Inuits will paint the town red this weekend

20 08 2015

The highly anticipated Singapore Night Festival is back!

One of the highlights of this year’s festival has to be the appearance of the world’s smallest and perhaps the most lovable Inuits, Anooki (Anook and Nooki). The Inuits, the creation of David Passegand and Moetu Batlle, have come all the way from France to run riot and paint the town, of rather the façade of the National Museum of Singapore. red, green, purple and blue and put a smile on the faces of the the crowds that will descend on the museum’s front lawn on the weekends of 21/22 and 28/29 August.

Annoki Celebrate Singapore on the façade of the National Museum of Singapore.

The Anooki wreaking havoc on the façade of the National Museum of Singapore.

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David Passegand and Moetu Batlle.

David Passegand and Moetu Batlle.

The Inuits, which are said to have taken the animation world by storm, will feature in one of several performances specially commissioned for the jubilee year edition of the Singapore Night Festival. The fun and energetic projection, Anooki Celebrate Singapore, will anchor the festival’s Night Lights – a popular segment that promises to be bigger and better this year. Night Lights also sees several other light installations colour the night in and around the museum. One, Cédric Le Borgne’s le Desir et la Menace brings the huge banyan tree in front of the museum to life with giant illuminated bird wire sculptures. Another, Drawn in Light by Ralf Westerhof, recreates sights typical of Amsterdam using rotating illuminated wire frames suspended above the ground.

Le Desir et la Menace.

Le Desir et la Menace.

Drawn in Light.

Drawn in Light.

Inside the museum, Night Light offerings include And So They Say and A Little Nonya’s Dreams. The former is a documentary project that features interviews with 25 senior citizens that will also be seen at SOTA, DECK (at Prinsep Street) and the National Design Centre. The latter, sees three animators come together to individually interpret a little’s girls’ dreams.

And So They Say.

And So They Say.

From A Little Nonya's Dreams.

From A Little Nonya’s Dreams.

Playing with fire … and light over at the Singapore Art Museum, will be the Starlight Alchemy, an audience favourite and regular feature at the Singapore Night Festival. This year, sees the locally based group perform a specially commissioned Alchemy that tells of the reconciliation between Apollo from the world of Ethereal Light and Nuri from the world of Ethereal Flame, in another must-catch performance.

Fire ....

Fire ….

... and light meet at the SAM.

… and light meet at the SAM.

Other performances to catch include Goldies, who will take us back into Singapore’s musical world from the 50s to the 80s in a ticketed performance; Fields in Bloom, which sees flowers glowing in a spectrum of colours on the steps of SOTA and the Lorong Boys – 5 award winning Singaporean musicians who perform in both the concert hall and on the streets. Another interesting performance to catch is Lost Vegas, which features the giant puppets of Frank Malachi – an award winning puppeteer based in Singapore.

Meet Christine, who will be seen in Lost Vegas.

Meet Christine, who will be seen in Lost Vegas.

3 of the 5 Lorong Boys.

3 of the 5 Lorong Boys.

Flieds in Bloom.

Fields in Bloom.

Goldies.

Goldies.

The Singapore Night Festival 2015 runs over two weekends (Friday and Saturday nights), on 21 and 22 August and on 28 and 29 August, from 7 pm until 2 am. The festival will be held across 5 zones, the National Museum of Singapore, Armenian Street (which will again be closed for the festival), the House of Glamour (at the field across from the Cathay), the Festival Village at SMU and the Singapore Art Museum and Queen Street (including the National Design Centre, DECK at 120A Prinsep Street), Waterloo Street and SOTA). Besides light and music performances, festival goers can also look forward to lots of food offerings. More information on the festival can be found at the Singapore Night Festival Website at which a Festival Guide can also be downloaded.

Singapore Night Festival creative director Christie Chua.

Singapore Night Festival creative director Christie Chua.

 

 





The art and science of bringing an ogre to life

15 06 2015

Animation has allowed many a tale to be spun in which the unlikeliest of heroes take centre-stage. This is especially so in the last two decades with the availability of the computing power required to allow CGI animation to give scenes and characters a much greater degree of realism. We now have a chance in Singapore to see what how DreamWorks Animation, one of the studios at the forefront of animation, in bringing endearing characters such as a love struck ogre and a round kung-fu kicking panda to life, at Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition. The exhibition, which opened at the ArtScience Museum over the weekend, will be a treat not just for animation fans, but also anyone and everyone who has watched any of DreamWorks’ wonderful creations.

