Visit to Singapore Art Museum [Part II]

•September 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Another ongoing exihibiton in SAM is Vetnamese Art after 1990, featuring art that responds to the dynamic changes in economic, social and political structures since Vietnam’s adoption of open-door policies.The implementation of Doi Moi in 1986,with its economic reforms that transformed
the socialist economy from rigid centralplanning to an “open door” market orientation,signalled new developments for Vietnamese contemporary art. With the adoption of open-door policies, Vietnamese art is no longer restricted to social realism, artists can once again exercise freedom in their art that would be acceptable to a greater audience.  

I was quite foreign to Vietnamese Art, whether it is comtemporary or modern art as the history of Vietnamese art is not touched in SOVA under AEP curriculum. Thus, this exhibition proved to be both educational and worthwhile.

I saw this painting that grabbed my attention. It is called “The Dictator” by Le Quang Ha.

A closer look made me realise that it is a mutated fugure with as many as eight arms spreading out the entire width of the painting. The figure seems to be morphed out from a pile of  machineries and melted metal in the background. The clustering of metals and of arms grasping in all directions shows clearing the negative impact that industralisation and modernisation have posed on the human condition.

The work which was done in 2007 was an examination and expression of the current relationship between art and the social environment.  In recent years, we see Vietnam as a rapidly developing enconomy, it is fast becoming yet another faceless city.  Old histrical buildings were demolished to make way for factories for manufacturing and production.  The country’s rich culture, traditional values are slowly changing as the country progress.

 Le Quang Ha, unlike other Vietnamese artists who, with the liberlisation of open-door policies, chose to flirt with nostalgia and romanticise the cultural past, decided to send out messages and statements about the changing parameters of Vietnam’s social environment through his art. These bold messages go against the romantisism and idealism characteristic of Vietnamese art. Although there is much controversy arising from the use of art as a vehicle of critique as seen in his works, I believe that it is his deviances from other Vietnamese artists that made him refreshing and admirable.

During an interview for his exhibition “Altered Faces”, he admitted that one of the greatest challenges of being an artist is “to dare to negate old and established things, especially those that are unprogressive, and to challenge tradition, culture and values. One has to break down idols, even if it is God, to let oneself fabricate a more civilized and new cultural order.”   What he said was true and I think that the fact that he had suceeded in countering unprogressive art made hime a true artist who produces good art that is able to endure the test of time.

I believe that in modern societies today, art not only serve for asethetics, creativity and sanctuary for the soul, it also serve for profit gain. The artist draws what the society wants to see, it is not a true reflection of the socety, but a distortion that pleases the society with its illusionment, thereby making profit gains as the demand for his work increases. Thus, it is rare to see good art nowadays, art that fights ugliness, stand up against the tyranny of the rich and protests against injustice. Art that makes an attempt to instigate changes to socio-political changes. 

What made Le Quang Ha outstanding and admirable is his courage is to use art to go against frivolous, temporal art and attempt to make a dent on the society. The rough, sometimes obscene quality of his work may not please the viewer, but it is true as it is reflective of the socio political problems in Vietnam, therefore it is enduring and reponsible art.  


Course work

•September 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment
2-3 hrs

medium:acrylic Duration: 2-3 hrs

 A research drawing for course work, I forgot to put it inside my sketchbook for grading 😦

Visit to Singapore Art Museum

•August 29, 2008 • Leave a Comment
Greatly devoted to art and AEP, Anning and I went to Singapore Art Museum after cross country. There is an exhibition called “Xu Bei Hong In NanYang” whereby his Chinese ink paintings, oil paintings and freehand ink and colour paintings are displayed. Photography is not permitted so we didn’t get to take a picture of us with Mr Xu’s paintings ;( 

What is most significant about Xu Bei Hong’s work is a common theme expressing patriotism and love for his country. For example, from the short summaries of his work, I noticed that Chinese ink painting of horses are symbolism for freedom, energy and strength that was wished upon China in war with the Japanese.

Another painting, done in ink and colour also commented on the war between China and Japan. It is titled “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains” done in 1940. It is also interesting because there are influences of other cultures seen in this painting. This aspect will be discussed in greater detail in this essay.


