I am well-versed in European and American art history, thanks to years of university study and even more years of traipsing through museums in the United States and elsewhere. But I admit that my knowledge of Asian art history, and more specifically of contemporary Asian art, is spotty. I can identify major movements and influential artists, but not much more.
So, off I went to the second of a series of five lectures at the Singapore Art Museum at 8Q*, “Southeast Asian Contemporary Painting” on Tuesday in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of Asian art historical chronologies and the regional art market.
What’d I learn from this informal, affordable event? A whole lot and not much. Though the event was billed as an introduction to an “essential genre of contemporary art,”, perhaps for the layperson, the evening’s talk was a serious, academic discussion about national and social consciousness, abstraction and figuration, and inherited visual languages.
The moderator asked posited difficult questions about painting in Singapore: While not strictly tabula rasa, there is arguably an obsession for starting afresh in Singapore; how does this work with the weight of colonial structures we have inherited? How do we define a Singaporean sensibility of painting, if there is such a thing? What is the role of art schools in contemporary Singapore?
Ninety minutes and all of that? There are no “answers” to the questions above. But the short duration of the panel didn’t allow for an in-depth discussion and rigorous debate. I left with fascinating bits and pieces of information that will take me quite some time to fully research, analyze, and contextualize.
o o o o o
* Did anyone attend the first of this series, “The Ten Most Important Paintings of the 21st Century” with Tony Godfrey of Sotheby’s Institute? I’d love to see his list.
(Additional credits: Image via Art-2 Gallery Singapore. Chua Ek Kay, Lotus Pond, 2005. Ink on rice paper. 74cm x 82cm.)