Suitably Provoked at SAM

One of the things we love to do while travelling is to check out how other people manage and run businesses.

Other than that, we love taking in a little bit of art and culture. Nic is an arts-based person despite his years of running Redbox Studio. He graduated with a degree in Fine Art so art is very much in his blood.

Last year, we visited the Singapore Art Museum after we took in the franchise exhibition.

Singapore is very easy to get around and in no time, we had reached the museum. Entry fees were a reasonable S$10 per person. Despite its location smack dab in the middle of a busy city (and across the road was the beautiful Singapore Management University), SAM as it’s regularly known as, was a total oasis of calm as we entered the colonial mansion.

Singapore Art Museum
This is the Singapore Art Museum

Enough solitude and serenity to breathe in some art (and be suitably provoked)!

I love the surprises of each museum (the ones in Hong Kong were wonderfully curated) and this time around, we walked into an exhibition of works called “After Painting” by Thai artist, Natee Utarit.

Nic in front of Natee Utarit's huge artwork
Nic in front of Natee Utarit's huge artwork

Natee’s works are majestic in size and thought-provoking in retrospect. His questions and answers are indelibly painted into his art, giving people a chance to ponder at his depth of questioning.

Self portrait of the artist, Natee Utarit
Self portrait of the artist, Natee Utarit

In looking at his artwork, one needs a keen insight into the seemingly unexciting history of Thailand, its rulers and its social norms.

Natee's oil on canvas "Micro History of Politic No. 3 - Lost"

Natee’s points of inquiry are mingled with his effortless method of painting Western ideas with his Southeast Asian roots.

When Natee paints a flower, he really paints it big!
When Natee paints a flower, he really paints it big!

According to the in-house magazine, Natee’s paintings are a form of critical representation in Southeast Asian contemporary art. With his deft exploration of Western art (from classical sculpture to renaissance painting), he starts the dialogue by aptly positioning what seems like photographs of dark, sombre landscapes right in the middle of (his) intricate Renaissance-style painting, copies of the Old Masters (see below). Old Masters paintings are “contrasted with Thai landscapes as a way of questioning the conventional belief in the truth of images”.

Natee's "Celebrate To The Truth & Nothing"
An almost odd juxtaposition of a black-and-white 'photo' onto an old style painting

This wasn’t the only exhibition though at SAM. We learnt a little bit about Singapore’s most prolific artist, Cheong Soo Pieng. If you have a S$50 note, turn it over and you will see this artist’s work on the back. His experimentation with art was a synthesis of Western ideas, Chinese ideas, Asian themes and motifs, and a whole lot of travel. We could not take photos of this artist’s work – it happens sometimes. In certain parts of museums, we were told that we could not take photos.

SAM’s other building, a few minutes walk away, housed an interesting collection of works too. Manit Sriwanachipoom’s Pink Suited Man (and his Pink Shopping Trolley) photos were a little disturbing, especially if you read the accompanying explanations.

Pink Man watches in amusement at violence
Pink Man watches in amusement at violence

The Pink Suited Man laughs at everyday silliness but also takes the ridiculous to the extreme. He is superimposed over dramatic black-and-white photos of violence, war, unrest and desperation. It is a narrative of human indifference – one which makes the viewer question, “Was I the smug, silent Pink Man too?”

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