Information Extracted from SAM: “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains” is based on the story of Beichan Yugong from the classic work Liezi. In the story, the old man decided
to remove the two mountains in front of his house. Although ridiculed as a folly, the old man reasoned that if his sons and grandsons persevered in the task, the mountains would be removed eventually. When God learnt of the old man’s determination, he was so moved that he ordered that the mountains be moved. This story is important for Xu as he wanted to use it as a metaphor to praise Chinese efforts in resisting Japanese aggression at the time.
The main reason why this work interests me is its western influence. During the exhibition, I noticed that Mr. Xu usually approached paintings with a freehand style used in Chinese ink paintings, generalising shapes and displaying rich brushwork and ink technique as seen in “Standing Horse” However, in “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains”, he is very meticulous about details, the forms are carefully modeled. Composition wise, Xu has discarded the strict composition characteristic of classical Chinese paintings and instead opted for a more complex composition. There is also a fixed-point perspective in this painting. Mr Xu did not deviate too much from realism, in this painting, the colours used are naturalistic, body forms of the workers are carefully and realistically modeled and the precise anatomical proportion are all an effort to portray an realistic image of the subject matter.

The subject matter also displays an integration of Western ideas and cultural encounter between China and the West; this makes the painting interesting and meaningful. The workers in this painting are a combination of Chinese and Indian nationality. Mr Xu made this distinction difference in physical traits. For the Chinese workers, his skin tone is lighter as compared to that of the Indian workers. However, the most obvious difference is the physique of the workers. The Chinese man is fit, lean and muscular while the Indian man has excessive abdominal fat and has more facial hair than the Chinese man. Indian Man also wears pajama pants. The integration of Indian practices is displayed in the use of elephants as domestic animals. The elephant is widely domesticated and can be used for ceremonial purposes in India. By placing it alongside with the water buffalo, it brings about a contrast between the two cultures’ domestic practices.

Mr Xu can be considered as an influential artist in China. During his time, it is common among Chinese painters to copy paintings, thus most works were divorced from real life. There are some Western elements, ideas in this painting that is absent in his previous ink paintings and calligraphy. Thus, this work is of great significance in showing Xu’s break away from traditional Chinese painting. 

 Other Masterpieces:

“Portrait of Rabindranath Tagore” (1940)

“Put Down Your Whip” (1939)




•August 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment
1.5 hours
Medium: lousy paint Duration: 1.5 hours

I was reminiscing the olden days when I could just take a brush and paint freely, uncaring about grades, teachers’ negative comments or friends’  criticisms. So i painted this! I succeeded in making this look childish yet vibrant in its colours and aesthetically appealing. But it is deliberate! I had to spend so much time trying to make this look careless in its brush work, childish in its outlines and etc. I guess it could be a good thing, since it shows that my art skills have matured over the years, but it is also depressing to know that i can no longer paint freely without caring for its aesthetic appeal and other superficialities like how it will look on this blog.

The most exciting day of my life

•August 24, 2008 • 3 Comments
This picture is taken before i went bungee jumping, that is why it is the most exciting day of my life. It is of the Singapore river, i never knew it can be this beautiful.

Love Bird

•August 24, 2008 • 3 Comments
over a few weeks
Medium: collage Duration: over a few weeks

Being in AEP in four years, I’ve always liked this collage. It is my first collage done in Nanyang AEP and it is so fun to work on this piece! I love the whole process of research and development, coming up with the logo design, preparing the textures and finally cutting and pasting to form the logo. I remember my fingers becoming sore and my arm muscles trembling when i hold the stencil and cut though thick drawing paper, but the hard work is all worth it! Sorry for bragging, but i got 85/100 for this logo design, the highest so far! Maybe this is why i venture into collage for all subsequent assignments.



AEP Block Test

•August 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Question 2 a) Describe the subject matter of these paintings. 

