Category Archives: Research

Islamic Art Conference

I got the chance to visit 3 of the events in conjunction of the Contemporary Islamic Art, Design and Architecture conference. Prof. Sujatha was there at all 3 as well apparently. *insert laugter*

I wouldn’t say that Islamic Art really interest me but after the conference, it really change my perspective on Islamic Art. You guys gotta wait(i’ll post below) for how different speaker define Islamic Art!

BAYU. 8th Oct

Iskandar with his opening speech

Iskandar with his opening speech

The first event was the opening of Bayu, an exhibition of contemporary islamic art in ADM. It was curated by Noor Iskandar and Javad. I really like the whole look of the exhibition. The mood was really dark and the spotlight light up the artworks perfectly. There’s a couple of artworks that capture my attention more than the others. The first one is by Inkten Sufina. Her real name is Nadhirah actually but anyway, she exhibit this work titled The Transitory. I know her instagram account and sometimes she will post work in progress and she post a photo on the process of this work.

Inkten's Instagram post

Inkten’s Instagram post

It’s amazing sometimes to see artwork from the studio surrounded by so many stains and trash to make the artwork. Then after it is done, it is exhibited in the gallery. As an artist, I also enjoy this transition. It’s very cool actually. As Inkten is a graffiti artist, I like how she interpret islamic art with some of her background as well. The whole look as element of graffiti somehow I feel. Geometric forms have been associated with Islam and this is how she associate her work with islamic art.


Inkten Sufina The Transitory 2015

Next is by Izziyani Suhaimi. I got a chance to exhibit beside her in an exhibition about 3 years ago. She’s an incredible artist who stay true to her medium, which is embroidery which explore the notion of time and labour. In the exhibit she make the praying mat and the colours are very beautiful.


Izziyana Suhaimi Waiting for the Northwesterly Winds 2015

Lastly, Afiq Omar’s Ferroux. I am familiar with Afiq Omar’s photographs so I was looking forward for his work but I was disappointed with his exhibited work. He chose to show an old work dated 2013. Plus, to me, it’s not even related to Islamic Art. Maybe there are the element of the Wind which is the titled of the exhibition. I have attached a video below, so tell me what you guys think.


Afiq Omar Ferroux

Overall, it was a good exhibition overall, showing a wide range of mediums and style.

Lectures at National Design Centre. 9th Oct

I was there actually as a part of the work-study to help Prof. Gul to record the lecture session. So it was like killing two birds with one stone as it was also beneficial to me as I am able to listen as well. I’ve taken a lot of photographs, but I am only going to share some interesting ones. All of the speakers are professional in their art field so it was a wonderful opportunity being able to listen to them.

I can’t really remember all the names of the speakers as I wasn’t keeping track but what important is what they are showing. I thought this slide was interesting. I never really see all this purposes of art all in one slide so yeah, take a look!


The Purposes of Art

The next speaker was Prof. Nada Shabout, she’s the Director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative (CAMCSI). She shared some work of contemporary islamic art and this one from Kader Attia was really really nice! I have attached a photo from online and insert the explanation.


The medium and everything about this artwork is perfect actually!

Kader Attia. Ghost. In Ghost, a large installation of a group of Muslim women in prayer, Attia renders their bodies as vacant shells, empty hoods devoid of personhood or spirit. Made from tin foil - a domestic, throw away material - Attia’s figures become alien and futuristic, synthesising the abject and divine. Bowing in shimmering meditation, their ritual is equally seductive and hollow, questioning modern ideologies - from religion to nationalism and consumerism - in relation to individual identity, social perception, devotion and exclusion. Attia’s Ghost evokes contemplation of the human condition as vulnerable and mortal; his impoverished materials suggest alternative histories or understandings of the world, manifest in individual and temporal experience.

