From The Straits Times    |

Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Wu Guanzhong: Travelling with the Master is the National Gallery Singapore’s sixth edition of their series on the Chinese ink master’s approach to traditional Chinese ink and contemporary art. But there’s something special about this edition, as it’s the first to be co-created by docents (guides in museums and galleries) who have breathed new life into the exhibition.

We learn more about Wu Guanzhong’s spirit of travel which saw him visit Europe, Africa and more through the eyes of these enthusiastic women who offer fresh perspectives on the storied Chinese artist’s work. Wu’s varied collection consists of abstract paintings, sketches and realist depictions containing aspects of conceptual, physical, imaginative, and emotional travel that are illustrated for audiences to discover and contemplate.

The docent-curator team comprises Gertrude Tan, Queenie Chow, Stella Rong and Tina Nixon, who worked alongside the Gallery’s curator, Jennifer Lam in creating this exhibition. The four ladies responded to the Gallery’s open call inviting docents to make proposals for an exhibition on Wu Guanzhong using artworks from the Gallery’s collection.

From left to right: Tina Nixon, Stella Rong, Gertrude Tan and Queenie Chow.
Not pictured: Jennifer Lam, National Gallery Singapore curator.
Credit: National Gallery Singapore

“Docents are integral to the museum experience, and it was natural to invite them to participate in our inaugural co-created exhibition. We hope that as audiences explore Wu Guanzhong’s art through the lenses of the docent-curators, they will be inspired to connect their own experiences, and gain a newfound appreciation for his masterful practice,” explains Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore.

Being fervent fans of Wu who share a burning passion for the arts, the docents, under the guidance of National Gallery Singapore curator Jennifer Lam, shared their knowledge and drew connections between his art and their lived experiences through personal anecdotes, reflections and photos.

Besides curating artworks and refining the exhibition narrative, they shared their own experiences, drawing connections between Wu’s art and travel and general audiences. Interestingly, you can read the docents’ bilingual commentary and stories on the museum labels. If you can, do read both the English and Chinese labels, as the labels aren’t translations of the other — rather, each is an anecdote from a different docent.

Credit: National Gallery Singapore

The exhibition is split into four sections, Daydreaming, Exploring, Rhapsodies and Beyond the Horizon. 

Daydreaming invites the audience to explore Wu’s vast mind through stylised strokes and simple dots and lines that depict the concept of travel, while abstract paintings capture the essence of Wu’s imagination.

In Exploring, the docent-curators visited China, making a stop in Wu’s hometown Jiangnan to relive his travels — which were not breezy, considering the times during which he travelled, a testament to his endless pursuit of artistic inspiration.

Wu’s sketch of An Indian Temple In Singapore, 1990 can be seen on the left.
Credit: National Gallery Singapore

Beyond the Horizon follows Wu’s globetrotting exhibitions, and you can even see him in action in photos displayed on a world map. Keep a lookout for Wu’s 1990 sketch of a colourful Indian temple in Singapore, complete with HDBs in the background!

Tigers (I), 1990.
Credit: Natalie-Elizabeth Tan

The final section, Rhapsodies, showcases Wu’s artist mind, with the painting Tigers (I) showing us how he interprets the landscape of the Yellow Earth as a streak of tigers.

Wu Guanzhong: Travelling with the Master will run from 9 July 2022 to 30 October 2022 at National Gallery Singapore’s Wu Guanzhong Gallery, with accompanying programmes such as docent tours in English and Chinese. Admission is free for Singaporeans and PRs. You may find more information here.