Pinoy art rocks!
After checking out the National Museum of Singapore, the museum across the street known as SAM aka Singapore Art Museum was next. Quite convenient.
SAM is quite a “young” museum”, but what I like most about this institution is the fact they focus on the preservation and presentation of art in Singapore and the Southeast Asian Region. To date, it has almost eight thousand pieces in their collection, and considered as one of the world’s largest public collection of modern and contemporary artworks by the regional artists.
Knowing how talented and lauded internationally the Filipinos are, and their works sought-after items in esteemed art auctions, should I be surprised that I come across Pinoy artworks in the collection of this gallery?
In a recent show, SAM highlighted more than 70 iconic works by 54 Southeast Asian artists in Negotiating Home, History and Nation: Two decades of contemporary art in Southeast Asia 1991-2011. The artists presented their insights on the region’s recent political and social developments via a broad range of artistic format, from photography to installation art. SAM says, “Furthermore, the exhibition positions Southeast Asian art in a way that highlights its independence from perceived Western cultural hegemony.” Four in the list are Pinoy.
In one work, the use of books like Rizal, Kangkong, etc., was a clear Pinoy indicator. The art literature confirmed it. What was surprising was my familiarity to the artist’s name, a Dabawenyo.
Briccio Santos, Philippines. Heritage Tunnel, 2009. Books, mirror, wood, 244 x 99 cm. “Laden with a multitude of books, it is apt that the genesis of the Heritage Tunnel is to be found in the world’s oldest book, the Chinese I-Ching, also known as the Book of Changes. Within this ancient book of divination, the well is a powerful symbol of a permanence that stands outside the confines of time and space. The image of the well signifies endless depth, but the Heritage Tunnel both descends and ascends upwards to infinity. Conveying an impression of an endless tunnel of books, it suggests that heritage is a corpus of knowledge built with the infinite accretion of history, meaning and memory. But similar to the optical device employed by the work, it also hints that the notion of limitless knowledge is more illusory than real.”
I can’t help it but feel proud. You would, too, if you see it along with the rest of these impressive artworks by our fellow nationals.
Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan’s 2009 Wings used rubber thongs collected from Singapore Prisons, fiberglass, metal and stainless steel. This husband and wife’s artwork “speaks of the identity and hopes of a community, specifically that of the inmates of the Singapore Prisons where the slippers came from.”
Jose Legaspi’s untitled four works of pastel on paper (100 x 70 cm each) are “deeply autobiographical. He draws upon real life events of a difficult childhood and expose human cruelty, hypocrisy and its blatant indifference to pain.
Another striking work is by Jose Tence Ruiz. His 2008 Paraisado Sorbetero (Orange) presented in mixed media (198 x 122 x 198 cm) melded two images, the humble Filipino kariton and the iconic architecture of a gothic cathedral, into a single figure. The result represents the striking contrast of poverty and wealth prevalent in the Filipino society. It also conveys an image of “church on wheels” described as “In a predominantly Catholic country which often see lavish displays of wealth and the ostentatious riches of the church, the work can be read as a harsh critique of organized religion.”
Art is very subjective. Arising from an inspiration, the artist may be successful in conveying his message, or not. But definitely, art will always evoke an opinion from its viewers. For this non-connoisseur of art, I will always like what pleases my sense of sight.
When you’re in Singapore, take time to meet SAM. More than a stimulating experience, you’d be proud to be Asian, proud to be Pinoy!
For more information about the Singapore Art Museum, visit their website: http://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/ And for more photos about this story & other travel stories, visit: http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ & http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 01, 2011.