Kader Attia. Ghost. In Ghost, a large installation of a group of Muslim women in prayer, Attia renders their bodies as vacant shells, empty hoods devoid of personhood or spirit. Made from tin foil – a domestic, throw away material – Attia’s figures become alien and futuristic, synthesising the abject and divine. Bowing in shimmering meditation, their ritual is equally seductive and hollow, questioning modern ideologies – from religion to nationalism and consumerism – in relation to individual identity, social perception, devotion and exclusion. Attia’s Ghost evokes contemplation of the human condition as vulnerable and mortal; his impoverished materials suggest alternative histories or understandings of the world, manifest in individual and temporal experience.

Another work that caught my eye was Super Oum by Fatima Mazmouz. As you can see in the image, is a pregnant woman in her bra and panties wearing a boot and mask. In western culture, the mask could be seen as a Ski mask but in eastern culture, the mask can be read also as a veil so I thought that was interesting in terms of understanding cultural symbols as well. Plus the artist is from the middle east, so people would automatically read the mask as a veil that muslim women wear.

Fatima Mazmouz, Super Oum, 2009

Fatima Mazmouz, Super Oum, 2009

The next speaker was Iftikhar Dadi from Cornell University. I like his hair! He was one of other speakers who was defining Islamic Art. Below are the slides which direct towards the definition.IMG_4957I agree with his statement, it also relevant to some form of art as well.IMG_4958


Here’s Prof. Sujatha asking Prof. Dadi some question which I can’t really remember. IMG_4969


The next speaker was a very handsome man who I walk halfway through his presentation as it was already begin when I came back from my lunch and friday prayers. There’s this part where he shared how was religion, culture, art, architecture, ideas and a lot of other things was spread from one place to another through this 3 domain. Which was relevant to our art history studies in school.IMG_4986

Islamic artist such Nusret Colpan is known for his miniature painting style depicting cities around the world. It has this map look to it which my team did during our presentation about a month ago. As you can see, what Nusret did was to put the Kaabah in the centre of the map to show Islam as the central role of the world. Again, we learned in class that artist uses map to show their power and their ideas towards their belief and this is what Nusret did. I have upload a better picture below. Read more on him here.IMG_4984

Islamic World, Nusret Colpan

Islamic World, Nusret Colpan

He also define Islamic Art and put Islamic art side by side with Religious art and secular art, which I thought that was interesting. IMG_4993

He also mention that some artist that uses provocative act in their artwork like the one above by Fatima Mazmouz has nothing to do with Islam as the religion but only uses it for an instrument for self promotion.IMG_4994

Overall the lecture at the National Design Centre was interesting and open up my eye. I only have this little knowledge on contemporary islamic art but after the lecture, I have known more artists and their artwork on contemporary islamic art. However, some of the talk were too complicated and too education to me that I was falling asleep.


Jameel Prize 3. 9th Oct.

Right after the lecture at the NDC, we all make our way to the opening of the Jameel Prize. The Jameel Prize is an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. Its aim is to explore the relationship between Islamic traditions of art, craft and design and contemporary work as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today. I managed to enter the exhibit without anyone before its grand opening. It’s at the National Library level 10 by the way.

The space was huge and the exhibit was very well put maybe cause there’s a high budget on this one. Haha.

IMG_4996 IMG_4999

Before the opening ,everyone was gathering outside waiting for the minister, Dr Yaakob to arrive.IMG_5007

Dr Yaakob in pink and on his left is Mr Maidin Packer mohd, who was an PAP MP minister back then.IMG_5014

This artwork was the winner for the Jameel Prize 3. It’s an fashion garment by Dice Kayek. I think it does deserve the award as this work was inspired by the Hagia Sophia, which was build as a church then it became a mosque and now a museum. The work was interesting because the translation from architecture to fashion garment shows how islamic art can still transfer from one art form to another, as they did in the past.


Berita Harian, a malay newspaper was there to write some story and they told me to pose with Prof. Peer and the others.

If you want, you can read it here. 