Mr Chris Harris of ACMI, the ArtScience Museum's Ms Honor Harger and Mr Doug Cooper of DreamWorks Animation.

Mr Chris Harris of ACMI, the ArtScience Museum’s Ms Honor Harger and Mr Doug Cooper of DreamWorks Animation.

Curated by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), the exhibition, which is divided into three main galleries, also offers the visitor lots of opportunities to have a feel for some of the processes involved in animation for themselves, through its interactive components. One that will certainly be a hit would be the Face Poser interactive station. Here, visitors can play around at manipulating facial features such as furrowing a brow or raising an eyebrow of a character to give different facial expressions and show different emotions.

The Face Poser.

The Face Poser.

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There also is an opportunity to have a feel of the software used by DreamWorks’ animators at another interactive station in the Drawing Room. This will allow visitors to create a short 2D animation sequence with the aid of a tutorial.

Mr Doug Cooper at the Drawing Room.

Mr Doug Cooper at the Drawing Room.

The exhibition proper, which is on its first stop of an intended five-year international tour, takes visitors through the process of how characters are developed and how they evolve from 2D sketches to what we see on the screen in the Character gallery, how the story is developed and sold in the Story gallery, and finally how the magical worlds – the wonderful scenes that give a flavour to the films are woven around the characters and the story, in the World gallery.

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A recreation of a DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace.

A recreation of a DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace.

In the Character, we are also introduced to how the development of characters have evolved with the advances in computing, with the display of sketches, the marquettes that were used to develop 3D images prior to this being done completely on the computer screen, as well as in-depth interviews that are screened.

The Character Section with its display of marquettes and sketches that depict the evolution of some of the popular characters.

The Character gallery with its display of marquettes and sketches that depict the evolution of some of the popular characters.

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A recreation of another DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace.

A recreation of another DreamWorks Animation studio real-life workspace.

The Story gallery is where one finds what I thought was one of the more interesting exhibits – a digital storyboard at which visitors can catch a very animated Conrad Vernon, doing a pitch for the “Interrogating Gingy” scene in Shrek. The filmmaker was apparently so convincing that DreamWorks had him lend voice the gingerbread man his voice.

Catch Conrad Vernon doing his pitch for Interrogating Gingy.

Catch Conrad Vernon doing his pitch for Interrogating Gingy.

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The World gallery, the largest section, is where the work of directors, designers and concept artists converge and where we have a look at some of the thoughts that go into the scenes. It is also where another of the exhibition’s must-dos, Dragon Flight: A Dragon’s-Eye view of Berk, a panoramic ride on the back of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon over Berk across a 40-foot 180 degree projection, specially made for the exhibition, can be viewed.

Dragon Flight (photo: Marina Bay Sands / Mark Ashkanasy).

Dragon Flight (photo: Marina Bay Sands / Mark Ashkanasy).

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There will be lots of other programmes and activities during the exhibition period, including screenings of some of our favourite DreamWorks’ films. More information on the exhibition, including a full list of programmes and on ticketing can be found at the exhibition page on the ArtScience Museum’s website.

For the kids - an activity that introduces the basics of animation.

For the kids – an activity that introduces the basics of animation.





What lurks in the depths of the oceans

8 06 2015

Yet another great exhibition, The Deep, has opened at the ArtScience Museum. Running from over the last weekend, the exhibition takes us on an exploration of a part of the world to which few have ventured, the darkest depths of inner space. Inhabited by creatures whose appearances might suggest they are the products of an overactive imagination, the deepest depths is where fewer men have found themselves in as compared to outer space.

A Giant Isopod.

A Giant Isopod specimen.

Coming face to face with a Murray's abyssal anglerfish specimen.

Coming face to face with a Murray’s abyssal anglerfish specimen.

Curated by Claire Nouvian of BLOOM Association, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to have a glimpse into the abyssal world in which light, as we see it, cannot exist. There is an attempt to recreate the darkness through the pitch black setting visitors are placed into immediately after stepping into the exhibition.

