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Liu Kang
■Year 1930
■Medium oil on canvas
■Size (cm)
The early proponents of modern art on the Malay Peninsula (present-day Malaysia and Singapore) were mainly of Chinese descent. Liu Kang is one of the representative painters of this period and has been a leading figure in pre- and post-World War II regional painting circles. His unique painting style uses Chinese painting-style ink lines and does not copy modern western art. "Slippers" was created during Liu's years in Paris, after he had finished his art study in Shanghai and had set out to find his own unique forms and style. Here Liu has placed an ordinary household item, a pair of slippers, amidst a Matisse-like decorative composition and palette. The conbination of this decorative form and color with his blurred, smudged black ink line effect allowed him to create his fusion of modern western art forms with a Chinese aesthetic sensibility.
Cityscape of Scene
Georgette Chen Liying
■Year c.1940
■Medium oil on canvas
■Size (cm)
The Imperial Palace in Beijing is revered today as a majestic architectural symbol of China. This painting shows a view inside the Palace, looking out from the Tai He Men Square, across the Qin Shui Qiao Bridge toward the north side of Wu Men Gate. Normally people stand in the open square with their back to the Wu Men Gate, facing the Tai He Dian Hall where the Emperor was enthroned. Only the Emperor would have looked out from the vantage point seen here, gazing south across his prostrate subjects in the square toward the Wu Men Gate. In other words, this painting was painted from the Emperor's viewpoint. Here the painter-an ordinary commoner born and raised in Paris-has taken the emperor's visual prerogative, thus reaffirming the modern sensibility of the post-Qing dynasty era and her own sense of modernity. The fluid curving lines and the cool palette, seem to indicate that this work was created during the artist's stay in China (c.1940) and before she rose to fame in the Malay peninsula post-war art scene.
Horn Reconstructed from Rhino Drink
Tang Da Wu
■Year 1989
■Medium plaster, plastic medicine bottle
■Size (cm)
Tang Dawu, who received the 10th Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize in 1999, has been combining installations with performance work since the late 1980s. His leading role in the search for new forms of expression has made him one of the principal contemporary artists in Singapore today. This work focuses on the rhinoceros, which has been driven to the brink of extinction by poaching and indiscriminate killing. Rhinoceros horn is used in Chinese traditional medicine for its antipyretic and other properties, so by using antipyretic medicine bottles with an image of rhinoceros as the trademark horn, Tang symbolically reverses the process, creating a horn out of the medicine bottles. Tang addresses issues of mundane life, Chinese traditional medicine, Chinese cooking, and so on, using everyday objects in his installations and creation of works. Frequently his use of the everyday world around him includes inviting viewers to help in their creation. This reconstructed horn object has been used to represent rhinoceros horns in Tang's performances and installations on the plight of the rhino.
Another Woman No.2
Amanda Heng
■Year 1996
■Medium photograph
■Size (cm)
Two women are quietly embracing-the one with her back is Singaporean artist Amanda Heng, and the one facing the viewer is her mother. In their large Chinese household ruled according to Confucian patriarchal ethics, Heng says that her overworked mother always devoted herself to her husband and sons, which led to estrangement between the mother and daughter. Now in her own middle age, Heng had a keen desire for reconnection with her mother, both as mother and daughter, and as two independent women. Heng chose to involve her mother in the creation of her art works, thinking that the process would become a form of communication between them. Heng shot photographs of them in a two-woman performance. The resulting images provide a condensed, vivid view of someone seeking for a connection with another, going far beyond a simple mother-daughter portrait.
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