That’s all folks. I hope I can enter the Jameel Prize next time and bring home the £25,000.

Week 8: ACM

The construction over at the Asian Civilisation Museum was very disappointed actually. Only one level of artworks at the second level was able for viewing. Nevertheless, it was always a new experience every time I go to a museum. I was glad that this trip was done with a tour guide. In fact, I always enjoy art history a little bit more with a good guide with good knowledge. Marie, our tour guide is actually a scientist! Even though her main background is not related to the arts, she does have a minor in art history and I can see in her love for art history through her expression and how excited she gets in describing each artefacts.

I have been to the Asian Civilisation Museum a few times but I always see new object with each visit , such as this.IMG_4850

This sculpture immediately caught my attention due to the double abhaya mudra, which I have never seen before! I only managed to snap a picture but not the description, how sad is that. I managed to show it to Sujatha and she mention that this double mudra was unique to the region of Laos. That was enough for me to make further research about it.

I am sure all of you remember that the mudra above is the Abhaya Mudra which symbolises ‘no fear’ or ‘fearlessness’.  I did some research online and the double Abhaya Mudra actually means ‘no war’ or ‘don’t fight’.

In a region that has suffered colonialism, civil war and the largest bombing mission throughout the American-Vietnam war, this is a particularly poignant symbol.

I find this very interesting and it shows how a culture or even a history background can influence how a sculpture is shape and designed. By making the double Abhaya Mudra sculpture on the buddha statue, these locals somehow get a sense of peace and closure knowing that the religion is able to keep them in peace of mind. I find more similar buddha statue online and here is some of it.


Buddha, standing, in double abhaya mudra and dressed in royal attire, Thailand, 19th Century

This sculpture above is actually from Thailand, a country around the same region as Laos, right below Laos actually. As you can see this buddha is decorated very elaborately. In this case, the double abhaya mudra symbolises “calming the ocean” by the Thais. This story has to do with the Buddha performing a miracle by stopping a rainstorm and flooding in the presence of the three arrogant hermits. Having seen the miracle, they submitted to the Lord Buddha and listened to his sermon. The three hermits and their 1,000 followers were so impressed with the preaching that they were willingly ordained as monks. Again, this shows different region has a different belief in how Buddha represent the religion. This is very interesting as different people make different stories towards their religion and sculpture to make them closer to the religion.

Standing Buddha, with the gesture of Calming the Oceans. In the style of the Ayutthaya period. Found at Wat Yai, Phetchaburi province. Image present in the cloister of the Ubosoth at Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok.

Standing Buddha, with the gesture of Calming the Oceans.
In the style of the Ayutthaya period.
Found at Wat Yai, Phetchaburi province.
Image present in the cloister of the Ubosoth at Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok.

I uploaded the picture I took of the buddha statue on Facebook and one of my friend commented me and it was one of those epic comments. He upload a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo doing his normal goal celebration called the calma celebration. Which was really interesting because it does look like the double abhaya mudra!  The celebration was actually to taunt the fans to calm down and saying that he got this.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Calma calma celebration

Cristiano Ronaldo, Calma calma celebration

The double abhaya mudra also reminds me of the Solat that Muslim make 5 times a day. Before we begin praying, we put two hands facing the front before we fold them into our chest area. The image below shows just that. It doesn’t mean anything related to the Buddha but I thought it was interesting how a ‘hand pose’ could represent and tell different thing or story.


Week 7: My Own Room

This is a hard one.

I would pick Chinoiserie.

Anyway, I really wish I can live in a time zone where China is not open to the world yet so I can have imagination of what China looks like, maybe looking at my plates could help.

Let me tell you why I am not picking Japonaiserie. Because they attack us asian thats why. They got the idea of colonising other countries because of the western thinking they picked up after they open up to the west, again. But this is whole another topic.

