Can’t reccomend this enough: Singapore National Gallery

The permanent exhibition “Siapa Nama Kamu” is super fun! Paintings cannot be experienced online. It’s the equivalent of watching food when you are hungry. The galleries was categorised by a timeline of art development in Singapore. (The intro said broadly – I think they meant – staid, super fun and experimental. )

It isn’t arranged in a typical western art way – romanticism, cubism, etc, etc. There was not a lot of those styles – I wonder if it was the artists were doing it for fun. They weren’t trying to be famous. The Super Fun period had a reference to a Nanyang period. I had sniggered, thinking this was thought up by a marketing department. It wasn’t.

The Nanyang style refers to the pioneer Chinese artists’ work which was rooted in both the Western schools of Paris (post-Impressionism and Cubism for example) as well as Chinese painting traditions; styles and techniques of both were distinctively integrated in depictions of local or Southeast Asian subject matter (Singapore Art Museum, 2002).

More notably, the Nanyang art style is the result of these artists having departed from their roots – but not entirely – to try to produce something uniquely regional. They aimed to represent pictorially the Nan Yang culture and way of life – Nan Yang meaning South Seas in Mandarin. As art historian Michael Sullivan pointed out above, these painters could be striving to produce an “expression of the times”.

Yeo, Alicia (April 2006). “Singapore Art, Nanyang Style” (PDF). biblioasia. Singapore: National Library Board. pp. 4–11

Can you please go to level 2 and see this awesome portrait? Portrait of Lee Boon Ngan. It is online but the online version is not awesome. It is strangely yellow. Look at the detail on the shirt! The green gray on the nose! Her skin is robust and not sensitive. These other two made me lol out of delight! Picking by Tay Kok Wee and Here they come by Koeh Sia Yong. It was superb! It was energetic! The anger! The unfairness! The entrepreneurial spirit! The resourcefulness! The need to be alert to threats and opportunities!

I was moved by a re-enactment of the artwork. I love the video for the interviews with the artists. They had clarity in the trade offs they have seen. They did art because that was what they did and they picked social realism to be relevant. Honest simple living. People sell food because that was what they did. Teachers taught because they could read and write. Bank officers were hired from comfortable families because they know other comfortable families. (Bank clerks were different from officer grade.)

Young people are now exhorted to pursue their passion. Consistency is a discarded virtue. Why are we coy about being paid for work? It’s honest simple living.

As I tidied a shelf of notebooks last week, it occured to me that I accumulate a lot of words that I don’t re-read. The notebooks exist to get the words out. I once read that a writer will always write. In all my wisdom of a 16 year old, I disbelieved it. Productivity will cease, I thought. (Clearly, I more suited for a life of a white collar bean counter than an artist.) I had wanted to be a poor artist. Not starving – I like my food. I now know, it is true that writers will write. Artist will paint. Those who love eating will feed themselves and others. Those who love sleeping will work themselves up for a nap. We will naturally arrange our lives that is comfortable to ourselves.

Writing books, is likely, not my thing. I count beans and write stories about corporate exertions. I develop reassuring memos of what has been done and what is to be done. I am creative when it comes to relaxing and untying knots at work. Work is rarely difficult, mostly comfortable and my temperament is well suited for it. I don’t think I am well suited to be fully creative. As a bean counter, there will always be a worry about my own quality and productivity.