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National Gallery Singapore puts art in the spaces you ignore

Using alternative spaces for alternative art, the National Gallery of Singapore wants you to see art in a new light by fixing it to new spaces.
Bam V. Abellon | Oct 26 2018

While the most classical forms and pieces of art are still most revered up to the present time, part of an artist’s progress is in presenting to his or her audience creations that are novel. And when the observer sees these newborn—or reborn—pieces, it rouses excitement—and even introspection.

The National Gallery Singapore aims to evoke these responses through OUTBOUND, a series of artwork commissions that promotes different artists, whose works will be displayed in the gallery’s public spaces. The series will run for a span of three years.

According to Dr. Eugene Tan, director of the National Gallery Singapore, “OUTBOUND is our latest endeavor in creating new aesthetic experiences for our visitors. Conceptualized to broaden encounters with art at the Gallery, we mobilize transitional spaces and key entrances of the gallery to encourage visitor to see art anew and in a less inhibited way.”

While the works will be displayed outside of the exhibition areas, Dr. Tan hopes that they can “intrigue audiences to embrace the surprises that art brings.”


The Artists

“Curiosity” and “playfulness” are two words used by the National Gallery Singapore to describe how they want their audience to feel about the exhibit. It is, thus, judicious that the first artist to set the series in motion is Singaporean Jane Lee.

A follower of her work would be quick to put her on the list when what is expected is anything unpredictable. Jane, born in 1963, has held on to her ever-metamorphosing curiosity. The artist—who had wanted to become a fashion designer before she focused on painting—has gradually shifted from painting on canvas to putting everyday objects on canvas and creating installations.

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Detail of "Raw Canvas"

For OUTBOUND, her famous work Raw Canvas, which was launched at the 2008 Singapore Biennale, will come back home to its original spot at the City Hall historical staircase on the fourth level.

Across the Raw Canvas is a wall plastered with mirror tiles that reflect what looks like an entwining of fabric and textile that convene into one partly-hued, partly-monochromatic abstract image. Lee calls these mirror installations, Nowhere. Between Raw Canvas and Nowhere is a chair—painted like the formerwhere guests can sit as they contemplate on the painting—and maybe even on themselves.

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There are other artists in the pipeline, as well, that have always ruffled the senses.  According to OUTBOUND curator Dr. Adele Tan, their commissioned works will also pay tribute to the deep historical background of the building in which they are unveiled. Dr. Tan said, “It has been serendipitous that several of our artists have proposed projects that explore and exploit the rich variety and history of our buildings’ interior surfaces, including innovate ways to print, tile or weave extensive wall coverings as if transforming the skin of the gallery.”

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Filipino artist Maria Taniguchi—most popularly known for her series of untitled works that contain repeating patterns of bricks—will be sharing her work with the gallery. She will fill the corridors with abstract silkscreen prints on paper and fabric. Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann will showcase contemporary woven mats, which she created with the indigenous people in Sabah. Finally, Australian artist Gary Carsley, in collaboration with Singaporean artist Jeremy Chu, will launch an installation inspired by the colonial botanical gardens in Southeast Asia. These new artworks promote new ways of seeing art by placing them in less traditional spaces—making the case, perhaps, that art isn’t just what you see hung in various museum galleries, or peruse above a crowd of heads clicking no-flash pictures at a masterpiece—art is meant to be transgressive, and we need it everywhere.