I like Japanese art, they are very distinct and very original. Japanese are very discipline people and it reflect through the artwork that they make. Imagine those craftsmen drawing all those Namban Art, made up of very detail up to the very finish. While woodblock painting originated from China, Japan was able to make it look like they invented it because of the popularity of the ukiyo-e prints. Ukiyo-e’s composition was the inspiration to many western artist.

Looking at Van Gogh turn to try his hand on Japonaiserie, it didn’t really look like is a classic Van Gogh painting style but there is attempt there I think. Even though this kind of style is not really into my liking, I appreciate his attempt and somehow his signature style was influenced by Japanese art.

The Courtesan (after Eisen), Van Gogh, 1887, Oil On Canvas

Even Claude Monet was attempting to include Japanese culture into his painting. It was Hokusai’s Japanese flower prints that actually influence Monet to start doing his water lilies series. Hokusai’s flower prints doesn’t need to have a landscape at the background instead just focussing on the flower. Monet would blend that idea with his style and give birth to the water lilies series that make him famous. Comparing the two different paintings below, the composition is very different but you can see that Monet have some landscape painting on the fan.

DSC08579 copy

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

On the other hand, Chinoiserie speaks to me. Even the legend/story in the willow pattern is very romantic and I am able to relate it. I found an artist who does chinoiserie painting and it is very beautiful. I realise in Chinoiserie art, the most stand out element is actually the plant, those long branches and florals.

Dreamworlds-Hotel-Hallway-murals Dreamworlds-Jardin-Japonaise2


Looking at those two paintings above by Rainer Maria Latzke, she has elements of China on them, for example, the pagoda and the china vase. There is also the composition of background and foreground which is also an element in Chinese painting. Rainer-Maria-Latzke-forbidden-city-bedroom

Behind the bed, there is a painting of a chinese landscape, there is a pagoda, those tall mountain, which depict an exotic fairyland like how they depict in the distant cathay.

With that being said, I would rather have chinoiserie as I am able to get lost in a temporary world of imagination and dream, which is perfect for a bedroom where its main purpose is to rest and dream.

Anyway, I know of a hotel which I came across before way back and I manage to find some pictures on the net. This is the Majestic Hotel!

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 4.10.28 pm Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 4.10.48 pm SINGAPORE-New-Majestic-Hotel-Attic-Suite-Samsui-Suite-by-Justin-Lee-

The wallpapers have some element of chinese art and modern art combine! It is very interesting because in the first picture, you can see some chinese lady wearing a traditional clothing, holding a badminton racket and a mobile phone. The second picture, is a chinese women looking like mickey mouse and lastly, an image of samsui women. These graphics are from Justin Lee, a local artist who juxtapose the modern with the old, where east meets west. Here’s a link if you guys are interested to look at more of his work. In fact, Justin exhibit his works at the Asian Civilisation Museum actually some time back. I remember it now.

It might not be link to Chinoiserie or Japanoiserie, but I feel that artists now are very influenced with other culture and it reflect it in their work, in a case of Justin Lee, his juxtaposition of west and east emphasise on the point of how we are always influence by other culture.

Anyway, let me share with you guys some of the decoration I have in my room! I call it Industrinoiserie. IMG_4874

I collect car plates about 2 years ago. Everytime I go overseas, I will try to find car plates to add to my collection. Flea market at New York City have tons of it!

I also have two clocks which I want to try copy concepts of hotels which shows a lot of different time from different time zone. I believe the right is time of Los Angeles while the right is the local time. I always think it is very interesting to see big hotels displaying about 5 clocks on their lobby, maybe they want to reflect how ‘international’ the hotel chain is.


Week 6: Family Portraits

Family Portrait is actually a song! I’m kidding. To me, I have a very simple definition of a family portrait. A family portrait is an image that document a family at a particular moment of time or space. Talking about family portrait, I suddenly thought about a photo that I took when I was in London 3 years ago. It’s a photo that frames a photograph taken of the UK Royal family at an event. It seems its taken on a balcony or some sort. Anyway, you can identify the Queen, her husband, Prince Charles, his two sons, Harry and William. There are also 3 other individuals who is not familiar to me but it seems to be of close ties to be able to stand near to the Queen. While this is not an official family portrait, but I feel that it could be. It shows a particular moment of time and the absence of Princess Diana might tell us that this photo was taken after 1997.

