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Support mental wellness through the arts, visit The Culture Story this weekend

Art therapists at work. Image courtesy of The Red Pencil

What’s up, art aficionados? If you haven’t already heard, The Culture Story is bringing us an exhibition this week that is sure to make us feel all the feels. The Singapore-based gallery is partnering with The Red Pencil, a mental health charity, to showcase a collection of stunning artworks donated by a selection of talented artists.

And the best part?

All funds raised from the sale of the artworks will be donated to charity. That’s right, you can get your art fix and make a difference in the world at the same time.

The Red Pencil is a charity that “brings the power of creative arts therapy around the world to children and families who have been through traumatic life circumstances, for which they have no words.” As the charity explains, its “programmes help them heal and grow through the arts, by offering an alternative way of expression towards balance, empowerment and resilience.”

Art therapists at work. Image courtesy of The Red Pencil
Art therapists at work. Image courtesy of The Red Pencil

It’s no secret that creating art can be a therapeutic experience. It allows us to express ourselves when words fall short, and it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve communication, and increase feelings of self-worth. Art therapy has become increasingly popular as a way to promote mental wellness, and for good reason. For those struggling with mental health issues, creating art can be a way to build confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of control over one’s life.

The transformative power of art therapy cannot be overstated, and it’s great to see The Culture Story using its platform to promote mental wellness.

Chong Huai Seng (left) and Ning Chong (right)
Father and daughter team Chong Huai Seng (left) and Ning Chong (right), founders of The Culture Story. Image from The Culture Story.

We had a chat with gallery co-founder and prominent Singapore collector, Chong Huai Seng on the show. Read on for more.

How did you get involved with The Red Pencil? And why is this exhibition meaningful to you?

I was invited to be a director of The Red Pencil by its founders Alain and Laurence Vandenborre in 2011. This exhibition is to bring greater awareness to the work done by The Red Pencil, and also to raise funds for its many activities. As an art collector, I can identify very easily with art therapy, having seen and read about how some great artists created masterpieces often under the most trying circumstances.

How did you curate the artists that have been brought together for the show? Is there any artist (or artists) that you would like to draw our readers’ attention to?

The artists are all our friends and we have collected works from almost all of them. We invited artists of all ages and asked for smaller works, so that they are more affordable, especially for new and younger art lovers and collectors.

We have a good mix of senior artists like Han Sai Por, Wong Keen, Milenko Prvacki, [as well as] the younger set like Khairulddin Wahab and Loi Cai Xiang.

Khairulddin Wahab, Landscape study, 2023
Khairulddin Wahab, Landscape study, 2023. According to Khairulddin, this work is one of the pieces made by him to explore the formal elements of paint, and one can go so far as to consider it as a ‘sketch.’ Smaller studies such as these are made by him as a way to work out colours and composition before starting on a bigger canvas. He explains that his intention was to break down and abstract the landscape into shapes and forms.
Shen Jiaqi, Interrupted Momentum, 2020
Shen Jiaqi, Interrupted Momentum, 2020. The artist tells us that the work is “an exploration into how escapism can bring out an individual’s desire for a sanctuary amidst personal and societal expectations. The process of searching for a ‘tribe’ can generate feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and at the same time, create a desperate desire for a safe space within transitory urban environments.  Here, “the Mynah bird represents displacement, as it lives and survives through adaptation and compromise. The birds’ resilient nature allows them to survive and breed in an environment that is at best nonchalant, and at worst, hostile.”

And of course, there are established collector favourites like Boo Sze Yang, Genevieve Chua and Dawn Ng.

Boo Sze Yang, 心象 The Other Space #3, 2018
Boo Sze Yang, 心象 The Other Space #3, 2018. As the artist explains on his website, his “semi-abstract paintings conjure a natural world gradually dissected and displaced by urban development. The monochromatic handling of linear structures resembling scaffoldings, partitions and platforms is created through the delicate process of pulling and pushing wet paints across the canvas using a squeegee. These imageries do not evoke real moments of memories but refer to a special, in-between zone of the real space and the utopia; a baffling place where reality and fantasy coexist.”
Dawn Ng, Vessel #24 Taupe, 2021
Dawn Ng, Vessel #24 Taupe, 2021. The work is from the artist’s family of hand-sculpted paper vessels in a soft kaleidoscope of shapes and shades. Titled Small Things, the project began during the pandemic lockdown in Singapore on April 7th 2020. As Ng explains on her website, “with a limited supply of paints, inks, paper, tissue, glue and gypsum, she embarked on an elegant exploration of simple handmade vessels in the back room of her apartment.” When asked why the work was suitable to be donated for this exhibition, Ng had this to say: “I think it’s a very intimate and human work—the smallest of these paper sculpture vessels contains hundreds of my fingerprints as I moulded them into form. There is a sense of fragility and care that echoes the cause.”
Wyn-Lyn Tan, Circadian: 23:00, 2020
Wyn-Lyn Tan, Circadian: 23:00, 2020. In this series made of acrylic paint on plexiglass, the artist explains that she’s attempted to track her relationship with time in a series of works that were created during each specific hour of her 24-hour circadian cycle across the pandemic lockdown period.

What are the price points like? Are there entry points for new or younger collectors?

The price points are from S$300 onwards. Most of them are around S$1000-4000, very affordable for new and younger collectors. They are priced at the ‘Affordable Art Fair’ price range [but have been created] by well-known artists.

Will the artists be contributing the full sales proceeds to the charity? 

All the artists have agreed to contribute the entire proceeds from the fund-raising and they will not be compensated in monetary terms. As organisers, we are extremely grateful to all the artists for their generosity and their willingness to help without the slightest hesitation.

From this Straits Times article, there was a suggestion made that the encouragement of philanthropy and volunteering could be one way to make rich Chinese migrants feel connected to Singapore and to assist with the alleviating of resentment among Singaporeans. What are your thoughts on this?  In your work with Family Office for Art, and for charities like The Red Pencil, have you had any experience in getting family offices to support local arts charities?

It’s probably too early to draw any meaningful conclusions but so far, my experience with family office-type residents has been positive. Many of them are interested in local culture and the arts, i.e. visual and performing arts, music etc. I am hoping to get good support from some of them in this fund-raising art exhibition for The Red Pencil.

Answer this question for us: “I don’t know anything about art but I want to learn and I like the idea of supporting a charity too. How should I approach this exhibition?”

Come and see the show. Get a chance to meet the artists who have contributed their works to the exhibition and speak to them freely as friends. Most importantly, get started by bringing home an artwork that you like. Only by getting your feet wet can you really start learning about art and collecting.

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in organising similar art shows for charitable causes? 

My advice would be to be thick-skinned and ask for donations of artworks, as early as possible because artists are also busy people. Be very clear about how the show is to be organised and publicised so as to minimise conflicts and confusion.

Thanks for speaking to us Mr Chong!

It’s clear that this  exhibition features a diverse collection of artwork, from bold and abstract pieces to more intricate and detailed works. Each piece has its own unique story to tell and invites viewers to connect with the artist’s vision. And the fact that these pieces were donated for such a great cause, just adds to their beauty.

In conclusion, this is an exhibition that is not to be missed. The Culture Story is doing some amazing work in promoting mental wellness and supporting The Red Pencil. Whether you are an art enthusiast or simply want to support a good cause, there is something for everyone. The exhibition is a celebration of the transformative power of art therapy and a timely reminder of the importance of mental wellness in our communities.


Art to Heart: A Charity Art Exhibition will run at The Culture Story from 28 – 30 April 2023. Click here for exhibition opening hours.

All artwork images are provided courtesy of the respective artists. 

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