The National Gallery Singapore opened on Nov 24, 2015 and in line with the opening celebrations, entry was free to all till Dec 6 (online registration needed). It boasts of an extensive South East Asian Collection but what I loved most is we now have a home to house the most beautiful works of Singapore's pioneer artistes all under one roof. City Hall and the former Supreme Court - 2 great iconic buildings that borne witness to many historical events in Singapore are now creatively linked to form this architecture beauty, a project that took 10 years in the making.
The DBS Singapore Galleries 1, 2 and 3 have fabulous art displays and for me, it was a great starting point for the first visit. Gallery 2 captured the way of life in the 50's and 60's in Singapore starting with Singapore 's iconic painting National Language Class by Chua Mia Tee in 1959. On the blackboard of the artwork were the words "Siapa nama kamu ? " ( What is your name ?) and "Di mana awak tinggal ?" (Where do you live ?"). Malay was made the national language to help forge the identity of a nation pushing for full independence. The first line mentioned above is used extensively in the marketing collateral of the National Gallery Singapore . Quite fitting as it was the starting point for a young nation grappling with issues of national identity.
" Here they Come !" by Koeh Sia Yong 1965 showed how the illegal hawkers back in those days had to make a quick dash once the authorities came around. If they can't run in time, they would have to pay a fine and have their goods taken away. We did start off as a very poor nation with a high level of illiteracy and hawking was a way of life for many in order to survive. One great thing that came out of that was the creation of many wonderful hawker food that lived on till this day but in sanitary conditions in hawker centers .
Picking by Tay Kok Wee in 1955 is such a great conversation piece. The body language of the characters tell a very vivid story - from the loud talking man to the inquisitive woman who ignores her little boy while listening attentively to a conversation which really didn't involved her. I was amused when a kid next to me pointed out that the baby boy in the picture had his little butt exposed. So besides the character of the school boy helping a man to pick up the fishes that have fallen on the ground, there were other ways of "Picking" - picking a fight, picking up pieces of a conversation and a little boy crying for his mum to pick him up. The characters in this artwork come alive and even till this day, we can see such colourful characters in the market place.
Cannot Grow Vegetables Anymore by Joeh Sia reflects a time in Singapore when small farms in Singapore had to be cleared to make way for industrialization. It wasn't an easy thing for the farmers to accept but for progress in land scarce Singapore, there wasn't really much of a choice.
And for the last picture , the dour expression and the weather beaten face of a Potong Pasir Dairy Farmer by Lee Boon Way in 1958 shows the hard life he has been through.
There is so much more at the Gallery and I especially love the works of the pioneer generation of the Nanyang style of art which marries both Chinese and Western techniques and styles. My snaps of Gallery 1 had some issues but I love the works there so much that I am going back there again soon.
|National Language Class |
Chua Mia Tee Singapore 1959
|Koeh Sia Yong |
Here they Come ! Singapore 1965
Tay Kok Wee , Singapore 1955
|Cannot Grow Vegetables Anymore |
Joeh Sia Yong Singapore 1968
|Potong Pasir Dairy Farmer |
Lee Boon Way , Singapore 1958