London, United Kingdom. Taken on 14 September 2012

One famous family portrait that immediately comes into my mind is actually the Addams Family! I remember watching the film and the cartoon way back! But I always remember the family portrait they showed right before the show starts, in the introduction video. As you can see the in image below, they look very surreal and weird but thats what the show is. Looking at the family portrait, it seems they are very close as family.

The Addams Family, 1991

The Addams Family, 1991

And the next family portrait that comes into my mind was also from the Kardashian Family. I don’t watch reality tv but I do see some images of them in magazines or online. Anyway, this photo below is a good documentation of a particular moment of time. Compare the photo below and now, there is 2 divorced couples and another one broke up and ONE sex change. Caitlyn Jenner is what Bruce Jenner is now known as. I like how the documentation of celebrities family portraits changes over their time. To me even though these photos are not famous portraits, they are relevant in my lifetime.

The Kardashian Family

The Kardashian Family

But if you are talking about a really Famous family portrait, then we have to go all the way back, back to paintings. Despite many family portrait of royals and the rich, I actually couldn’t connect with those painting and choose one because I don’t feel comfortable talking about paintings that I am not familiar with. But I do have a famous family portrait in mind actually. In a form of a photography by Dorothea Lange.

Migrant Mother(1936) - Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother(1936) – Dorothea Lange

This photograph depict my definition of a family portrait. The woman, Florence Owens Thompson is seen with his two children facing behind getting comfort in their mother’s touch. This picture was made famous because it represented the Great Depression. She became an iconic image and figure soon after this photograph was publish. Even though this picture did not have all of the family member to be a ‘family’ family portrait, I still categorise this as one as it shows a very specific moment of time in the world which contains human emotion and a human subject. Below, is a photo taken 43 years after Migrant Mother. Again, this is also a family portrait.

Thompson (seated) with three of her daughters, (from l. to r.) Katherine, Ruby and Norma, in 1979—43 years after Migrant Mother

Thompson (seated) with three of her daughters, (from l. to r.) Katherine, Ruby and Norma, in 1979—43 years after Migrant Mother

But I feel that family portrait have changed through out the years in terms of being symbolic and representation. In family portraits painting we discuss in class, for example the Palmer Family in readings by Johann Zoffany. There are so many things we can talk about in terms of posture, eye contact, position of the body and more. However, looking at modern family portrait, there isn’t all those anymore. No more symbolic hidden meaning. Family Portrait was mean to be an important thing back then but now, its just another jpeg file I feel. If you compare the Kardashian Family portrait above and The Palmer Family, you can see a big difference in terms of composition and meaning as well.

The Sapiees, 2011

The Sapiees, 2011

So here’s my family portrait at a specific moment of my life, finishing my Basic Military Training, at the Passing Out Parade. As you can see, I am right smack in the middle however, I am slightly at the back compare to the rest of my family. This is to represent that I am in the centre of the attraction but however, not to forget that I won’t get through this phase without the support of my family. See, composition.

Anyway, this photo was taken by my girlfriend who was there with us as well. Even though there are the invention of the selfie stick, I am totally against using it for a family portrait. It’s either on a proper tripod or asking someone else to take it for us.

Week 5: Labour

How have artists made us think and feel about labor? Well, artists knows that they are labour themselves and their works is a reflection of that. Ok Kidding.

Labor is a very broad term and one of its synonyms is Employment. However, when we use the word Labor, I feel there is a very negative connotation attached to the word ‘labor’. Don’t make me even start with Hard Labor!

