Despite all odds, Singapore Art Week 2021—Singapore’s headline art event of the year—is pushing ahead, opening its ninth edition today. More than 300 artists and curators are putting forth their work in physical exhibitions around the island and on the digital space.
Running from 22 through 30 January, Singapore Art Week (SAW) will be presented in a hybrid format for the first time, combining both physical and digital events enabling international audiences to take part in the week-long frenzy of art and culture happenings despite ongoing travel restrictions.
As we know by now, hosting an art event in the time of a pandemic is no easy feat. Speaking about the significance of the event and its theme this year, “Art Takes Over”, Tay Tong, Director of Sector Development (Visual Arts) at National Arts Council puts it: “‘Art Takes Over’ takes on a whole new meaning this year, as SAW 2021 not only crosses the walls of galleries into streets and homes, but also transcends time and space in the digital realm. Navigating the uncertain waters of the pandemic has showcased the resilience of our artists, as they have quickly adapted to these extraordinary times, experimenting with new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality so that they may continue presenting art and creations in a fresh and innovative manner.”
If you’re lucky enough to be based in Singapore at the moment, here’s a round up of 10 exhibitions that you should check out from this year’s line-up to start your year with an artsy fix.
22 January – 21 February
The Gillman Barracks location of the Tokyo-based gallery has put together a group exhibition featuring Indonesian artists Agan Harahap, Budi Agung Kuswara, LULU LUTFI LABIBI, Mella Jaarsma, Octora, and TOTON. Curated by Tan Siuli, the title of “Baroque Archipelago” takes its cue from the baroque pearl—a term to classify a type of pearl that is lauded for its non-spherical, organic form—and compares it to the diverse spectrum of cultures, ethnicities and topographies that makes up Indonesia’s archipelago spanning more than 13,000 islands. The exhibition brings contemporary art and fashion in conversation with one another, shining a spotlight on Indonesian creatives reinterpreting and reworking the country’s rich traditions, and on the archipelago as an exemplar of the region’s syncretic culture, creativity and relationships.
Volume Eleven by Ash Ghazali
Richard Koh Fine Art
16 January – 6 February
Richard Koh Fine Art presents Singaporean artist Ash Ghazali’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The show presents 11 works from Ghazali’s ‘Cut Paintings’ series, which combines abstraction with traditional fabrics from Malay ethnic groups of Indonesia and Malaysia. The layered paintings, with its juxtaposing geometrical lines in fabrics and paint, and the resulting folds and shadows, function also as sculptures, and are a reflection of Ghazali’s personal search for an ‘authentic’ culture and identity.
Tanjong Pagar Distripark, presented by Singapore Art Museum
16 January – 21 February
Berlin-based Singaporean artist Choy Ka Fai attempts to understand the human desire for transcendence through shamanistic dance culture. As part of a bigger ongoing research by Choy into the metaphysics of the human body, “CosmicWander: Expedition” offers insight into Choy’s artistic process and his multifaceted practice, which involves bringing together dance, media art and performance. For this showcase, Choy presents his project in three parts—an exhibition comprising video installations and a costume; a multimedia performance; and a lecture. Set up as an experiential installation, stories and images composed from his invigorating encounters with “altered states” are weaved with the artist’s speculations, resulting in a choreographic sequence of moving images, text and spectacle, inspired by practices observed in Singapore, Indonesia, Siberia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Gillman Barracks, 9 Lock Road, presented by Supernormal
21 January – 7 February
An exhibition curated by independent art space Supernormal, “Networked Bodies” explores the potential of telematics in the intersection of art and technology. Digital works, media installations, and social media-mediated works by a host of local and international artists, including Paul Sermon, Sarah Choo Jing, Brian den Hartog, Jonathan Chomko, Alecia Neo, and Choy Ka Fai, are presented posing questions on a renewed idea of intimacy in a world where human interactions have been dramatically altered through technology. A timely reflection in these socially distanced times.
Dawn Ng: Into Air
2 Cavan Road, presented by Sullivan+Strumpf
24 January – 21 February
Taking place 2 Cavan Road, Australian gallery Sullivan+Strumpf presents “Into Air”, showcasing a body of work created over the span of three years by emerging Singaporean artist Dawn Ng. The connecting thread that runs through the show is the notion of time—its transience and the inevitable facing of death. Particularly resounding in times of a global health crisis, Ng looks at time as something that possesses great beauty and worth in the absence of eternity. “Into Air” also attempts to explore how time can be documented and manipulated to show its emotional tenor, as opposed to the cold, hard numerical progressions shown on a timepiece.
Threads and Tensions: The Interconnected World
16 January – 28 February
“Threads and Tensions: The Interconnected World: is a group exhibition featuring five artists including Cian Dayritt, Fyerool Darma, Maryanto, Marcin Dudek and Cole Sternberg. Pieces of fabric are painted on, treated, dyed, collaged, and embroidered to suggest the possibilities of textiles beyond its conventional purposes. They also use the medium as a tool of resistance and reflection. Obscured within the layers of the haptic surfaces are autobiographical elements that are tied to the artist’s own cultural background, such as photographs.
Yavuz Gallery Singapore
16 January – 10 February
Opening in conjunction with SAW 2021 is the debut solo exhibition at Yavuz Gallery of Singapore-based artist Nicholas Ong. Consisting of a collection of new works that mixes oil painting with LED lights, the show explores the varied physical and psychological experiences between two dimensional surfaces and three dimensional space, something Ong’s practice is grounded in. Ong is an emerging young artist whose visual vocabulary is positioned within a lineage of contemporary abstraction driven by his interest in filmic language and the shifting moods and textures of cinematic tableaux.
National Museum of Singapore
22 January – 22 February
Following on from “ENTWINE: Maybank Women Eco-Weavers Meet Southeast Asian Artists”, “New Weave” features cutting-edge animations that re-interpret the ancient Southeast Asian traditional craft of weaving, guest curated by Steve Lawler and presented by Chan + Hori Contemporary. The showcase is organised by the Maybank Foundation and supported by the National Museum of Singapore.
A Familiar Forest
21 –30 January
Taking inspiration from scientific researches that shows the positive correlation between wellness and proximity with nature, “A Familiar Forest” is a multi-sensory installation by environmentalist and artist Zen Teh that combines multi-layered images of Singapore’s parks and nature reserves, lighting, sound and aroma, to replicate the ambience of an unspoiled forest. Through her art, Teh recreates the tranquillity of a forest at night, creating a meditative space to respond to humanity’s desire for restoration and reconciliation with the natural world.
In Our Best Interests: Afro-Southeast Asian Affinities during a Cold War
ADM Gallery, Nanyang Technological University, School of Art
22 January – 13 March
“In Our Best Interests: Afro-Southeast Asian Affinities during a Cold War” is a presentation of contemporary art works and archival materials on Afro-Asian legacies that emerged from the Cold War period. With a focus on Southeast Asia as a geopoetic imagination alongside a global post-WWII anti-colonial resistiance to racism, the exhibition traces various historical events in the region such as The Greater Malayan Confederation (Maphilindo) and China’s development of cultural infrastructure in Senegal, in contemporary appropriations of Afro-Asian histories. The exhibition is hosted in parallel with a series of webinars discussing topics surrounding Afro-Southeast Asia affinities to question what a global solidarity can mean, especially in face of a global pandemic.