Yoshitomo Nara

Art by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara
Punch Me Harder, 2000. Acrylic on paper, 220 x 197 cm. Courtesy of Whitestone Gallery.

Even if you do not “get” art, the works of one of Japan’s leading figures of the ’90s neo pop art movement should be easy to appreciate. He may be 57 years old, but his cartoonish depictions of big-eyed children and animals are adorable – until one notices that they appear more sinister than sweet (the weapons and words in the paintings are big hints). Drawing from elements of popular culture from both the East and West, this contemporary of Takashi Murakami has had several touring retrospectives, with the Asia Society’s “Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool” being the first major New York exhibition of his early oeuvre in fall 2010.


Robert Zhao

Art by Singapore artist Robert Zhao
Deer Park, 2016. Archival pigment print, 84 x 121 cm, edition of 5 + 1 AP. Courtesy of Mizuma Gallery.

The camera never lies – but not if you’re viewing the photos of this Singaporean multi-disciplinary artist. The founder of the Institute of Critical Zoologists (a make-believe “research centre” that’s actually a platform to showcase his art and is, in itself, a conceptual art project) uses photography to present his studies of the natural world and history, similar to a documentarian or an archivist. But upon closer inspection, questions will arise: Are these animals for real? Test your prowess of observation and knowledge (or lack thereof) with the digitally-manipulated realism of this National Arts Council Young Artist Award winner.


Yayoi Kusama

Infinity-Nets [PKF], 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 162 x 130.3cm. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts.
Large, small, black, white – polka dots (as well as nets and mirrors) rule the world of this renowned Japanese sculptor, performance artist, painter and novelist. Even though her practice revolves around the heavy subjects of inner fears and obsessions, the repetitive patterned works of this grand matron of the avant-garde arts world (she’s lived through nine decades!) are popular enough to be translated onto stationery, home accessories and even Uniqlo tees. But nothing beats seeing the real thing – even if you can’t afford it.


Melissa Tan

Art by Singapore artist Melissa Tan
2007 WD5, 2015. Acrylic on watercolour paper and powder-coated steel, 131 x 112 x 3cm. Courtesy of Richard Koh Fine Art.

Turning paper into sculptures: Impossible until it’s done (and we’re not talking about origami and cut-out toys). This 27-year-old Singaporean not only makes pieces that bring to mind boulders, they are also intricate, delicately layered, and yes, crafted from paper (albeit, mixed up with acrylic paint and metal). While she has only been practising this full-time for six years, she was most recently commissioned to produce works for the Singapore Biennale 2016.


Zhu Jinshi

Zhu Jinshi, Flock of Birds The Idiot Explains, 2015. Oil on canvas, 180 x 160cm. Courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries.

To the layman, the technique of impasto seems like artistic therapy (imagine slapping slabs of paint onto canvas). But in the hands of this factory worker- turned-art practitioner, the results are inches-thick paintings that can pass for colourful, concrete walls. While the 62-year-old may hail from China, his works tend towards Western-styled abstraction, and – call us superficial – we like them because they are big, bold, vivid, and make for outstanding backgrounds for our OOTDs.

Art Stage Singapore 2017 takes place from January 12-15 2017 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. From $26, buy tickets here.


Main image: Untitled 4, 2016. Oil on canvas, 180 x 160cm. Courtesy of Pearl Lam Galleries.

Like this? Check out this Singaporean fine art photographer who creates the most haunting works, a local artist who conjures up nostalgic images of Singapore, and the must-go arts events this month.