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Faith Beauty Love Hope
Asian Civilisations Museum
From now till Feb 28
IT'S been a difficult year for Kennie Ting, director of the Asian Civilisations Museum. Not only did he have to lead the top-tier institution through the Covid-19 pandemic, he also had to deal with a personal health crisis. In October, his doctor found that a main artery to his heart was blocked, forcing him to undergo a stent procedure a month later. But soon after the operation, he was back on his feet to open the museum's newest show Faith Beauty Love Hope - Our Stories, Your ACM.
Mr Ting, 42, says: "We wanted a show that acknowledges the fact that each and every one of us has gone through many personal challenges in 2020. We called this show Faith Beauty Love Hope because they are some of the things that keep us going and give us solace through these tough times."
The museum had planned to mount a blockbuster Ming dynasty show in collaboration with Beijing's Palace Museum for its year-end bang. But Covid-19 forced the team to keep "postponing the show until it became clear to us that the show could not come until after 2020," says Mr Ting.
In its place, Faith Beauty Love Hope is a showcase of works selected by the museum staff, volunteers and supporters themselves. Everyone connected to the museum was asked to pick a personal favourite among the museum's pieces on display and in the vault, and state the reasons why they liked the piece. The curators then shortlisted around 60 of the best ones.
They include an exquisitely crafted Japanese chest from the 17th century, decorated with lacquer mixed with gold and silver dust, and inlaid with abalone shell. There is also a beautiful Dancing Ganesha sandstone work from the early 10th century, a stunning Chinese lacquered wood table screen from mid-18th century, and a set of mahjong tables and chairs from the early 20th century.
The pieces range from the lavish and ornate to the ostensibly simple. But all were "picked by the professionals and volunteers who work in or with the museum, who felt that these pieces resonated with them (in relation to) what they went through in the course of 2020," says Mr Ting.
Besides the main exhibition, there are two smaller exhibitions focused on the collection of Dr Yuan Shao Liang and the contemporary art of Dawn Ng.
By Iskandar Jalil
ION Art Gallery
From now till Jan 3
The latest exhibition by master potter Iskandar Jalil opened on - of all days - Christmas Day. But despite it being a holiday, dozens of ardent collectors arrived as early as 10.30am to view the new works. And, by 3pm, about 80 per cent of the pieces - priced anywhere between S$400 for a cup and S$100,00 for a wall sculpture - were sold.
Now that he is nearly 81 (his birthday is on Jan 5), Iskandar's art has become more elegant and refined than ever. Though he continues to explore certain abiding themes and aesthetics, every new iteration of those concepts brings a new perspective.
Syed Muhd Hafiz, who curated the show for organisers Tembusu Art Gallery, says: "He tends to revisit many of his earlier ideas, such as the sculptural pieces inspired by tongkangs (boats) or kampongs (villages) he's lived in. But there's always a twist, a slant, a dash of the unexpected, to make the old concepts fresh again."
The pandemic hasn't slowed the octogenarian. He visits his studio almost every day in Temasek Polytechnic, where he used to teach, and works on his pieces from morning to late afternoon. Partly trained in Japan, the potter typically produces more than 50 works a year, some of which weigh over 10kg - hefty for the thin-framed cancer survivor; he works on them slowly.
Among his new pieces are several stoneware pots, teapots and vessels, topped with beautiful pieces of driftwood. Some feature stylised Jawi calligraphy to augment their beauty. But many catch the eye by their striking blend of colours (deep greens, fiery oranges, earthy reds) and stucco-like texture. Even though 95 per cent of the pieces are now sold, the show continues to attract visitors daily.
Mr Hafiz says: "I've met some collectors who say they have been following his practice since the 1970s. He has a diehard fanbase that shows up on the first day of all his shows . . . Over the years, both as an artist and educator, he's really been able to reach out to almost all spectrums of Singapore society."