Singapore Art Museum (SAM) is proud to present A Heroic Decade: Singapore Art 1955-1965, a special showcase in conjunction with Singapore’s 40th year of independence celebration. A critical phase in Singapore’s history, the 1950s was a period of conflicting optimism and anxiety. It was also the most intense period of practice for some of the most important artists in Singapore, such as Lim Cheng Hoe, Chua Mia Tee and Lim Yew Kuan. Responding to the changing social conditions, and drawing from a diversity of cultures and experiences, these artists produced powerful works that pulse with a resonating energy, proclaiming the arrival of a new era. The exhibition will present close to 70 important works from SAM collection and private collections from the period of the 1955-1965, supported by a number of key early works that foreshadow the development in the 1950s.
Presented in four parts, namely, An Intersection of Personal Journeys, 1952 – Bali and its Legacies, 1955 – Ideas and Ideals and 1960s - Surfacing Identities, the exhibition chronicles Singapore art development in the period 1955 – 1965:
An Intersection of Personal Journeys traces the roots of art practices in Singapore. The section explores the varied sources of modernity, featuring works by itinerant artists like Xu Beihong, early works by Georgette Chen and Liu Kang prior to settling in Singapore.
1952 Bali and its Legacies showcases Balinese works by Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong Soo Pieng and Liu Kang. The section explores the evolvement of Balinese subject in their works around the period and beyond. Their currency in Singapore art, in terms of iconographical resource and market appeal, are considered.
1955 – Ideas and Ideals presents the ecology of Singapore art around the most tumultuous period of the 1950s. Featuring works that respond to the changing social conditions including the social realists like Lee Boon Wang, Lim Yew Kuan, Chua Mia Tee, and at the same time showing parallel and independent concerns in the works of artists like Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong Soo Pieng and Liu Kang. The section also attempts to delve into the development of art amongst the Malay artists through the works of S Mohdir, Mahdar and others.
The last section 1960s - Surfacing Identities explores concerns relating to emergent concepts of national and cultural identities. Themes such as events and change, continuing development in the iconography of the Singapore landscape through the works of Lim Cheng Hoe, coalescing concepts of citizenship and multiracialism through the works of Georgette Chen and the assertion of ethnic identities as seen in literati Chinese paintings and works by Malay artists, continuing articulation of the Nanyang modernity in the works of earlier artists, and tensions with internationalism characterized by the diverse approaches of Ho Ho Ying, and Western trained Ng Eng Teng, Goh Beng Kwan, and Thomas Yeo are presented.
Says Mr Ahmad Mashadi, Senior Curator of SAM, "The development of art and culture is interwoven into the story of our nation. Art making is not contained within its own dynamics, but critical grounds for which emerging ideas about society and nation are engaged, explored and expressed in cultural terms. We have chosen to represent the 1950s as it is perhaps the most intense period of Singapore artistic history, intersecting a critical phase of Singapore’s national history."
Says Mr Kwok Kian Chow, Director of SAM, “The exhibition provides a platform for artists, active or knowledgeable about the period, to contribute and inform on our art history. Working with the National Archives of Singapore, we are documenting primary sources on our artistic heritage.”
Commenting on the rationale for sponsoring the exhibition, Mr Kwek Leng Joo, Managing Director of CDL says, ?ochAs a property pioneer that has grown in tandem with Singapore’s development over the past four decades, CDL is glad to support this meaningful exhibition. It offers the public an opportunity to appreciate a range of art works from a significant phase in Singapore’s history as we celebrate the nation’s 40th anniversary."
In conjunction with the exhibition, a series of talks entitled “Art and society in 1950s: A Discussion Series on Art Collectives and Community” will be held at SAM. Invited discussants, drawn from artists practising during the period such as Lai Kui Fang, Ong Kim Seng and Chng Seok Tin, will reflect on their experiences and thoughts. Programme details are appended. Log on to www.singart.com for programme updates.