia in the 19th century. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

There is a small quirky collection of trinkets on display in this exhibition, the National Archives of Singapore's contribution to the series of events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.

One might quibble with the modest scale of the show and the rather lacklustre captions, which beg more information and context. But there are some intriguing artefacts and touching anecdotes from the archives' vault.

A wide selection of military campaign sake cups marks the naked ambition of the Japanese military across Asia at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th that would lead to the depredations of World War II.

A horrifically detailed painting by Kato Takashi of the battle at Bukit Timah on Feb 11, 1942, might have been used by the Japanese as patriotic propaganda. But the painter's ambivalence is evident in his focus on the brutal cost of the campaign, with bloodied soldiers and corpses crowding the mise en scene.

There is a curious Axis memento in the form of a porcelain Meissen medal, commissioned by Adolf Hitler, commemorating General Tomoyuki Yamashita's victory in Singapore.

Also of note in the archives' related programme is the Asian Film Archive's premiere of the newly restored version of Blood And Tears Of The Overseas Chinese (1946). Directed by Cai Wen-jin, this is the first post-war Malayan Chinese-language film. It tells the story of the wealthy Yang family. As the film was shot on location, expect to see lots of local landmarks which have mostly vanished from Singapore's landscape.

The newly restored version of Blood And Tears Of The Overseas Chinese (1946) tells the story of the wealthy Yang family. PHOTO: ASIAN FILM ARCHIVE

Where: National Archives of Singapore, 1 Canning Rise
MRT: City Hall
When: Till June 30; exhibition: 10am to 7pm daily, film screening: April 3, 5pm, and April 16, 1pm
Admission: Free for the exhibition, $10 for the screenings at Oldham Theatre
Info: National Archives of Singapore's website

Lingual Nerves: An Afternoon Of Poetry Readings

Here is an opportunity to catch some veteran Singaporean poets in action at the National Gallery Singapore. Isa Kamari, Koh Buck Song, Madeleine Lee, Lee Tzu Pheng and Edwin Thumboo will be reading works written in response to paintings by Chua Mia Tee, who is the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the gallery.

There will be a discussion after the reading, moderated by writer Yong Shu Hoong. Admission is free by registration.

Where: City Hall Wing, Singapore Courtyard, Level 2 National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew's Road
MRT: City Hall
When: April 10, 3pm
Admission: Free with registration
Info: National Gallery Singapore's website

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