Wednesday, November 25, 2015

National Gallery Singapore ( DBS Singapore Gallery 2 )

 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

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chicken rendang (ayam rendang)

I love to make beef rendang but today, I made a chicken one for a change. After all the WHO reports about  the risk of consuming too much red meats, I am actually thinking of cutting down on its consumption. 

It turned out well and even though I made a big pot, intending to freeze some of it for another day when I am too busy or lazy to cook, I couldn't. The chicken rendang casserole had to be refilled for the second time leaving my pot clean. The secret to a good chicken rendang - the rempah has to be gently cooked till the oil seeps out. Some things cannot be rushed. Secondly, the chicken pieces have to be browned sufficiently. Thirdly, kerisik (toasted coconut) gives rendang an unmistakable aroma. Fourthly, shredded kaffir lime leaves and daun kunyit (tumeric leaf) have to be added. Unlike kaffir lime leaves, daun kunyit is harder to find. I usually get mine from Geylang Serai market as it is not commonly found in Chinese wet markets or supermarkets. I liken it to the slivers of ginger torch flowers that are a must for Chinese rojak. Daun kunyit gives a wonderful subtle fragrance that completes the rendang. 

Roselle drink (hibiscus tea)

Went to the Kranji Countryside Farmer's Market recently and was introduced to a beautiful reddish pink drink by one of the stall vendors. Learnt that it was made from the roselle fruit which looked like a little red fireball. To make this refreshing drink, one had to remove the seed enclosed within the red sepals first. Then put a big handful of these red roselle sepals in a pot, add water and rock sugar and boil it on low fire for around 15-20 minutes. I love using the slow cooker for this purpose and after the mixture has cooled down, add ice for the perfect cool drink.  It has a tart and slightly sourish taste, quite similar to the cranberry but what 's great about it is its anti-hypertensive qualities (for lowering cholesterol levels) as well as its rich Vitamin C content. As it is quite acidic in nature, it is best not to drink it on an empty stomach. 

The roselle plant is a species of Hibiscus native to West Africa but around the world, different cultures use it for different purposes. The Senegalese and the Burmese use the leaves for their own vegetable dish while 
the Europeans use the sepals for food coloring. 

I couldn't find it at the supermarkets but thankfully, I found it at a wet market. Only one vegetable stall had it out of many so I suppose it is not that common. As Christmas is coming and there is a tendency to eat rich foods during this season, having a cool roselle tea to go along may be a good idea. The colour itself  will also be in keeping with the Christmas festivity, don't you think ? 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fashion of the 1920s

A friend who is into fashion history and design gave me a beautiful Japanese book with drawings of  fashion of the 1920's, the era of flapper fashion. Until then, fashion was only for rich ladies of society but flapper fashion made it more accessible to the middle classes. Flapper ladies were  characterized by short sleek hair, make-up and long shiftless dresses that were easier to sew than the high fashion of previous years. It was the period of the Jazz Age, the time of the Great Gatsby where women enjoyed a level of liberation and even recklessness. It was also during this period that Coco Chanel revolutionized the way women wore clothes. 

Love the detailing on each dress and the quality of the prints. I may even frame some for my walls.