Kindred issues

Personally, my issue is with the Gifted Education Programme in Singapore. As a recipient of the GEP in primary school, in early Secondary school and the combined School-Based gifted education (replacing the full GEP in 2008), there has been many issues both in education pedagogy and emphasis on non-traditional education, while still being forced to streamline education as per MOE requirements.


Many of the GEP courses emphasise heavily on Sciences rather than the arts, and many students, me included, did not do well in spite of our giftedness and how ‘spending money on you is to ensure that results are achieved’, as spoken by an MOE education officer.


As such, many of my course mates did not proceed on to the usual A-level and subsequent University path, as the GEP programme, in spite of being supposed to put our intellectual ability to the best, has actually failed.


In secondary school, 3 of my classmates transferred out to the O Level class (instead of the usual direct A-Level through train programme), and were considered failures. One of them eventually dropped out of secondary school. After A Levels, one of the brightest pupils who have went through the GEP with me, opted out of getting a university education and instead went to do an apprenticeship as a chef. He is now a sous chef at a Two Michelin-starred restaurant. Another went to be a chef in Facebook Singapore’s kitchen. Yet another is now an animator. None of whom actually had the chance to take part in the arts, or in their hobby.


We did not do well, and were looked down on. Even our tutors said that there is no way that we could make it big, or make it to university even.


Is giftedness truly our Achilles’ heel?


My kindred issue locally would be conservation of our urban heritage in Singapore, or more succinctly, lack of conservation. In Singapore, since its colonisation in 1819, growth of the colony has attracted traders, laborers and migrants from all over the region, and Singapore eventually developed multi-ethnic neighbourhoods in several regions.


Ever since independence in 1965, Singapore has demolished many buildings with historic significance to make way for more utilitarian structures. Traditional Chinese shophouses were demolished to make way for residential housing, and even the oldest school in Singapore, the original Raffles Institution built circa. 1840, was demolished and replaced by Raffles City in the 1980s.


According to the priorities of Singapore during the transition period, the important matters were unemployment, poverty and poor infrastructure, and heritage was not a pressing matter then. As Singapore has developed, the government realised that heritage was necessary to preserve our past identity and culture.


However, the government’s conservation reeks of monetary concern; artifacts from the past becoming something that is just meant to impress and serves no other purpose, with most of their identity and culture lost.


Knowing Singapore’s government, where they cannot seem to overcome the important need of money, there is much that we can do regarding conservation, and to send the right message. It pains us to see that many of the places where the older generation grew up fondly in, schools and markets, houses and parks, are now just disjointed fragments of memory. In years, not even decades, we will face this issue as well, especially where our government selectively preserves structures based on their whim and fancy.


Personally, I have witnessed the demolition and rebuilding of my primary school (Kong Hwa School), removal of my haunt at Queenstown, my part-time job office at Funan, and my grandmother’s house at Bendemeer. In the future, would my memory of these places be as colourful and clear than if they were preserved?


My global issue would be on the prevention of unnecessary avian deaths as both a direct and indirect result on human activity.


Since the beginning of time, birds have their migratory abilities passed down through their lineages, either via mental maps, celestial bodies, or the length of the day. As human beings have developed technology and physical territory borders, there is massive international effort required for the protection of such species especially during migration. The longest known migratory path is that of the Arctic Tern, which migrates from the North Pole to Antarctica.


Some issues directly affecting migratory birds include hunting, use of pesticides, habitat loss for stopover areas, as a by-catch (Related more for seabirds), collision with man-made objects and disorientation due to light pollution at night. Climate change (due to gas emissions and deforestation) affects them indirectly as well.


On what an artist could do is possibly limited to a local level, as there is lots of geopolitical red tape to maneuver, and limited resources to do so with.


Perhaps the easiest way one could make a statement is via activism; though on which extent is yet to be determined.



Mid-term project: Clipped


Involves the arrangement of a series of artwork in a grid pattern to simulate a window, which is the most common cause of bird deaths in Singapore.


Visited the lab at NUS to document relatively fresh carcasses, with the assistance of researcher David Tan of NUS and photographer Jasvic Lye, an undergraduate from NTU ADM.


The six birds documented are as follows:


Banded Bay Cuckoo

Blue-tailed bee-eater

Asian glossy starling

Spotted dove

Oriental pied hornbill

Zebra dove


Most of them are local species, with the bee-eater being a common migratory species which appear often in Singapore. All are of least concern in the IUCN red list.


Singapore has around 300 native species of birds, the sample size is relatively large (5%). The asian glossy starling and the spotted dove are two of the most common species found in Singapore (DECADAL CHANGES IN URBAN BIRD ABUNDANCE IN SINGAPORE, Chong et al., 2012, p 191) though the zebra dove was excluded as it was not included in surveys conducted earlier for a fair comparison.

Table retrieved from Chong’s study, page 193.


Currently thinking of using matte prints in terms of material. Could be expanded to glass to signify the fragility of the birds and how they die due to window collisions, but it is blunt and cliche.