A glowing sucker octopus.

A glowing sucker octopus.

Another anglerfish specimen.

Another anglerfish specimen.

Before taking the gradual plunge into the depths through the different exhibition zones, the visitor is first provided with an introduction to the world below us through Hidden/Depths. An interactive art installation, the artist Lynette Wallworth, incorporates specimens of some never before seen deep-sea creatures into 18 luminescent glass sculptures. An introduction is also provided to bio-luminescence, light produced by some 90% of the creatures of the deep as a means to communicate and to lure prey.

Claire Nouvian of BLOOM Association speaking at the media preview.

Claire Nouvian of BLOOM Association speaking at the media preview.

Lynette Wallworth.

Lynette Wallworth.

An interactive  introduction to bio-luminescence.

An interactive introduction to bio-luminescence.

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The exhibition proper starts has visitors descend to zone between 150 and 600 metres (in Zone A) in which less than 1% of the light of day filters through to. This is an area where life is in abundance and yet is also an area dangerous to life. Then comes a descent into total darkness, first into the red zone between 600 and 1000 metres (in Zone B), where one finds animals in many shades of red. The red colour, interestingly, gives these creatures the ability to cloak the blue-green bio-luminescent emissions of the prey being consumed.

A pair of radiolarians - skeletons formed by a colony of unicellular organisms in Zone A.

A pair of radiolarians – skeletons formed by a colony of unicellular organisms in Zone A.

Lobster Larvae.

Lobster Larvae.

An introduction to the red sea creatures of the zone between 600 and 1000 metres deep.

An introduction to the red sea creatures of the zone between 600 and 1000 metres deep.

One of which is the shrouded vampire octopus.

One of which is the shrouded vampire squid.

Next up is the very cold waters beneath in the zone beneath 1000 metres (Zone C). At a kilometre down, the water temperature does not go beyond 4 degrees Celsius. Sources of food here are scarce, and literally are the crumbs that fall off from the tables of the higher ups – leftovers of the frenzy of feeding on the way down to the sea floor. Only 10 submersibles in the world are able to reach such depths.

An anglerfish larvae in an oil filled bubble that allows it to ascend to a shallower food rich waters before descending into the deep as they mature.

An anglerfish larvae in an oil filled bubble that allows it to ascend to a shallower food rich waters before descending into the deep as they mature.

The bottom of the sea (in Zone D: Bottom of the ocean) is next up. Here a layer of mud – thought to be hundreds of metres thick, covers the sea floor above which a diversity of creatures exceeding that of the Amazon and the Great Barrier Reef put together, is suspected to roam.

Taxidermist, Allan Gottini.

Taxidermist, Allan Gottini.

The last two zones are where we are introduced to biodiversity and also the toxic oases built around parts of the seabed where hydrothermal vents form. This is where chemosynthesis (as opposed to photosynthesis) allows life to thrive in environments in a mineral rich environment in which gases such as methane and and toxic hydrogen sulfide can be transformed into organic matter by bacteria.

A look at life in the toxic oases.

A look at life in the toxic oases.

The scale of hydrothermal formations can be seen against a silhouette of  a submersible in one of the photographs.

The scale of hydrothermal formations can be seen against a silhouette of a submersible in one of the photographs.

One of the highlight of the exhibition is probably the Krøyer’s deep-sea anglerfish specimen. The specimen is evidence of a world in which the male loses its heart and senses, literally, to the female as it becomes a sex-slave of sorts once it has found a mate. On the specimen, visitors will do well to spot the male, a fraction of the size of the dominant female. While the female can reach more than a metre in length, the male (seen attached to the bottom of the specimen) can be 60 times smaller and once attached, becomes a parasite to to the female, losing its ability to feed, as well as it brain, heart and eyes and is effectively reduced to a pair  of gonads.

The female Krøyer's deep-sea anglerfish specimen with the male (the protrusion at the bottom of its belly) attached.

The female Krøyer’s deep-sea anglerfish specimen with the male (the protrusion at the bottom of its belly) attached.