Liu Kang’s painting “Seated Model” is of a Balinese woman sitting on a woodem chair in a rural surroundinsg. She is topless, with her right hand holding a white flower while the other hand holdng her right shoulder. She is sitted in a relaxed m a relaxed manner and appears to be dozing off. The subject matter is in the center of the painting and the background appears to be a archetecture structure surrounded with plants. The setting is in Bali, where Liu Kang, together with other artists stayed at in search for a visual expression that was Southeast Asian.

In Hendra Gunawan’s “Bundung asa Sea of Fire”,  a scene during the anti-communist massacre of the 1960s in Indonesia is portrayed. The painting is divided by a strong diagonal, in the form od the hill that separates the foreground from the background. In the foreground, a man is seen lying on the ground, on the brink of death with his knees buckled and eyes rolled. A woman is crawling towards him, with blood flowing out from her mouth. In the background, it id crowded with refugees carrying their belongings and running up a hill, away from a fire and collapsing of buildings on the top right-hand crner of the painting. The subject metter in this painting are painted with earthy tones of browns and blacks. There seems to be little dlending and the choopy, thick and messy brush strokes are used to suggest chaotic and messy environment.

Question 2 b) Analyse and interpret the artists’ intentions.

In Liu Kang’s work, he had taken the effort ot portray the subject matter and its surroundings in a realistic mannner, the naturalistic colours are well-blended and forms are carefully modelled, this exudes beauty, tranquility and peace in his work. The setting of the painting- a rural village in Bali-also tells us that he wanted to capture the simplicity and peacefulness of rural living with contrast to the chaotic, catastrophic environment in Jarkarta. The lush green bushes in the background, the bare feet of the sleeping woman and the balanced composition all suggest clse proximity with nature and harmony with the earth. The topless woman in the painting shows the innocence and purity in moral and ethics of the simple Balinese people in rural areas. The white flower that the girl is holding is a symbolism for innocence of the mind and love for the nature.

In Hendra Gunawan’s work, it suggests a sense of panic, chaos and catastophic environment as the Indonesian refugees are running away from the anti-communist massacre of the 1960s. In this painting, the use of bright,intense and highly striking colours of red and yellow contrasts with the dull earthy tones to bring about a sense of alarm and fear in people,The artists,by choosing  such bloody colours, wanted to convey the cruelty of bloodshed caused by the anti-communist raids. The figure in the foreground who has his knees buckled and eyes rolled is most frightening as he glared at the viewer. This might be a symbolism of the artist himself who is disluusioned with the state of affairs. The fire and collaapsing buildings at the top right-hand corner of the painting gives thepainting a scene of destruction and chaos.

 Question 2 c) Discuss the impact of the two paintings on you.

Liu Kang’s realistic painting of the woman and her rural village creates a sense of tranquility and peace in me. The stillness of the woman as she rests and her relaxed posture portrays peaceful and undisturbed state of mind. When I looked at the painting, the natualistic and soothing colours and the peacefulness of the subject matter make me feel relaxed and at ease. When I looked at the paintings, there is a yearning to escape from the stressful, urban surroundings that I live in and instead live in the rural villages whereby there is freedom and peace. As I looked at the woman who is barefeet and topless, I feel this freedom in her that those living in the city can never feel as they are often pressured by society to conform, to wear clothes and wear shoes wherever they are. There is not a moment for them to relax in their garden and be part of the nature. Liu Kang’s work had thus evoked a sense of longing and nostalgia for the life in rural areas and in olden days.

In Hendra Gunawan’s work, I feel the sense of panic and fear that the artist had tried to express in his work. The man and woman seen in the foreground, on the brink of death. Their frightening experience filled me with digust and fear for violence and war. In the background, the explosions and black fumes, with people running away from the bomb site conveys panic and hysteria. The painting has alerted to me the predicament of causualties of war and urged me to sympathse with the victims, as well as to take a stand against war and violence. Indonesia’s struggle for independance from the colonial rule and communist incursions as depicted in the painting parallels with Singapore’s social strife to gain independance in the 1960s as well as the 1964 racial riot that resulted in 30 dead and many injured. It made me realise the fragility of peace and that we should all work hard to maintain peace and stability in our country.