National Gallery Singapore

In February I visited National Gallery Singapore, a smart new (opened 2015) art museum housed in a pair of colonial-era buildings, the former Supreme Court and the adjacent City Hall.

Blank Paper by Liu Jianhua

There was a temporary exhibition happening on Minimalist Art. Now call me an unsophisticated ignoramus but I just don’t get Minimalism. Take a look at this piece for example called ‘Blank Paper’ by Liu Jianhua. The explanation reads: ‘At first glance, Blank Paper resembles three large, empty sheets of paper …. which is in fact white porcelain ……..each monochromatic rectangle is devoid of narrative elements, suggesting a tabula rasa upon which we can project our own meaning.’ I’m sure the artist is having a good laugh at how he can pass off this work as art.

Ton of Tea by Ai Weiwei

This work is a little better, a one-ton cube of dried Pu’er tea leaves by Ai Weiwei. Other pieces include a room full of blue LED lights representing ‘the radiance of human life’, another room bathed in intense yellow neon light which makes your skin look blotchy, and a thick carpet of porcelain sunflower seeds.

Fortunately the National Gallery has a large collection of more traditional paintings, mostly by Southeast Asian artists, which are more my cup of tea. Here is a selection:

Rama, Sita and Laksamana in the Forest by Anak Agung Gede Meregeg (Indonesia) c1930.
La Banca by Félix Resurrección Hidalgo (Philippines) 1876.
Six Horsemen Chasing Deer by Raden Saleh (Indonesia) 1860.
Market at Marmot by Louis Rollet (French Indochina) 1940.
Sunset by Basoeki Abdullah (Indonesia) undated.
Javanese Temple in Ruins by Raden Saleh (Indonesia) 1860.
Marketplace During the Occupation by Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (Philippines) 1942.
The Funeral by Le Quoc Viet (Vietnam) 2001.
Landscape of Vietnam by Nguyen Gia Tri (Vietnam) 1940.
Rangoon Harbour by U Ba Nyan (Myanmar) c1930s.
At the Jetty by U Ba Nyan (Myanmar) 1943-45.
Chinese Barber Shop by Ernst Agerbeek (Batavia) 1928. This last painting is actually on display at the nearby Asian Civilisation Museum, which is also well worth a visit.

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