Visitors to the exhibition can also look forward to several programmes including guided tours (in English at 3.30 pm on Fridays, 11.30 am on Saturdays and 5 pm on Sundays and in Mandarin on Saturdays and Sundays and on 17 July at 4pm). Activities also include  Making Space in which recycled materials are used to make an anglerfish (which can glow for $4 through the use of a battery operated UV LED) and a Cyanotype Creatures Workshop to create artwork using the cyanotype photographic technique at the cost of $5. The exhibition is scheduled to run until November 2015. More information on the exhibition and programmes associated with it can be found at the ArtScience Musuem’s The Deep.

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The glow in the park

12 05 2015

The quiet green surroundings of Fort Canning Hill provides the setting for the Pinacothèque de Paris’ home away from home, in a building whose best features the museum seems to have brought out, especially with its nighttime illuminations. The rather majestic looking building, looking resplendent after a huge makeover, dates back to 1926, beginning its life as a barracks block of the Malaya Command Headquarters. The Malaya Command HQ occupied a large part of the grounds of a mid-18oos British fortification, of which part of the wall and a gate, the Fort Gate, remains. Named after Lord Canning, the Governor-General and Viceroy of British India at that time, the fort was also what gave the hill its modern name.

The new glow at the formerly very dark cemetery at Fort Canning.

The new glow at the formerly very dark cemetery at Fort Canning.

I first got to know the three storey building that is now the Pinacothèque in my days of youthful adventure when the hill was a draw for as much for its seclusion of the hill, as it was for its mystery. Known also as Bukit Larangan, the Forbidden Hill, it was so named as it was the abode of the ancient kings both in life and in the afterlife. The dark and uncertain slopes, desecrated by the ornaments of the new order the most noticeable of which were the reminders of Singapore’s first Christian burial ground, seemed more forbidding  then than forbidden.

Fort Canning Centre at the start of its transformation into the Pinacotheque de Paris.

Fort Canning Centre at the start of its transformation into the Pinacotheque de Paris.

The monuments on the hill to the garrison no one imagined could be defeated, were less forbidding. In former barracks block, then converted into the “world’s largest squash centre”, Singapore Squash Centre, one was never without company. Established in 1977 when the game of squash rackets was at the peak of its popularity in Singapore, the centre boasted of 25 courts and as a facility for the game, was well used up until the 1980s. Unfortunately, the good times were to be brought to an end at the end of the 1980s. Plans were announced in 1985 to revamp Fort Canning Hill into a focal point for cultural and recreational activities in the city, with the barracks block serving as its hub. Following the expiration of the centre’s lease for the building in 1987, the building was renovated and unveiled as the Fort Canning Centre in 1991 into which arts related tenants such dance studios and theatre groups moved.

The building in the 1980s (National Archives of Singapore).

Overlooking Fort Canning Green, the site of the former Christian cemetery, the Pinacothèque de Paris, which opens its doors on 30 May 2015, adds not just a stunning backdrop to the now open-air concert venue, but also provides a good reason to head up a hill on whose slopes much of our early history was written.





The National Gallery, naked

7 05 2015

It has been a long four and a half years since two architectural icons of a lost age went into hiding, cloaked for a large part in a dark shroud. That was to permit a huge and costly transformation of the two, the old Supreme Court and the City Hall, to be performed, a transformation that would turn the two  into a jewel that will crown Singapore’s coming of age. The massive 64,000 square metres of floor area that the two buildings share will provide Singapore with the grandest of showcases its huge National collection as the new National Gallery Singapore. The collection numbers some 10,000 works. Composed primarily of the art of Singapore and of Southeast Asia, it is the largest collection of its kind in the world.

The restored historical lobby of the Old Supreme Court.

The restored historical lobby of the Old Supreme Court.

The re-tiled corridors of the Old Supreme Court.

The new shine of the re-tiled corridors of the Old Supreme Court.

The buildings, both National Monuments and ones that for long characterised the city-scape, hark back to the days of the empire. With significant chapters of our history written within their walls, the two are monuments not just of the nation, but also to the nation and what is nice about the transformation, although it may have altered some of the buildings’ characters, is that its does allows an  appreciation of the buildings’s historic and architectural value by providing us and our future generations with access to them and more importantly to their many conserved spaces.

