In recent times, cultural institutions across the world have been attempting to give due recognition to artists overlooked by the establishment. They include women artists, older artists and the so-called artists “of colour” (denoting non-white artists).
A most recent example is the Oscars, which gave out its biggest awards to a Chinese woman (Chloe Zhao for Best Director), an African-American man (Daniel Kaluuya for Best Supporting Actor) and a Korean septuagenarian (Yuh-Jung Youn for Best Supporting Actress) – a signal of its commitment to inclusivity following decades of bias towards white men.
National Gallery Singapore has chosen to be equally socially-conscious. Its new exhibition opening on May 7, features six post-independence Singapore artists who, despite their talents and innovations, frequently don’t find the spotlight.
They are Chng Seok Tin, Mohammad Din Mohammad, Goh Beng Kwan, Eng Tow, Jaafar Latiff and Lin Hsin Hsin. Of the six, three are women and two are Malay – an uncommonly enlightened composition as far as museum shows in Singapore go.
The delicate abstract paintings of artist Lin Hsin Hsin are featured in a darkened room, making them glow like mother-of-pearl.
Each artist has been honoured with a solo presentation that explores their practice over the years, and the works run the gamut from ink paintings and batik art, to digital art and poetry. Although the exhibition as a whole is slightly uneven due to the varying strengths of the artists, there are sections of it that are really quite spectacular.
The show is titled Something New Must Turn Up: Six Singaporean Artists After 1965, based on the words of artist and critic Ho Ho Ying who wrote in 1963: “Strictly speaking, Realism has passed its golden age; Impressionism has done its duty; Fauvism and Cubism are declining. Something new must turn up to succeed the unfinished task left by our predecessors.”
Something new always does turn up, but history – already teeming with names and notations, not to mention bias – doesn’t always make room. Kudos to the National Gallery for dusting off neglected narratives and redressing under-representations in the Singapore canon. Every art lover should catch this show – it may be many years before you see some of these splendid works in the flesh again.
Ahead a brief look at the works you can expect at the show.
Something New Must Turn Up: Six Singaporean Artists After 1965 runs from May 7 to Aug 22 at National Gallery Singapore
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