Art for SG50

Galleries showcase Singapore artists as well as specially curated works to mark the nation's Golden Jubilee

Brendan Neiland’s Supertree (above).
Brendan Neiland’s Supertree (above). PHOTO: GALERIE BELVEDERE
Geraldine Kang’s photographs, titled Under The Guise Of Surface in the Singapore Survey, include this one (above) of a worker painting weather-worn public structures. The work “toes the line between artistic, maintenance and transgressive gesture
Geraldine Kang’s photographs, titled Under The Guise Of Surface in the Singapore Survey, include this one (above) of a worker painting weather-worn public structures. The work “toes the line between artistic, maintenance and transgressive gesture”PHOTO: GERALDINE KANG
Geraldine Kang’s (above) photographs, titled Under The Guise Of Surface in the Singapore Survey, include this one of a worker painting weather-worn public structures. The work “toes the line between artistic, maintenance and transgressive gesture
Geraldine Kang’s (above) photographs, titled Under The Guise Of Surface in the Singapore Survey, include this one of a worker painting weather-worn public structures. The work “toes the line between artistic, maintenance and transgressive gesture”PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

These days, everything is coming up SG50 - including the visual arts scene.

Galleries are commissioning works and presenting specially curated shows to mark Singapore's 50th anniversary.

Among these are two significant gallery shows: the return of the headline-grabbing Singapore Survey, known for its provocative themes and works, at Artspace at Helutrans; and Sundaram Tagore Gallery's first group show of Singapore artists, Dear Painter.

Singapore Survey, the brainchild of gallerist Valentine Willie, was first held in August 2008, at the start of a global financial crisis. That inaugural show was themed around The Air Conditioned Recession, a riff on media academic and former journalist Cherian George's book of essays on local politics, The Air-Conditioned Nation (2000).

This year's show is the fourth. Mr Willie had presented the other editions before closing his eponymous gallery here in 2012.

The Paper, Some Paper (II) is made from classified ads in local newspapers and raffia string and held together in the shape of a pillar. PHOTO: CHUN KAI QUN

The best remembered show in the series is Beyond LKY in August 2010, in which local artists were asked to imagine a future without the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew .

This year's edition is inspired by a book of essays - Hard Choices, edited by journalist Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh and academic Donald Low, which examines the political conundrums in Singapore today.

Mr Willie, 60, says: "As with all good exhibitions, my aim is to start a conversation, starting with some of the insights shown in the survey .

"I am not asking artists to provide answers to the complex conundrums that are facing Singapore today, nor indeed to confront the contested political landscape."

Instead, as with all previous surveys, the title merely provides a starting point, he adds.

"But a healthy dose of scepticism would not be amiss. This is not a survey of utopia or post-utopia, nor will any freedom prizes be awarded."

Mr Willie now runs VW Special Projects. He decided to resurrect the Singapore Survey after fine art logistics firm Helutrans offered him its exhibition space free for the next five years and pledged to take care of logistics. This took care of the bulk of costs and freed him to focus on curating the show.

Helutrans chief executive Dick Chia says that, of all the exhibitions held at its Artspace in Tanjong Pagar Distripark, the Singapore Surveys were the most well attended - with more than 700 people on opening nights alone.

This year's Survey features 18 artists - ranging from 79-year-old Lee Boon Wang to artists in their 20s such as Eugene Soh and twin brothers Chun Kaifeng and Kai Qun - and a mix of old and new works.

Kai Qun's work is a monumental newspaper and raffia string installation. Titled The Paper, Some Paper (II), the 2015 work comprises suspended sheets of classified advertisements from a local newspaper, threaded loosely with pink raffia and held together in the shape of a pillar.

The 32-year-old artist, who took part in the 2011 edition, says the Singapore Survey "has grown to become more than just an exhibition, but also a means of writing and presenting fragments of our local art history", while addressing the concerns of making art here.

Meanwhile, international gallerist Sundaram Tagore has picked next month to open Dear Painter, for an extended art buzz after National Day.

Put together by independent curator June Yap, the exhibition at his gallery in Gillman Barracks will feature new works by the Chun brothers, Martin Constable, Jane Lee, Warren Khong, Francis Ng, Kai Lam, Shubigi Rao and Jeremy Sharma.

Mr Tagore, who has promoted local artists such as painter Jane Lee at his gallery, says he has had his eye on the Singapore arts landscape since 1993, when he started visiting the country.

"I have always wanted to do a curated show and represent the work of Singaporean artists as it has evolved significantly over the years," says the 53-year-old.

"Dear Painter is mission-driven, it is not random or off-hand. For me, intercultural dialogue is important. We are always trying to intermix local culture with international culture to create a dialogue in our galleries."


    WHERE: Artspace at Helutrans, Tanjong Pagar Distripark

    WHEN: Thursday to Sept 13, noon to 7pm (Thursday to Sunday), closed on public holiday. Over
    the National Day weekend, it will be open on Friday and Saturday, closed on Sunday, and open onAug10.



    WHERE: Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 01-05, 5 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks

    WHEN: Sept 5 to Oct 25, 11am to7pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 11am to 6pm (Sun)


    INFO: Call 6694-3378 or go to

He plans to take the group show to his New York gallery at a later date.

Ms Yap, 42, whose recent curatorial projects include the critically acclaimed Guggenheim Museum touring exhibition No Country: Contemporary Art For South And South-east Asia, calls the SG50 milestone year "a prime juncture for reflection".

"Our art historical narrative is founded on a synthesis of painting methods - the Nanyang style. Thus, you could say an experimental approach is our heritage," she says of the exhibition's title, Dear Painter.