My favourite space in the two buildings, the Rotunda Library, seen in a new light.

My favourite space in the two buildings, the Rotunda Library, seen in a new light.

I had a chance to look at how the transformation has been managed when the buildings made their debut as the National Gallery without the art during the recent series of Naked Museum tours. Having had a look at the two during the open house held just prior to the closure in late 2010, I was especially interested to see how the character of the many conserved spaces within the two have been preserved.

The gathering of local artists and guests at the launch of the National Gallery Open House in 2010 prior to the renovations (National Gallery photo).

The beautifully restored Foyer of the Old Supreme Court.

The beautifully restored Foyer of the Old Supreme Court.

The old stairway that now leads to a new heaven.

The old stairway that now leads to a new heaven.

One of the first things that did catch my eye however, was how the two have been made to become one. A large part of this, is seen in the interface between the two at the former open plaza. Here, we see one of the larger intervention of the architect, Mr Jean François Milou, in the large enclosed space that has been created, encased by glass panels on a framework of steel. The framework is suspended over the two monuments through the use of a rather intriguing looking tree-like support structure. The space is best seen when the sun shines. That is when it takes on an almost magical quality in the soft light that filters through the specially designed screen of perforated aluminium panels.

The atrium between the two buildings.

The atrium between the two buildings.

The moment of inspiration for the screen came on a sun baked afternoon as the architect pondered over how the buildings could be unified sitting on a plastic chair in the Padang. The play of light and shadow through the patchwork of glass and steel, its tree-like support that is also replicated up on the roof of the old Supreme Court, and the sky bridges that allow communication between the two buildings finds meaning as a whole in providing a stunning visual spectacle in which the new is very much in harmony with the old.

A view of the sky bridges between in the atrium created the two buildings.

A view of the sky bridges between in the atrium created the two buildings.

The upper level sky bridge that connects at Level 4.

The upper level sky bridge that connects at Level 4.

The interventions on the roofs of the two buildings, are also best appreciated from the inside. On the previously empty roof of the City Hall, we now see two reflecting pools over the building’s former courtyards. This, found on Level 5, will be lined with F&B outlets. The upper level (Level 6), is where one can now gaze across the Padang to where the generations before once gazed at the lights of the old harbour from a viewing deck that will be opened to the public.

The lower level (Level 5) of City Hall Rooftop will see F&B outlets lining two reflection pools.

The lower level (Level 5) of City Hall Rooftop will see F&B outlets lining two reflection pools.

The view across the reflecting pool of the City Hall Rooftop towards the new Supreme Court.

The view across the reflecting pool of the City Hall Rooftop towards the new Supreme Court.

The City Hall Rooftop viewing deck on Level 6.

The City Hall Rooftop viewing deck on Level 6.

The view through the aluminium panels of the roof.

The view through the aluminium panels of the roof.

It was the roof across the sky bridge that I found especially appealing. Previously an inaccessible are of the old Supreme Court, it is where one finds the minor dome. The skylights on the dome is what casts the delightful glow on the beautifully Rotunda Library below it. The now covered space has a roof similar in construction to the glass enclosure of the atrium between the two buildings, and it is here that in the sunshine, that we also are able to see the gorgeous play of shadow and light it can create.

The Supreme Court Terrace.

The Supreme Court Terrace.

Another view of the terrace with the rotunda dome.

Another view of the terrace with the rotunda dome.

Reflections on the Supreme Court Terrace.

Reflections on the Supreme Court Terrace.

It is under the two domes of the old Supreme Court that one finds the most wonderful of conserved spaces, including what certainly is my favourite of all spaces, the beautiful Rotunda Library. Also conserved and restored are spaces such as Courtroom No. 1, the beautiful corridors on the second level and their skylights, the main staircase, the Historical Lobby and the Grand Foyer.

The Rotunda Library.

The Rotunda Library.

The Rotunda, see from the ground.

The Rotunda, see from a lower angle.

Courtroom No. 1.

Courtroom No. 1.

The beautiful light of the Old Supreme Court main staircase.

The beautiful light of the Old Supreme Court main staircase.

A skylight.

A skylight.

