National Day Special: 5 Art Events Worth Going For

Written By Grace Hong

6th Aug 2015

Category: Guide

Finally, the day is dawning upon us. SG50—the phrase that has been on everyone’s lips this whole year is fast reaching its milestone of actuality. It’s funny how two letters and two numbers can spawn a spectrum of responses. As soon as SG50 was announced, Singaporeans reacted quickly in backlash and impatience. Merely observing how fast fads come and go on our little island—Hello Kitty, Bubble Tea, and Selfie Sticks to name a few—would reveal the fickle bunch we are.

Nearer to us, the local art scene celebrates SG50 too. Some were great, we got to get up close to masterpieces from private collectors. Some good, as local artists enjoyed a bigger spotlight this year in group and solo exhibitions. And then there were some that were just meh, yet another history lesson from the same perspective again.

This weekend, we bring you 5 proudly Singaporean art events that raise the bar of our nation’s celebration. These exhibitions spark questions that are not just introspective, but guides you to look outwards in re-positioning yourself and by extension our country, in a larger global context.

1. A Social Portrait of Singapore: The Critical Years 1963 – 1985

Loke Hong Seng, A Social Portrait of Singapore: The Critical Years 1963 – 1985

© Loke Hong Seng, A Social Portrait of Singapore: The Critical Years 1963 – 1985.

We thank the people who championed the concept of low-cost high-rise housing, but did you know the people who built them? During this period, a large portion of construction work was undertaken by Samsui women, who also helped build our HDB flats in the 1960s.

The HDB flats we live in are also products of Modernist principles. Concrete is a common material used in modernist construction. Plus, the high-rises are symbols of power and wealth, modern in comparison to low-rise kampongs.

In this solo exhibition by Singaporean photographer Loke Hong Seng, street portraits of realistic daily life are the highlight. A fine art photographer, Loke’s work is rare amidst the historic photographs we are familiar with that stem from journalistic assignments or government projects. The 20 photographs on show focuses on the development of Singapore, reminding us of the sacrifices made in the name of progress.

Yeo Workshop, 1 Lock Road, Singapore 108932

Admission is Free

Ends 6 September 2015

Tue to Sat 11am – 7pm, Sun 12pm – 6pm

For more information, click here

2. The LIMPEH Show – By SKL0

© SKLO / Sam Lo, The LIMPEH Series

© SKLO / Sam Lo, The LIMPEH Series

Her name is SKL0 or Sam Lo, not ‘Sticker Lady’. In her first solo exhibition, SKLO marks the end of the ‘Sticker Lady’ Saga and a new beginning for the artist.   

The year 2015 has seen Mr. Lee’s portrait in different manifestations—depicted with letters, in paintings, and even as an icon wrapped in a black ribbon to mark his demise. Riffing on popular streetwear brand Obey, SKL0 uses the same unifying portrait on different materials. What actually looks uniform from afar reveals an underlying layer of sentiment; mixed emotions expressed by Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans alike when his name is mentioned.

The Substation Gallery

Admission is Free

Opens on 11 August for viewing, ends 22 August 2015

12pm – 7pm daily

For more information, click here

3. Influences and Friendships: A Chua Ek Kay Estate Collection

Huang Bin Hong, The Private Museum

© Huang Bin Hong, The Private Museum

© Pu Hua, The Private Museum

© Pu Hua, The Private Museum

How did Chua Ek Kay arrive at his inimitable style? Hailed as the “bridge between Asian and Western art”, Chua Ek Kay (1947 – 2008) possessed a unique painting style that married traditional Chinese painting with Western art theories and techniques. 

Influences and Friendships presents a window into Chua’s art practice, inviting visitors into a deeper study of Chua’s style development as it traces influence from other artists. One major highlight of the exhibition is Huang Binhong’s landscape painting which pays homage to the 10th century painter Juran, one of the great Master artists of early Chinese monumental landscape paintings. Huang Binhong (1865 - 1955), in turn, inspired Chua’s art practice, who fervently explored the extent of his brushworks. 

The Private Museum

Admission is Free

Open through the long weekend except for 9 August, ends 22 September 2015

Mon to Fri 10am - 7pm, Sat to Sun 11am - 5pm

For more information, click here. 

4. Sajeev Photo Studio: A Decade of Portraiture in Little India

© Sajeev Photo Studio

© Sajeev Photo Studio, A Decade of Portraiture in Little India

In our digital age, traditional photo studios are becoming a rare sight. Not so in Little India, where Sajeev Digital Photo Studio offers not just mere photography, but a better chance at finding a wife. For the past 13 years, young male foreign workers from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka would get their portraits taken and sent or emailed to their parents for match-making. The photo studio and installation traces the trajectory of photography—from film to digital, hard-copy to soft-copy prints, and traditional scenic backdrops to new digital backdrops of Singapore’s icons.

However, the studio has been affected by the Little India riot incident in 2013. Customers used to meet every weekend at Racecourse Road, cramming the studio full with people ready for their close-ups but business has since dropped by 60%.

As Singapore celebrates 50 years, it is easy to focus on Singaporeans only. Sajeev Photo Studio: A Decade of Portraiture in Little India reminds us of fellow island inhabitants, bringing together the Singaporean, Singapore immigrant and migrant worker story.

Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Filmmaking, 155 Middle Road

Admission is Free

Ends 31 August 2015

12pm – 7pm daily, Sun 12pm – 4pm

For more information, click here

5. Facade: The Back Alley Collective

© Lhu Wen Kai, 2015. Facade: The Back Alley Collective.

© Lhu Wen Kai, 2015. Facade: The Back Alley Collective.

Singapore cannot stop falling in love with the façades of pre-war shop-houses. It is often the subject for local artists both young and old, and the designated #ootd backdrop for aspiring fashionistas. Demand for these quirky spaces has gentrified a slew of shop-houses into hipster boutiques and cafes.

Local emerging artist Lhu Wen Kai gives this fascination a different take. His photographs make hidden back alleys the focal point, offering us a glimpse into an invisible eco-system of the people who live in the houses. Referred to as the bowels of the city, night-soil workers passed daily to carry buckets of faecal matter away in the past; these back alleys were also (and perhaps still is) the place for unsupervised activity.

Now that Singapore is mostly ‘cleaned up’—what remains? Lhu’s photographs endear viewers to the spaces without over-romanticising its gritty, raw charm. A touch of humanity, achieved through human and animal subjects, transform the back alleys into liveable, breathing spaces.

Atelier @ 5footway.inn Project Bugis, 10 Aliwal Street Singapore 199903

Admission is Free

Ends 5 November 2015

Open for viewing 24/7

For more information, click here. 


50 years from now, what will Singapore look like at SG100? Who will the average Singaporean be? Cheesy as it may sound, the future is truly up to us. Though many of us do not feel a strong sense of contribution to Singapore today (I’m looking at you—80s kids and younger), it will be our turn in fifty years—to look back and reminisce the good times, and hopefully to bear no regrets for the bad.

Here's wishing all you ArtHoppers a Happy National Day! 

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