But anyway, labor is one of the favourite topics artist likes to tackle actually because of its relevancy to the current time and it reflect how the economy is doing. For example, I have one local artist on the top of my head when the topic about Labor came in. Jing Quek.  He is a commercial photographer by practice and he also have this series of labourers/workers posing in a very interesting manner below.


As you can see through this series of his, it seems that Jing Quek is actually glorifying these mens and their jobs. Yes, it seems that all these people are holding blue collar jobs and for the lack of terms, hard labor. These jobs require a lot physical strength and also they come from foreigners especially from India or China. They can be seen posing in their working environment, holding their tools of trade. I really like the above photo featuring the grass cutter. The composition is really nice and the contrast colour of green and their red uniforms really make the photography pops out. SGI19

This photo however, might not be talking about glorifying the role of a maid though. I feel this photo tells the sad reality of a maid actually. They can be seen doing many things for example, taking care of a baby, ironing clothes, vacuuming and the list goes on. Even though you can say that it is glorifying the job, it is not necessary in a good way and this photo has a really good layer in terms of its message and visual.SGI37

This photo is also interesting in terms of featuring the locals trishaw drivers. Again, all the subjects in the photos are pose to make them look important and matter in life. The artist have actually brought up the topic of labor by making the subjects behave in a very unlikely manner. The message pertaining labor is brought up through the juxtaposition of its subjects and content. Being in Singapore, these people is a very aplenty in our everyday lives but we always ignore them and the topic of being invisible is relevant here. So Jing Quek is bringing them into the limelight and let us viewers see that they too are humans and hold beautiful colours in our lives.

Another artist that pops up in my head that speaks about labor is none other than the great Banksy.

In this introduction video to the Simpsons, Bansky speaks about Labour in it. From using child labour to animal abuse to even killing animal for the sake of mass making products. This video I feel might reflect the accuracy of the mass market right now. We all know that child labour is being used in those poor developing countries to make goods. And that is why unicorns no longer exists in this planet. Plus, I feel this medium of using animation and video can easily reach to the masses and the message Banksy is trying to tell can be watched by millions of people who are watching The Simpsons.

Another work by Banksy is this mural at a wall located at Wood Green, London. It depicts a child labour sewing the union jack flags in masses. The work was a protest against the use of sweatshops to manufacture Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics memorabilia in 2012. Afterwards, the wall was actually removed and it was sold for $1.1 Million dollars at an auction house. It was a very controversial topic because Banksy made the mural for the public but yet it was removed and sold. Being that controversial story that it is, I feel that the controversial took over the message of the artwork actually. Nonetheless, you can get the sense of labour being depict here in a form of a boy and the sewing machine.

Slave Labour (2012) - Banksy, Wood Green, London

Slave Labour (2012) – Banksy, Wood Green, London

Slave Labour (2012) - Banksy, Wood Green, London

Slave Labour (2012) – Banksy, Wood Green, London

Labor is essential to the economy and nation building. There are 15 definition of labor in an online dictionary. I cannot imagine number 11.

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Week 4: The Sea

In Allan Sekula’s Fish Story, he brings up very interesting topic about maritime and the sea. In an interview, Allan Sekula talk about how the sea is the reason for globalisation and expansion of the world through Trade.

Even though this interview was very insightful to what was on his mind when he created his work, I thought that I should go down to the CCA at Gillman to check things out myself. So I did. To think about trade in the 16th Century, we first need to understand the issue that Allan have bring up in his work.IMG_4510

Fish Story is an extensive research that makes a clear point that the ocean and global maritime trade contribute substantially to the circulation of commodities and capital and it is an integral part of the capitalist market forces.