Printing on glass would be interesting but out of my means at the moment.


Collaboration with David in the remaining time of the semester seems impossible due to his commitments elsewhere.


Artist influences


In addition to Basia Irland and Criss Jordan as mentioned in class, there are a few other artists that have influenced my work and my style to a certain extent.


They include Benjamin von Wong, Andy Goldsworthy, Agnes Denes, Charles Ross and Nancy Holt.


This post includes some thoughts about my final project, how I could expand on it, and my artist statement.


Final Project for DP3006


Artist Statement:


Clipped (2018)


Inkjet Prints on Matte Paper, Inkjet Print on Rice Paper, Silver Mirror fragments, Laserjet Transfer on Wood


Varying Dimensions


Singapore is one of the stopping points of migratory birds flying along the East Asian-Australasian flyway. Being a densely populated urban city state, bird deaths are relatively common, with a primary issue being collisions with buildings with large glass windows. However, we often overlook the native species which are important in maintaining the ecological balance of the environment. The artwork shows 6 different species of birds responsible for different roles in local ecology, with one major thing in common; they are categorised as being of least concern in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. As such, deaths of their species are usually overlooked in spite of their importance and role in our native environment.


The artwork represents a combination of both issues. The matte paper prints are arranged in a grid to resemble a window grille, and to remind the viewers of the main cause of deaths of the birds in Singapore. The creases and wrinkles of the rice paper print hints at the fragility of these birds, and how they seem to wither in front of one’s eyes. By looking at the mirror fragments in the artwork, the viewer sees the frailty of these majestic creatures, yet also see themselves being potentially responsible for their deaths.


Images of installation

Side note: an Oriental Pied Hornbill was spotted in ADM vicinity at 6.30pm, 4th May 2018. (Same species shown in prints on the bottom left corner and third from bottom left corner)


Explanation of choice of material


Rice paper was chosen to be the material for the large print due to multiple reasons. Firstly, the rice paper that I had used was without any inkjet coating, meaning that the paper was as close to the naturally occurring state as possible. The fragility of the rice paper was also an important point in my project, mirroring the fragility of the birds themselves. The translucency also paid a part, allowing light to shine through, making the blue colour of the bee-eater seem like the pastel blue of the midday sky.


Explanation of why the damaged rice paper print was not fixed after damage


Though in fine art printing we learn how to treat our print with utmost care, I believe that the same is necessary, but not totally required for my rice paper print. Creases, folds and tears will make my message clearer, with the finished print having a hint of Japanese kintsugi, which is a form of pottery repair with lacquer, usually with gold or silver. The rice paper was also printed against the grain to make the horizontal feather tips pop out of the image. Some creases were intentionally made surrounding the edge of the blue feathers.


Future considerations


As the rice paper prints definitely had more impact in terms of size and tone, there were a few considerations that I have thought of after completing this part of the project.


  1. Expansion on rice paper prints and other usage

The rice paper prints could be made larger and used to cover the external glass windows of ADM from the inside, while markings could be done on the other side of the rice paper (facing outside ADM), which could dissuade birds from crashing into our windows. This is evidenced by the University of Chicago painting spray patterns on some glass windows to do so.


  1. Impact of mirror and mirror fragments

The mirror was too small, and hanging mirror fragments off prints felt a little off putting. Perhaps a single layer consisting of mirror shards and cut prints may work better, and feel a bit less gimmicky.


  1.   Laserjet transfer on wood

I felt that it was totally out of place, and eventually removed it from the second time I set up the installation.



  1.     Studio vs outdoors

I felt that layering the prints on the glass windows felt more natural, with sunlight filtering through and lighting up the prints from behind. The effect of the shattered mirror on the glass is also amplified. The colour and temperature of the rice paper print can also vary with the time of the day. Though by the same factor, the prints will look darker and less contrasty when the sun is angled too high, or sets behind ADM.


Additional research notes


The asian glossy starling is the most common in the 6 documented birds, and arguably the most noisy. They usually fly in an annoying loud flock at dusk.


There are two areas where collisions of residential and migratory birds overlap; in Clementi area near NUS and in the Central Business district. Whether is this due to light pollution or not is yet to be determined.


From 1998 to 2016, there were 157 fatalities out of 237 bird collisions detected. From November 2013 to October 2017, 104 out of 362 bird carcasses retrieved by NUS researchers likely died due to collisions. Retrieved from Anthropogenic Sources of Non-Migratory Avian Mortalities In Singapore, David J.X. Tan et al.


Juvenile asian glossy starlings consist of 81% of collision deaths, pp.19


Lights in buildings pose a large risk to birds, especially at night. UV reflective glass may be more bird friendly. Retrievd from Low, B.W. et al., 2017, Migratory bird collisions with man-made structures in South-East Asia : a case study from Singapore.

Leftmost row represents deaths directly due to building collisions, pp.21-23 Figure from Low, B.W. et al., 2017, Migratory bird collisions with man-made structures in South-East Asia : a case study from Singapore.