After all, she adds, an artist is shaped by the intersection of aesthetic, cultural, social and political pasts. The Nanyang style of painting, devised by pioneer artists here in the first half of the 20th century, combines Western and Asian techniques with tropical subject matter.

For Dear Painter, artist Jeremy Sharma is working on a polystyrene foam piece, based on real elevation data of an extraterrestrial landscape.

"I am glad to be in excellent company with curation by June Yap. I am sure it will be an exciting show," he says.

The 37-year-old is preparing for a solo exhibition in Berlin in October with gallerist Michael Janssen, who also has a base at Gillman Barracks.

Sharma believes Dear Painter "will lend weight to the discussion of contemporary ideas from painting in Singapore and attract new interest from both collectors and institutions."

If You Think I Winked, I Did

In his first solo exhibition, Singapore artist Khairullah Rahim, 27, focuses on local swimming complexes,  drawing attention to the symbolic meanings hidden in the architectural landscape.

He graduated in 2013 from Goldsmiths, College of London, in partnership with Lasalle College of the Arts,  with first-class honours.

Singapore artist Khairullah Rahim’s I Have Your Back (above). PHOTO: FOST GALLERY

The exhibition is part of Fost Gallery’s Foursight Series, featuring works of four emerging local artists, including Izziyana Suhaimi, AshleyYeo and Luke Heng.

Where: Fost Gallery, 1 Lock Road, 01-02 Gillman Barracks

When: Till Aug 30, 11am to7pm (Tuesday to Saturday), 11am to6pm (Sunday). Viewing on Monday and public  holiday by appointment only

Admission: Free

Info: Call6694-3080 or go to

29.03.15 – by Boo Sze Yang

Painter Boo Sze Yang has done a series reflecting on a momentous day in Singapore’s history–the day founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew died. The mood in these works is sombre, and the muted colour palette creates a brooding sadness.He pays tribute to the spirit of “the ordinary, anonymous Singaporeans”  who mourned together.

Where: iPreciation, 01-01 HPL House, 50 Cuscaden Road,

When: Till Aug 22, 10am to 7pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 6pm (Saturday). Viewings on Sunday and public holiday by appointment

Admission: Free

Info: Call 6339-0678 or go to

Singapore Art Museum National Day Open House

From Friday to Sunday, the Singapore Art Museum is offering free entry from 10am.

There are several fun, family friendly activities themed around the jubilee celebrations as well as ongoing exhibitions such as After Utopia and Once Upon This Island.

Visitors can learn print making techniques, create National Day inspired ornaments or view works by Singapore artists.

Where: Singapore Art Museum, Bras Basah Road.

When: 10am- 7pm, Friday to Sunday (open till 9pm on Friday)

Admission: Free

Influences And Friendships: A Chua Ek Kay Estate Collection

This is a selection of works from the late Chua EkKay’s personal art collection. The 1999 Cultural Medallion  recipient had collected works by many master artists. Included in the showare 21 artworks in Chinese ink and calligraphy, as well as oil and woodcarving.

There are several compelling stories behind the works. For instance, while furthering his studies in Australia,  Chua had financial concerns that ledhim to sell Chinese ink artist PuHua’s (1839-1911) artwork. When his wife found out, she hurried to retrieve the untitled work, which is no won display in the show.

Where: The Private Museum, 02-06, 51 Waterloo Street

When: Till Sept 22, 10am to 7pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 5pm (Saturday & Sunday). Open during National Day weekend

Admission: Free

Info: Call 6738-2872 or go to

Celebration Of Singapore

The group show features works by leading Singapore artists including Chen Wen Hsi and  water colourist Ong Kim Seng.

There are also limited-edition prints of Singapore scenes by British painter and print-maker Brendan Neiland. His works depict the complexity of architecture in the places he visits.

Where: 01-10/11/12 Galerie Belvedere, 140 Hill Street

When: Till Aug 22, 11am to7pm (Monday to Friday), noon to 5pm (Saturday & Sunday)

Admission: Free

Info: Call 6423-1233 or go to

Phrase, Rephrase

Singapore-based painter Kanchana Gupta has been experimenting with oil paint, and the ideas of layering and fragmenting, since her student days at the Lasalle College of the Arts. Her pieces in this group show are an extension of her diploma project, presented in a solo show with the college’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2011.

Painter Kanchana Gupta’s work (above) with burnt and stripped-off oil paint. PHOTO: KANCHANA GUPTA

Other artists in the showare printmakers Shazwany Aziz and Chen Shitong, whose detailed prints on paper  explore shapes, textures and objects through techniques such as silkscreening and monotype printing. Vanessa Ban’s neon-light sculpture with the words “Graveyard Souls & City Ghosts” speaks of her alienation and isolation while studying at the London College of Communication from 2009 to 2012.

Where: Galerie Steph, Artspace@Helutrans, 01-05, 39 Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Distripark

When: Till Sept 19, noon to7pm (Tuesday to Saturday)

Admission: Free

Info: Call 9176-8641 or go to

The Art Journey Of Lim Tze Peng

This exhibition traces the five - decade career of Cultural Medallion recipient Lim Tze Peng.

Born in 1921, he becamea full-time artist after retiring as principal of Chung Cheng High School in 1982.

The more than 30 works on display include ink paintings of Singapore scenes in the 1970s and 1980s, and still  life compositions. The ink landscapes done in the 1990s capture the customs and idyllic charms of Bali. In the early 2000s, he was inspired by trees and calligraphy.

Where: artcommune gallery, Block 231, Bain Street, 03-39 Bras Basah Complex

When: Till Aug 16, daily from noon to 7pm

Admission: Free

Info: Call 6336-4240 or go to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Art for SG50'. Subscribe