It’s been a busy start to the year with Singapore art week and Chinese New Year celebrations. Myself and my merry band of art-loving friends have enjoyed an array of different events in our art journeys in and around Singapore recently.
Kim Lim, Sculpting Light, Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), Singapore.
This is the late sculptor’s first show in Singapore for over three decades, so we wanted to be there. The retrospective was touchingly opened by her two sons and celebrates her body of work on both paper and in stone and marble sculpture. Lim spent most of her adult life on printmaking and sculpture while living in England. Her work therefore naturally fuses eastern and western styles and techniques. Her powerful use of lines, light and texture in her simple, yet striking works inspired by travelling all over the world, especially in Asia, made this exhibition really worthwhile. It was wonderful to see her artwork being recognised for its importance in Singapore after such a long time.
What I didn’t know was that she was married to the late great Scottish sculptor, William Turnbull. We went back to the exhibition a few weeks later and watched a documentary in the space called Beyond Time, which was co-directed by his son Alex and featured music from the influential band 23 Skidoo, of which both Turnbull’s sons are members.
The documentary completed a year before Turnbull’s death is a beautifully shot record of his work, with interviews of art world heavyweights sincerely holding him and his body of work in high regard. While the documentary only mentioned Kim Lim briefly it eluded to their marriage being one of love and mutual respect. What struck me as a whole was not only Turnbull’s single mindedness, maturity in style and talent from a very young age, but that he was part of so many important artistic movements. A member of the Independent group in the fifties who founded Pop Art, he also met both his idols Brancusi and Giacometti, his mentor, during his time living in Paris. In the 60’s he hung out with and became good friends with Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. Turnbull was a prolific artist who excelled in both sculpture and painting. Utterly riveting stuff! Sculpting Light is on until 3rd March 2018 and well worth seeing.
Ambience, Hugh Oliveiro, Australian Embassy, Singapore
I was invited to the opening of Hugh Oliveiro’s first ever exhibition in Singapore held at the Australian embassy in Orchard. Hugh was born and raised in Singapore but has spent the majority of his career as an artist living in Australia. The exhibition was sponsored and arranged by the amazing Glenise Anderson, Founder of the Confident Women and featured a series of contemporary paintings inspired by the richness and imagery of the beautiful Peranekan culture.
As frustrated amateur painters, we spent a long time closely looking at each of his works while listening to Hugh’s beautiful piano playing in the background. We marvelled at his use of pattern and mixed media to create bold and powerful abstract works fused with delicate Peranekan motifs and intricate patterns telling stories of women of both strength and gentleness.
Take the time to go and see this beautiful exhibition, which runs until 28th February 2018. Just remember that the embassy is not open at the weekends and you are also required to show identification to enter.
The Century of Light, The National Gallery, Singapore
It is the first time that impressionism has come to Singapore in the time I’ve lived here. I was surprised to hear that although Monet and Renoir featured heavily in the National Gallery’s promotion for the exhibition, their works were outnumbered by the artists that influenced the movement, such as Edouard Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour and Eugene Boudin, other lesser known Impressionists such as the incredible Alfred Sisley and post Impressionist painters Lucien Pissarro and Paul Signac. Whether it was impossible for the gallery to get their hands on some of the larger works from Musee D’Orsay by the leading lights of Impressionism today, or a stroke of genius by the National Gallery’s curatorial team, it gave the exhibition an unexpected and refreshing angle. For a European art lover who cycled through the countryside to Monet’s house in Giverny many years ago, and spent the whole day gazing into his lily pond and drooling over his incredible garden it was unexpectedly refreshing. The exhibition managed to give equal weight to some of the other incredibly talented but somewhat less famous (now) artists that was defined by short brushstroke, use of light and outdoor or en plein air painting.
Having deliberately avoided the huge crowd that the exhibition was likely to have attracted when it opened in November last year I finally went to have a look. Each piece included carefully detailed descriptions of each of the works, although maybe too much detail for an audience perhaps less familiar with Impressionism as Europeans are. Details were also missing about the significance of the Salon de Paris, for example, which would have given the exhibition and 19th century France some context. However it did clearly explain the influences of impressionism on the neo impressionist movement by Paul Cezanne, Seurat and Signac.
The incredible works of Sisley, Fantin-Latour, Boudin, Camille Pissarro, Manet, Cezanne, and Caillebotte’s shone out for their renderings of light, nature and mood in the landscapes and characters around them. By the time I reached the more popular and recognisable Monet’s and Renoir’s, some of their allure had dissipated leaving me with the sense of them being a little commonplace by comparison. I feel this only serves to highlight the breadth and talent of this collection of 19th century painters, which is what I enjoyed so much about the exhibition. However I will say that seeing Monet’s Magpie was a real treat.
That is aside from the two very loud women who had perhaps enjoyed a liquid lunch before embarking on the exhibition who kept loudly exclaiming, ‘and where’s the Monet?’ at the very embarrassed looking gallery guide, completely oblivious of the disruption they had caused to the few of us who had looked forward to a peaceful afternoon at the gallery. Shame on you ladies!
Century of Light is a must see for seasoned Impressionist fans, artists and art lovers who are less familiar with the movement. Make sure you read the wall text accompanying each painting for detail and context and I would recommend going on a quiet afternoon or an early morning if you get the chance. There is also a charming excerpt from a movie by Sacha Guitry, Those of our Land, 1915 (seen in the featured image of the post) at the end for die-hard Monet and Renoir fans. The exhibition finishes on 11th March 2018.
Kimono: Comparison and Alternation lecture at the Japanese Creative Centre, Singapore.
I have long admired Japanese fashion and the amazing elegance of the kimono but it is the first time I had ever learnt about the past, present and future of kimono design, told by Grand Master Guraku Akifusa who also performed with different dancers who were wearing various styles of traditional and modern kimono. Enlightening!
Nick Ut, My story, the Art Science Museum, Singapore
I was really excited about the Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist’s talk at the Art Science Museum a few weeks ago and registered with Leica, its sponsor online. Their confirmation advised us to arrive ‘15-30 minutes before the starting time’ as entrance was not guaranteed. Arriving 35 minutes early, we were confronted by complete disarray with hundreds of people waiting to register so we joined the queue, circling around an empty exhibition space. It was soon clear that this was not going to be one of our more enjoyable art journeys.
We were not told anything for 45 minutes, only whiling away the time observing some very stressed museum assistants barricading the lifts with hoards of people still arriving. By the time someone finally came to speak to us we received no apology for our wait or explanation as to why the event had been so over subscribed. When I told the sour faced Leica representative that we had only followed their emailed instructions, she disappointingly took no responsibility, snapping that ‘a lot of people were turned away who had waited for over an hour’, begrudgingly suggesting that I could watch the live stream on Facebook.
That whole interaction highlighted that the event had been organised with no contingency plan, proper registration system or clearer messaging. The poor museum assistants who were flapping around should have been briefed to suggest to everyone waiting to watch it on Facebook as consolation, guaranteeing lots of positive online activity. How easy would it have been to project the talk into the adjoining empty exhibition space so that everyone who had gone out of their way to hear the talk could experience it too?
This has unfortunately happened to me before at the Art Science Museum and although I like going there on a quiet day, it will certainly be the last time we spend a precious Saturday afternoon in a queue with no end.