At the CCA, the exhibition not only show Fish Story but also juxtapose two other works titled ‘Lottery of The Sea’ and ‘The Forgotten Space’. I quite enjoy this idea as they are all somehow related in one continuous narrative. In the Forgotten Space, Allan reminds us that the Sea is indeed a forgotten space and is actually a space of economy and prosperity(thanks to trade), but at the same time, exploits the labourers who works in the maritime trade. Allan also bring up the subject of these containers that plays a huge revolutionary impact on the world economy. Container ships looks like mobile factory moving around in looking for cheap labor.IMG_4511


I agree with Allan in his work when he mention the sea as the Forgotten Space. It kinds tie in to how the world actually progress and discovered! Remember all those great explorer who goes out to in search of new land, it was through the sea and with trade happening across nation, thats what make a country prosper. The sea is what makes religion spread as well! IMG_4514

Knowing the condition of the maritime industry currently, I envision trade in the 16th century even harder! Firstly, the goods have to be pack and move in an orderly manner. There must be some standardise container to make trade more efficient. Secondly, most importantly, labor. Below, the Dutch employes labours from Africa as shown in the close up of the image. They are painted with a darker skin tone and can be seen climbing the ship and doing all the hard manual labor.

Arrival of a Portuguese ship, one of a pair (Nanban screens), Six panel folding screen, 1620–1640. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D77+.

Arrival of a Portuguese ship, one of a pair (Nanban screens), Six panel folding screen, 1620–1640. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D77+.

This goes to show that whatever the ship belongs to, they would actually hire people from outside their countries. Even chinese workers have been depicted in paintings. Even though these nambans screens are from the 17th century, I believe they are still relevant if we are talking about the 16th century.

Arrival of a Portuguese ship, one of a pair (Nanban screens), Six panel folding screen, 1620–1640. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D77+.

Arrival of a Portuguese ship, one of a pair (Nanban screens), Six panel folding screen, 1620–1640. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D77+.

I like this quote by Allan Sekula below. This simple thought shows a lot of how some country can fight over territorial of the sea.


I was watching The Forgotten Space at the CCA and there is this scene where they container is being operated by machines. It’s moving towards being automated and this is one of the worker said.IMG_4519

That is one scary thought. Regardless, labor is still needed in the maritime industry and they are the invisible hands that move the world economy.

Week 3: Female Patrons of the Arts

Who is a another female patron of the arts?

Heard of Shirley Sherwood? If you have not, you are going to hear about it now. Patronage is very important in the art world especially during the medieval and renaissance period. Usual patrons are rulers, rich families and nobles, who uses art to show their status and power. In a nutshell, they sponsor artists to make art in a way.

However, I would like to look at modern patrons where the definition might shift from being a sponsor of art to keeping and curating artworks for the greater good. One such soul is Shirley Sherwood. She is a collector of Botanical art illustration. She has been described as a “driving force behind a revival of interest in botanical art”. Her comprehensive collection from over 200 artists, living in 30 different countries, documents the emergence of a new wave of botanical paintings and the renaissance of their art form. She has been collecting all this great artwork since 1990! dr-shirley-sherwood-obe

Her collection is actually in Singapore currently! It’s at the Singapore Botanical Garden.

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Shirley collects illustrations from artists. IMG_4427 IMG_4431 IMG_4436 IMG_4437

Researching more on Botanical Art, it started back in the 15th Century! They were used for culinary and of course medicinal and there are illustrations of the plants in a book to identify it. Relating to plants, gardens play important roles in architecture as well. Places like the Taj Mahal, the garden plays the role of an entrance to the palace. Not forgetting the Hanging Garden of Babylon.

In summary, Shirley Sherwood may not be a rich patrons of the art, but her passion in collecting botanical drawings make her did this and this is very important to have all this illustrations all under one roof for easy learning of knowledge and also for research purposes.

Week 2: Africa In Another Light

All images I have of Africa was all from Hollywood movies and documentaries from Nat Geo or Discovery Channel. Africa have this stereotypes that it is a very poor country where only a small percentage of people who are wealthy. And who can not imagine Africa without the Blood Diamond conflict?

Digging for diamonds in Marange, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Digging for diamonds in Marange, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Plus, Madiba who was everybody favourite person in the world who proves that prison does not need to break a person.