The corridors now feature gleaming marble floor tiles, laid out in a pattern that mimic that of the toxic asbestos filled rubber tiles that had to be replaced. In the area to the left of the staircase one also finds two holding cells, the only ones that have been retained. In the cells, we see a hint of a very necessary sanitary fitting, its opening sealed in cement. When operational, that could only be flushed outside the cells. What would have been nice to see conserved are the narrow caged passageways along which the cells’ occupants could be led, via a trap door, to the courtrooms. These however, were nowhere to be found.

The eight sided foundation stone under which there is a time-capsule that is meant to be opened in the year 3000.

The eight sided foundation stone under which there is a time-capsule that is meant to be opened in the year 3000.

The entrance to the Holding Cells.

The entrance to the Holding Cells.

Inside one ofthe  two holding cells that have been retained.

Inside one ofthe two holding cells that have been retained.

Prisoner holding area.

The caged passageway through which a prisoner would be led to the courtroom.

The caged passageway seen with indicted Japanese soldiers being tried for war crimes being led to the courtroom from the holding cells (source: Imperial War Museums © IWM (IND 4999).

The caged passageway seen with indicted Japanese soldiers being tried for war crimes being led to the courtroom from the holding cells during the War Crime trials (source: Imperial War Museums © IWM (IND 4999).

Another caged relic I would have liked to see, was the cage lift that I remember from a visit I accompanied my mother on in my childhood to a verbatim reporter friend she would sometimes have lunch with. This proved once again to be to be elusive, although I am told that the lift is still there and in working condition.

A look up to the underside of the main dome.

A look up to the underside of the main dome.

One part of the court building I did not have a chance to see previously is the underside of the empty main copper clad dome. That I got to see by special arrangement. With the ceiling that previously obscured it now removed, there is no more need to ascend the spiral staircase to have a glance at its bare underneath and the riveted steel beams that provides support. This view will be one of the treats we can look forward to when the new gallery opens its doors in November.

A voew of the distinctive copper dome from City Hall Rooftop. The dome is said to be a smaller scale version of the famous dome of London's St. Paul's Cathedral.

A view of the distinctive copper dome from City Hall Rooftop. The dome is said to be a smaller scale version of the famous dome of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

A view from the balcony towards the pediment. The space left by a missing coat of arms, thought to be removed during the Japanese Occupation, will be left as it is.

A view from the balcony towards the pediment. The space left by a missing coat of arms, thought to be removed during the Japanese Occupation, will be left as it is.

New galleries in the old building. The old Supreme Court wing will be used to house the South-East Asian collection.

New galleries in the old building. The old Supreme Court wing will be used to house the South-East Asian collection.

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The pediment of the old Supreme Court on which Justice is not blind in Singapore.

The pediment of the old Supreme Court on which Justice is not blind in Singapore.

A pigeon's eye view from the balcony of the old Supreme Court.

A pigeon’s eye view from the balcony of the old Supreme Court.

The City Hall also has several conserved spaces of importance, the most important of which is City Hall Chamber. Once said to be the grandest of rooms in all of Singapore, the chamber witnessed several momentous events of our past, one of which was the surrender of Japanese forces in 1945. Another significant event that took place there was the swearing in of our first Prime Minister in 1959. In its refurbished state, the chamber retains much of its character. The entrance to it is now via side doors that previously were windows to the courtyard.

City Hall CHamber, a.k.a. the Surrender Chamber.

City Hall CHamber, a.k.a. the Surrender Chamber.

The courtyard the doors now lead to had been an open-air served car park. It now finds itself under a reflecting pool (the same pool on the roof terrace) and air-conditioned. As the DBS Singapore Courtyard, it will be used for the permanent display of a collection of Singapore art from the 19th century to the present when the gallery opens.

The former courtyard of City Hall.

The former courtyard of City Hall.

The courtyard will be a new exhibition space.

Shadows from the steel framework of the glass roof over the courtyard.

Moving stairways to the new heaven.

Moving stairways to the new heaven.

The Cor­inthian columns of the former City Hall's façade.

The Cor­inthian columns of the former City Hall’s façade.

The central staircase of City Hall.

The central staircase of City Hall.

