From The Straits Times    |

Picture credit: Facebook/nationalgallery

We’ve all stared at a painting and not get the memo – not everyone’s an art critic. From now till next April, Singapore will be seeing a wave of wonderful, forward-thinking art work that blends contemporary ideas with Singapore’s history. This time, you’ll be able experience art beyond paintings and stagnant sculptures. If you’ve always wanted to enjoy art but switched off in the middle of a long explanation behind a 200 year old painting, we’ve cut it down for you. Here are four exhibitions and the main installations you should check out this January. 


I Light Singapore

Where: Elgin Bridge, Cavenagh Bridge, Anderson Bridge, Esplanade Bridge, Jubilee Bridge and The Helix bridge

When: Jan 28 to Feb 24 

Why go: Sustainable, familiar and historical – the exhibition in a sentence.

I think it’s safe to say that i Light is the only art festival in Singapore that’s been keeping to the theme of sustainability even before it became a thing. This year, the festival will be featuring 31 installations and a multimedia show (all are sustainable, without question) that are celebrating the concept of home and heritage. Out of the 31 artworks, 17 are by Singaporean artists and design students. So show a little support for our local art scene and head down for an illuminating (geddit?) experience.

We recommend: Cenotaph of a Stone by Bryan Joseph Cadag, Loo Quan Le, Zulkarnain Bin Mohd Zin from National University of Singapore.

Reinterpreting the value of the Singapore Stone in contemporary form, the exhibit transforms as the viewer moves around it. A faux stone commemorating the mysticism behind the Singapore Stone is the centre of the piece. Shifting into a time-warped explosion as the visitor walks around the perimeter of the art piece, the piece reconciles the mysticism entrenched in Singapore’s history with the city’s modernity.

If you don’t know much about the Singapore Stone, here’s a little tidbit for you to digest: It’s a large sandstone slab that dates back to the 13th century believed to have originated from two stone pillars built by the Sumatran Rajah. The inscription, although still undeciphered, is believed to be Sumatran.



Where: Gallery & Co. inside National Gallery 

When: now to Apr 14

Why go: Inside the restaurant, from tableware to furniture, no two items are alike.

We’re talking about the art movement.  Minimalist art first emerged post World War II – basically, art had become too academic and too elitist and like how all dated ideas have contemporary challengers, Minimalism was birthed out of a reaction against Abstract Expressionism. Think geometrical structures, stark motifs and solid colors.

Minimalist art doesn’t need much to make a statement and that’s what Gallery & Co. is doing with their shop and restaurant (all located inside National Gallery Singapore). The exhibition has been going on since mid-November so Gallery & Co. are doing their bid to enhance the Minimalism experience. You can’t pay homage to Minimalism without incorporating it into your decor; as part of the exhibition, Gallery & Co. has invited contemporary British artist Martin Creed to transform their restaurant into one of his famous installations.

Picture credit: The Wallpaper

We recommend: Creed’s installation is titled Work No. 1343, a playful reiteration of his work in London’s Sketch Gallery’s restaurant. Where this installation is concerned, nothing can match (literally). Even the cups can’t come in just different colours and the silverware has to be unique (you’ll see no sets here).

You may think that a restaurant with furniture assembled from all over Singapore may be headed towards interior decor disaster. Well, for Gallery and Co., the odds seem to be in their favour. Stepping into the restaurant, you get a mish mash of vintage chairs with worn-in upholstery, rattan chairs in different sizes, ornate coffee tables and cork dining tables. Caveat: These items were donated by The Salvation Army and many other Singaporeans. With Creed, his art work goes right down into the details of the restaurant – tea is served in a Chinese teapot and poured into an English teacup.

But what is a restaurant without its food? Well, Head Chef Shawn Koh has woven the Minimalist principles into the food. Chef Koh has created three refreshing items.

The main: A pan-seared halibut with yoghurt tzatziki is served alongside cucumber done two ways;  pickled cucumber ribbons and compressed cucumber with osmanthus syrup. The osmanthus’ floral notes complemented the fish and the pickled cucumber gave the dish a refreshing crunch.

The drink: Cucumber and ginger flower syrup, sparkling and thirst-quenching.

The dessert: You can eat art – the restaurant is presenting a Pu’er Mousse Cake in the form of a cube. If this doesn’t ring any bells in your head, it’s time to head on over to check out the exhibition at the National Gallery. Inspired by Ai Wei Wei’s “A Ton of Tea” (same dude who dropped a Han Dynasty urn), the Pu’er mousse has a subtle fragrance and a very mild bitterness. You won’t taste it right on, but it definitely cuts down the sweetness of the honey sponge body and the Gula Melaka centre.


SEA Focus

Where: Gilman Barracks

When: Jan 23 to Jan 27

Why go: A fine art pop-up for the everyday person.

Organised with the aim of connecting the public to the seemingly elitist nature of fine art, S.E.A. Focus is bringing to us 25 galleries from around Southeast Asia. Set up in the form of a boutique art fair, established Singaporean galleries like Art Commune and Yavuz Gallery will also be part of the fair. By showcasing a myriad of works, the fair supports budding SEA artists while also bringing internationally acclaimed artists to our shores.

We recommend: Look out for the works of Filipino social media sensation, Yeo Kaa. Her work is the definition of eye candy. Bright colors, pastels and a unique stylistic approach to fictional characters. Despite that, her work isn’t like candyland at all. The stories told by her characters are macabre (you’ll see that her sketches are a mix of dismembered bodies, crime scenes and tears). By layering contrasting components, Yeo Kaa’s presentation of the world’s chaos is deftly (if not accurately) condensed into colours and brush strokes.


Light to Night Festival

Where: National Gallery Singapore and National Museum of Singapore

When: Jan 18 to Feb 24

Why go: A sensorial journey, all in the name of art.

Third time’s the charm. Next year, Light to Night Festival is returning with a bumper edition that will last for six weeks for their third year. The theme for this edition is Traces and Echoes – going through this exhibition will make you tingle in some type of way. Their light show team, Art Skins on Monuments, will be putting up a show titled The Odyssey.

No, it’s not Homer’s classic but it is inspired by the age-old literary canon; the piece will allow viewers to follow the artistic voyage of an explorer across cultural institutions in search of his identity. There is also a Sensorial Trail featuring artists who are using different sensory mediums. These works all focus on the idea of Singapore’s past, present and future.

We recommend: One of the main highlights of the Sensorial Trail is a scentscape by Sissel Tolaas. Sissel Tolaas’ (an internationally-renowned scent researcher and artist) scentscape, eau d’you Who Am I, brings the audience back to Singapore’s youth. Tolaas’ scentscape is based off her research on the collective scent of the Singapore population – you will be able to get a whiff of it by touching the wall in her exhibition. Perhaps it’ll remind you of the old Botanical Gardens? Just a guess.