Singapore Survey 2012: New Strange Faces at Valentine Willie Fine Art

Singapore Survey 2012: New Strange Faces, a group show at Valentine Willie Fine Art asks, “Who are the foreigners? Who qualifies as Singaporean? Can foreigners become Singaporean?”

I’ve contemplated similar questions vis-à-vis my own and my family’s migratory history. I’ve spent a lifetime studying the historical, political, and economic forces that have pushed and pulled peoples to and from the United States. And now, I’ve become deeply interested in Singapore’s immigrant past and present.

New Strange Faces piqued my interest, both professional and personally. I had high expectations.


Only a portion of the works on display bear any relationship to the theme and many of those that do seem content to tip-toe around questions of identity and otherness. Mayo Martin describes New Strange Faces as “a group show that collectively… maintains its distance from its subject matter.

And that’s unfortunate. Provocative, complex questions require complex, evocative answers. The exhibit is interesting but incoherent, uneven, and timid. I found Alan Oei’s Composition in Red #1, Studies (Three Way Crash), and Composition in Blue #1, inspired by a recent tabloid tragedy, aesthetically interesting and Eugene Soh’s The Last Kopitiam (above, bottom), charming but unsubtle. Alecia Neo’s Resting of the Horizon, a series of photographs, is poignant; Genevieve Chua’s Foster Children #1 (above, top) is haunting.

Go, of course, but temper your expectations. New Strange Faces runs until September 2, 2012.

(Additional credits: From top to bottom: Foster Children #1 by Genevieve Chua, 2012. Oil and acrylic on linen; The Last Kopitiam by Eugene Soh, 2012. Digital print on canvas.)