In a year during which there is much to look forward to in a Singapore that celebrates its 50th year of independence, the gallery’s opening in November is something that will certainly enhance the celebration. The gallery will by itself be a celebration, one not just of art and culture, but also of our nationhood and of our history and heritage.More information on the National Gallery and the history of the buildings can be found at the National Gallery’s website and some of my previous posts, which contain photographs of how some of the spaces looked before the refurbishment.

A last look at the Rotunda Library.

A last look at the Rotunda Library.





When the lights go out

10 02 2015

Last evening wasn’t what I would call a typical Monday evening. In some rather untypical company, after the lights went off, I stood waiting for a box containing a 15th century lady to be opened, showing little of the trepidation my irrational fears of the dark would typically have invoked; the promise the evening held was an unveiling of the lady’s exquisite beauty for her debut in Singapore.

A Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Ambrogio de Predis, an associate of Leonardo da Vinci.

A Portrait of a Lady, attributed to Ambrogio de Predis, an associate of Leonardo da Vinci.

Delicate but yet well preserved, the beauty of the lady of nobility, is one that is beautifully captured by an associate of Leonardo da Vinci,  Ambrogio de Predis. The portrait, one of several masterpieces from the da Vinci school that is making an appearance in Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum, as part of the Da Vinci: Shaping the Future exhibition that runs until May 2015. While the highlight of the exhibition is perhaps the pages out of da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus from Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana’s collection, the masterpieces the Ambrosiana has brought over, also deserve much attention.

Unscrewing the lid on the outer box in which the painting is packed for shipment. Paintings are packed into two boxes.

Unscrewing the lid on the outer box in which the painting is packed for shipment. Paintings are packed into two boxes.

The rather uninspiringly named “Portrait of a Lady” that had until the 19th century been attributed to da Vinci himself, goes on display for the first time from today. It is part of a changeover of inspiring art work and pages of the Codex at the midway point of the exhibition, made necessary by a three-month limit on exposing the original works, following which they have to be returned to the dark.

Lifting the lid on the inner box.

Lifting the lid on the inner box.

For a opportunity to celebrate beauty as expressed  in oil and to be awed by the genius of da Vinci contained in the pages of the Codex Atlanticus, do visit this wonderful look at what the museum refers to as history’s foremost ArtScientist, Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition interestingly, also sees models of da Vinci’s innovative ideas on display.  The exhibition ends in May 2015. For more information and ticketing details, do visit the ArtScience Museum’s website.

Removing the artwork, which is wrapped in acid-free paper.

Removing the artwork, which is wrapped in acid-free paper.

Unwrapping the painting.

Unwrapping the painting.

The painting is examined for damage after being unpacked by an expert from Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. A report of an examination prior to packing is used as reference.

The painting is examined for damage after being unpacked by an expert from Biblioteca Ambrosiana. A report of an examination prior to packing is used as reference.

Examining the details.

Examining the details.

Once the expert is satisfied, the art work can be displayed.

Once the expert is satisfied, the art work can be displayed.

The painting, seen with one of the paintings that has been taken down for storage, Saiai's St. John the Baptist.

The painting, seen with one of the paintings that has been taken down for storage, Saiai’s St. John the Baptist.


More on the changeover (Art Science Museum Press Release):

Singapore (11 February 2015) – ArtScience Museum today unveiled its eagerly-anticipated renewal of the original masterpieces showcased at Da Vinci: Shaping the Future, as the exhibition approaches the second half of its run. The refreshed displays include a new collection of 13 original pages of the Codex Atlanticus, da Vinci’s largest notebook, and three new paintings from the School of da Vinci.

As part of the renewed collection, visitors will have the rare opportunity to view a neverbefore-seen original Codex Atlanticus page, Drawings of Two Compasses. This folio features two drawings of intricately decorated compasses, which were important tools employed by da Vinci to determine the proportions of his machines and to mark designs on paper before he applied ink to his drawings.

Another beautifully illustrated page in the renewed collection is the Giant Crossbow, one of da Vinci’s most striking and celebrated folios from the Codex Atlanticus. Drawn with elaborate details and technical skill, the folio includes precise measurements of the machine’s components and a figure atop the machine to provide an indication of the scale.

The Giant Crossbow is a prime example of how da Vinci used his artistic skills to illustrate complex technical concepts.