Pienaar receives the 1995 rugby World Cup from Mandela: 'During those six weeks what happened was incredible.' Photograph: Philip Littleton/AFP/Getty Images

Pienaar receives the 1995 rugby World Cup from Mandela: ‘During those six weeks what happened was incredible.’ Photograph: Philip Littleton/AFP/Getty Images

And I also listen to music where some artists speaks about Africa, especially Sierra Leone. Kanye West have a song.


Plus, those naked tribesman from ‘The God Must Be Crazy’ and all those documentaries about the rich cultures of those tribesman are images I have in my head. I never knew that ivory was used to make amazing sculptures until I seen the slides! Currently, diamonds is being valued but back in the 16th century, ivory was a material that was used to create beautiful sculpture. It’s no wonder they call ivory as the ‘white gold’.

Obviously when the Portuguese came into shore to West Africa, they play a big influence on the Africa culture and this is evident in the ivories that they produce during this time.

Take a look at this for example.

Oliphant Sapi-Portuguese style Sierra Leone, late 15th century Ivory, metal 64.2 x 16.4 x 9cm National Museum of African Art

Sapi-Portuguese style
Sierra Leone, late 15th century
Ivory, metal
64.2 x 16.4 x 9cm
National Museum of African Art

This Oliphant or also known as side blow horns, is a good example that marries both Portuguese and African aesthetics. They are use for group hunting excursion in Europe.

A close up of this image we can see that the design is very intricate. The image below shows a close up and we can identify the cross which symbolises Christianity. Surrounded by intricate geometric patterns, its mimicking african textiles patterns. Actually, all the patterns of this Oliphant could be consider african aesthetics.

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Here, there is an image of a badge which is the coat of arms of the Portuguese royal house. This clearly tells us that this must be a commission work by the royal family. We can also see a figure on the left wearing a very fanciful robe which might be of royal design. The figure is also seen wearing a hat covering his hair which could also symbolises importance status.

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Here, it shows a hunt scene featuring many animals. I can identify stags, boars and many more that can be found in both Europe and Africa. These animals might represent Africa as a rich nature homes for these animals.

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Again, here is a very large coat of arm surrounded by a bird, most probably a phoenix, which represent royal and also strength. This object must be an important object to the royal then. The phoenix is also carved out in a very african aesthetics unlike a western representation of a phoenix. Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 12.40.58 pm

The craftsman who did this Oliphant clearly balances the portuguese and African influences in one design. The material itself already is a clear representation of Africa during the 16th Century. Ivory sculptures like this were usually sent to the Portuguese as gift from the locals and even for sale. The Portuguese sees ivory as a souvenir material as they don’t have plenty back in their home town.

My perception of Africa have clearly been one sided and this tells us the rich history that Africa have way back then during the time of colonisation.


What is Art?

If you ask me what is art today, I would say that it is about a form of expression and emotion. But if you ask me what is art 10 years ago, I would say Art is the fresh coat of paint design on the HDB block.

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me with duchamp

I have a brand new definition of art when I leave MOMA and the Met in New York. To me, Art is a process. A process so sophisticated that it changes everyday.

For example, back in 16th Century, those craftsmen who did those Ceylon casket and presenting it to Queen Catherine as a piece of art. But now, we called these caskets as antiquities and even might able to label such similar items as relic. We might agree that it still a piece of art today as compare to the 16th Century, however, today’s definition of art is not affirmative to call it art and exhibit it in a museum beside a Rothko.

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I guess I can define Art as categories as well. Like how Jackson Pollock won’t be exhibited in the Asian Civilisation Museum but a work from Justin Lee will.

As much as art is a freedom of expression, there are bodies who wants to control Art like those big art house. Art become commercialise like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons but it’s all good, art makes the money go round.

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Claude Monet, Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond, c. 1920, 200 × 1,276 cm (78.74 × 502.36 in), oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York City