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See SAW (Singapore Art Week) around Waterloo, Bras Basah and Bugis

Singapore Art Week kicks off with a bang on 11 Jan 2020. “Art Takes Over”, we’re told – but where exactly and how?

Here’s a bunch of fun things to do around the colourful Waterloo, Bras Basah and Bugis districts.

1. State of Motion

Pop Quiz: What do the following three things have in common?

a) Actor P. Ramlee sticking forks into his eyes.

b) Pontianak films coupled with a giant wrap-around display of Yee I-Lann’s Like the Banana Tree at the Gate, 2016.

c) David Bowie aimlessly going up and down the escalators of Far East Plaza.

Yee I-Lann, Like the Banana Tree at the Gate, 2016 – featured in 2019’s State of Motion presentation.

If you’d guessed that they’ve all been features of State of Motion, a yearly art and film tour which addresses different themes in each of its iterations, you’d be absolutely correct. State of Motion is easily one of our favourite things in the Singapore art landscape. From the history of Malay film in the region in 2018’s Sejarah-ku to Southeast Asian monsters in 2019’s Fear of Monsters, to films which have referenced or been filmed in Singapore in 2017’s Through Stranger Eyes, the event digs deep into local and regional film history. One of the things we love best is how its organiser, the Asian Film Archive, manages to serve up insightful research and commentary in a fun and engaging package that is accessible to all.

This year’s show, Rushes of Time, runs from 10 Jan to 2 Feb 2020 and explores relations between the themes of time, the moving image and systems of memory. Image courtesy of Asian Film Archive.

The exhibition will explore the idea of the archive and its relationship to different states of remembering through our sense of time. This year’s tour includes a visit to the newly re-opened National Archives of Singapore. (Lest you think that sounds dull, please refer to our pop quiz question above.) Tickets are available here.

2. Dancing Alone, at Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film

Dancing Alone (Don’t Leave Me) by artist Susie Wong will be showing at Objectifs from 8 Jan to 9 Feb 2020. It’s an immersive video installation of solitary women dancing freely, evoking the imagery of dance halls in the 1950s and 60s. Referencing a line from the film, The King and I: “no woman would dance alone while a man is looking at her,” the exhibition alludes to the representations of women in media that are re-enacted in the everyday. The dancing women are both empowered and subjugated as they seek freedom from the shackles of convention whilst laying their own bodies on display for a viewing public.

Image courtesy of Susie Wong.

Objectifs is well-known for its annual Women in Film and Photography show, and it comes as no surprise that the art space looks set to continue with its engagement with the art of strong female artists. Looking for a place to bring a date to show how woke you are about feminist issues? Look no further: this is the exhibition for you.

3. Pneuma: Of Spirituality in Contemporary Age

Don’t worry – we can’t pronounce it either. But this ancient Greek word – pneuma – means “breath”, or, in a more religious context, “spirit” or “soul”. In this upcoming exhibition at Stamford Arts Centre from 11 Jan to 6 Feb 2020, 6 local artists (Dzaki Safaruan, Fajrina Razak, Huijun Lu, Ila, Nhawfal Juma’at and Noor Iskandar) explore what spirituality means to them in these modern times.

Huijun Lu, Membrane / Portal. Image courtesy of the artist.

Artist-organiser Nhawfal Juma’at questions, “How do you perceive faith in the contemporary age? Through art, through something abstract, it is a neutral platform for us to execute this discourse.” That said, however, the artists want you to know that this is not a show about one specific religion, or religion itself. Rather, they address the broader notion of existence and its attendant anxieties.

4. Memories of Chinatown

Image courtesy of Filmat36 (S) Pte Ltd.

National Language Class. Epic Poem of Malaya. Workers in a Canteen. The works of Cultural Medallion winner Chua Mia Tee trace the history of a fledgling Singapore, just as the changing streets of Chinatown mark how this nation-state has evolved with time. In this documentary entitled Memories of Chinatown, walk down memory lane with Singapore’s second-generation painters, Ang Ah Tee, Choo Keng Kwang, Chua Mia Tee, and photographer Yip Cheong Fun, as they tell stories of a Chinatown past.

5. Art Week at Bras Basah Complex: Joint Exhibition by Ten Galleries

If you’ve ever walked past the art galleries at Bras Basah Complex and wondered about the groups of (mostly) old men huddled over cups of Chinese tea, while deep in conversation — well, now’s the time to cross that Rubicon and find out more about the exquisite art pieces that live in these spaces.

The art galleries at Bras Basah Complex organise a yearly event to provide a platform for artists to showcase their artistic creations and ventures. Several exhibitions will be featured throughout the entire Complex during the month of 11 Jan 2020 to 11 Feb 2020, and it’s a great opportunity to speak to living artists about their works. A number of the works on display bridge the gaps between traditional Chinese and Western influence in Singapore art, very much in the vein of the dynamic Nanyang spirit.

Tay Bak Chiang, One and Only, 2018. Tay paints objects in nature such as plants, birds and rocks, but attempts to reinterpret them in terms of form, composition, technique, material and colour. Vibrant pigments are often combined with traditional Chinese ink and colours. Image courtesy of Si Bao Zhai Arts Gallery.

The participating galleries include artcommune gallery, Bras Basah Complex Merchant’s Association, Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery, Fine Arts Global Development, G Art Gallery, Nanyang Gallery, Pin Xuan Ge, Si Bao Zhai Arts Gallery, Tide Gallery, and Tieling Art.

A spokesperson from artcommune shared this particular nugget of info on what to expect:

“As a follow-up to the widely-received exhibition held in Beijing, ‘Fan Chang Tien: Homecoming of a Heritage’, artcommune’s January showcase promises an overview of first generation ink master Fan Chang Tien’s art, comprising rare and exquisite works from his early periods to a painting executed a few days before his passing. The exhibition will also delve into his seal carving practice for the first time, complemented with a publication and panel discussion.”

6. SAW Late Nights

…and if all of the excitement above isn’t enough to quench your thirst for good art, mosey on over to the art spaces participating in SAW Late Nights. On 11 and 16 Jan 2020, a selection of galleries will remain open late into the night, ready to welcome fatigued 9-to-5ers into the embrace of good art (seriously though, who even has a 9-to-5 job these days?). Check in here for updates on the events at the following locations:

11 January – Waterloo, Bras Basah & Bugis
Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film, The Private Museum, Singapore Calligraphy Centre, SOTA Art Gallery, Dr. Chen Wen Hsi Museum, artcommune Gallery, Galleries at Bras Basah Complex, DECK, National Design Centre

16 January- Tanjong Pagar Distripark
Artspace@Helutrans, Gajah Gallery, YH Conservation


Feature Image courtesy of Nagatsuka Hideto.

For other SAW 2020 programmes happening in Singapore at other locations, visit for more information, or follow @sgartweek on Facebook & Instagram for the latest updates!

Singapore Art Week is a joint initiative by the National Arts Council, Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board and Economic Development Board.

This article is produced in paid partnership with the National Arts Council. Thank you for supporting the institutions that support Plural.
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