“More than any other figure in history, Leonardo da Vinci represents the unity of art and science. Therefore, it is a great privilege to be able to bring a new collection of da Vinci’s masterpieces to ArtScience Museum, as part of this groundbreaking exhibition. What is particularly exciting for us is that one of the pages from the Codex Atlanticus, which arrived from Italy this week, is being shown in public for the very first time. We are grateful to have been able to work so closely with Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana to realise an exhibition that vividly illustrates how da Vinci’s genius, creativity, and systems thinking continue to inspire and shape the world we live in now,” said Ms. Honor Harger, executive director of ArtScience Museum.

Dr Irene Lee, co-curator, ArtCORP Pte Ltd, adds, “It has been an honour to be a part of this project and to bring the original works by da Vinci from Milan to Singapore. Singapore, like da Vinci, is very forward-thinking, and it is only fitting to have these masterpieces displayed in this innovative city.”

One of the new original paintings that will be on display is the visually arresting Portrait of a Lady. Donated to the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in 1618, the painting was attributed to da Vinci until the 19th century. While the references to da Vinci are evident, such as the knotted golden braid on the lady’s garment, the mesmeric painting remains elusive as both its subject and author have yet to be confirmed despite generations of study by critics and scholars. While some leading scholars firmly attribute the painting to da Vinci and others favour a more prudent attribution, these controversies have never debased the work’s appeal, only increasing its mystery.

Other new paintings from the School of da Vinci that will be showcased are Christ Child with the Lamb by Bernardino Luini, the most famous Milanese painter in the early 16th century, and Adoration of the Child with Saint Roch by Giampietrino.






Horses dancing on the Istana’s lawn

5 11 2014

One of the memories that connects me to Tanah Merah, a magical place that I dearly miss by the sea, is of seeing what had first appeared to me to be grown men at play on cardboard horses. Tanah Merah was a wondrous place to me, not just because of that little moment of magic, but also due to its physical landscape. Set along a coast marked by cliffs from which the area derived its name, it a naturally beautiful world into which I could in my childhood, often find an escape in.

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Four decades now separates me that memory. The place has long been discarded by a Singapore that has little sentiment for its natural beauty, but what I remember of it, the horsemen I saw at play,  continues to be a source of fascination for me, play a dance that is surrounded by much mystique.

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The dance, known as Kuda Kepang here in Singapore, is thought to have its origins in the animistic practices of pre-Islamic Java and part of the mystery that surrounds it are the spirits invoked in joining man with the horses they stand astride on. The trance the horsemen fall into provide the ability to do what science cannot explain.

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I revisited these memories of what I had witness as a young child from the safety of the side of the road at the village of Kampong Ayer Gemuroh in Tanah Merah. With the familiar strains of the dizzying gamelan-like accompaniment playing, I watched, enthralled, as men possessed pranced on their two-dimensional horses in the shadows of a former royal palace .

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The palace, once the Istana Kampong Glam, is now a centre to promote the history and culture of the Malay community of which the descendants of the Javanese immigrants in Singapore have largely assimilated into. Known as the Malay Heritage Centre, it was on its now well manicured lawn on which I was able to catch what today is a rare performance of the age-old dance.

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Where it had once been quite commonly seen, especially at happy occasions such as weddings, performances in public have become few and far between as a change in lifestyles, social perceptions, and religious objections, have seen such ritual practices having been all but discarded.

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While I have in fact put up a post on the dance, sitting through an entire performance does mean I have a newer and more photographs of the dance to share in this post. My previous post does however contain a more complete description of my first impressions of Kuda Kepang and on the dance itself, and should you wish to visit it, it can be found at this link.


Before the performance

Prayers offered before the performance.

Prayers offered before the performance.

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Preliminaries

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During the Dance

Smoke from the kemenyan (incense) being breathed in.

Smoke from the kemenyan (incense) being breathed in.

Men becoming one with the horse.

Men becoming one with the horse.

The performers are obviously in a trance-like state.

The performers are obviously in a trance-like state.

Drinking from a bucket of water.

Drinking from a bucket of water.

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The horses are whipped, apparently without any pain being felt.

The horses are whipped, apparently without any pain being felt.

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The Barong

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Performers being brought out of the trance

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