Soul Stirring Universe of Art

Singapore Art Stage 2016 continues to offer a strong and intoxicating showing of art and more, this time with 34 countries taking part, writes Sarah NH Vogeler


SINGAPORE Art Week – nine days of non-stop art in all possible / impossible forms sends tiny but potent electric shocks at the base of one’s spine. And the anchor event is the now world-famous Art Stage Singapore.

Now in its sixth year, Singapore Art Stage has over 170 galleries from 34 countries pulling out all stops to exhibit their works. Yes, art can be pricey, to the point of being ridiculously outrageous to most, but you cannot put a price on its power. And the Singapore Art Stage has triumphed as a pivotal platform for our highly-charged cultural zeitgeist.

Held at The Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, the five-day (including Vernissage aka private showing on Jan 20) event saw a slight plummet of attendance, from 51,000 last year to 40,500 this year. But never mind that – the whole showing was more intoxicating than ever, with a strong Asia showing of 133 exhibitors including 37 from Singapore alone. And the Malaysian galleries which participated proferred some of the most thrilling works. Not all of course, as there were a few “distresses”, but overall, a surely piquant experience.

Founder and President Lorenzo Rudolf shares: “When we decided to create an international art fair in Singapore six years ago, our main target was to support the Southeast Asian Art scenes and to promote and position them in the international art world.”

He continues: “Art Stage Singapore has never been a fair, which only tries to benefit from local or regional economic growth. On the contrary, from the very beginning, we’ve made significant financial and personal investments to matchmake the region’s art ecosystems with collectors, curators, museum directors, artists and galleries from all over Asia and the world. We take our responsibility seriously as a flagship art fair and catalyst.”



From Core Design Gallery came the works of artist Ali Nurazmal Yusoff with his three large-scale canvases – an epidemic of carmine mechanisms straight out of William Blake’s poem Milton.

Done between 1805 and 1810, The Great Red Dragon paintings were commissioned to explicate works of the Bible, in particular the Great Red Dragon in several parts from the Book of Revelation, Rev. 12:3-4, King James Version:-

And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.

Ali’s works has that plunging feel to it, of sinking into quicksand and rescued so hurriedly. Push Button, Resurrection and Ralik 2 are works which compel you to re-think what you’re all about.

Meanwhile, Wei-Ling Gallery unveiled works by artists Chin Kong Yee, Choy Chun Wei, Yau Bee Ling, Chen Wei-Meng, Michael Macku, Stewart Macfarlane, Ivan Lam and Amin Gulgee.

There was also Chong Kim Chew’s interactive installation, Badminton Court, where instead of a net, a foreboding fence was erected with alludes to invisible divisions between us and the world, with each other. It addressed themes of isolation and seething frustration over the lack of intelligent communication.

Then there was Ivan Lam, whose offering, They Will Kill Us All, simply implodes. The only Malaysian artist gifted with a solo show at Art Basel Hong King in 2013, Lam has exhibited worldwide, his paintings featured in both Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The artist’ painting, of a child aiming her hand, fingers shaped into a gun at another, is in his own words: “It’s pretty self-explanatory. The question here is who are they? They are anyone and everyone.” The children in the painting as his, making the portrait ever more dreadfully shocking and poignant: the consequences of being cruxified by sin not of their own creation.

From Taksu Galleries it was Malaysian contender Najib Bamadhaj who was one of the undeniable standouts. His paintings of an Orang Utan escaping his home for better “pastures” is moving; an artist’s views on deforestation, of being made homeless, of wandering aimlessly and depleting faith. Through the use of stenciling and markings, a favourite of street art practitioners, Najib’s canvases scream of his own fears of an uncertain future.



The Art Stage Singapore effect is a phenomenal one. It also saw the debut of the Southeast Asia Forum, whose aim is to accentuate the equilibrium between art, commerce and content. The forum is a thematic programme which took on a more intensive and deeper observation into broad global concerns that affect our immediate region and existence.

This year’s theme was ‘Seismography: Sensing the City – Art in the Urbang Age”, of two synergetic portions, a selling exhibition and talks.



So what were some of the most outstanding works in Singapore Art Week?

For me, it was the Sous la lune / Beneath the Moon, a collaborative effort between Palais de Tokyo and Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, LASALLE College of the Arts. Curated by Palais de Tokyo’s Deputy Director of Artistic Programming Khairuddn Hori, the show, curated in a refreshingly free and “exposed” way, aims to be the catalyst for trans-geographical, transcultural encounters and dialogue.

Sous la lune runs until Feb 3.

The Singapore Art Museum or SAM has also announced its 2016 Biennale, which will run from October 28 until February 26,2017. One of the co-curators will be Malaysian Nur Hanim Khairuddin. At the press conference, one Malaysian artist was publicised as a participant – Ahmad Fuad Osman.

The rest, as Hanim said, will be announced accordingly. It will be interesting to see what our artists have to offer the biennale’s theme: An Atlas of Mirrors – an investigation of curatorial and creative leitmotifs that pivot on Southeast Asia.

Ahmad Fuad Osman isn’t a new name. A co-founder of the Matahati Art Group, his works are imbued with key socio-political disputes. His Recollections of Long Lost Memories comes to mind whenever his name is uttered. First shown in Galeri Petronas in December 2007 and later went on to receive the 2008 Juror’s Choice Award at the APBF Signature Art Prize, the series of 70 odd prints on digital paper depict pictures of historic snaps taken between 1860 and 2003.

We wait for the next Art Stage Singapore, to once more engage in a focused culture programme that simply makes going to Singapore a MUST!!



Published by: Art Plush – Life & Times, New Sunday Times

Publication Date: 31st January 2016


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