Unveiling artworks and inspiring stories through the voices of Singaporeans
National Gallery Singapore will be unveiling 12 significant artworks encompassing diverse periods and marking key moments in the art histories of Singapore and Southeast Asia. These artworks will be featured in its permanent galleries when the Gallery opens to the public in November this year.
The paintings were created by key artists in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and chosen by 12 well-known local personalities who have felt a connection with these evocative pieces.
Among them are top MediaCorp actress Joanne Peh, who found Chua Mia Tee’s Epic Poem of Malaya uplifting and hopeful. Depicting a group of students who are listening intently, transfixed by their leader who is reading nationalistic poems about Malaya, the painting embodies and evokes the desire to inculcate Malayan identity in the younger generation.
“Being a performing artist, I am drawn deeply to images, people and things that are emotionally powerful. I could feel the energy of the centre figure and his passion in what he is saying. He is trying to express the need to stay positive even in the most difficult times, something I can personally identify with,” said Joanne Peh. “Life is hardly smooth-sailing and so is work. I am an optimist and I believe that staying positive even in the toughest times is the only way to move forward, so this painting resonates very strongly with me.”
Born in 1931 in China, Chua Mia Tee migrated to Singapore in 1937. A graduate from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1957, Chua is a highly regarded oil painter. Chua has painted portraits of prominent public figures, including presidents and prime ministers of Singapore. Besides portraiture, Chua has also captured local people and scenes, which serve as personal documentations of the nation’s changing landscape.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Chua, and getting to know his perspective as an artist, which to him is all about capturing the mood of a scene or in the case of his portraits, capturing the essence of a person,” said Joanne.
“As an actor, I pay close attention to creating details for the characters I play. There are so many layers to a human being and it is creating these layers internally that will allow the nuances to come to live. That is what makes all of us different from one another. I like to tell stories that the audience can connect with. Just as Mr Chua uses the medium (canvas) and technique (of painting) to portray realism, for me, the medium (TV) and technique (of blocking, camera movement) is used to establish the scene, build the mood and bring stories to people that will evoke real feelings.”
This also encapsulates the essence of the My Masterpiece series: building real connections between people and art through the medium of powerful paintings that reflect key moments in the art histories of Singapore and Southeast Asia. Over the course of 2015, the Gallery will be unveiling a different artwork every month that has inspired a local personality, who will share his or her thoughts and inspirations. Joanne’s thoughts have been captured on film and can be viewed on the Gallery Facebook page here.
“We are fortunate that so many well-known personalities from different walks of life are helping to realize the Gallery’s vision of connecting Singaporeans with their history and culture through the works of our artists,” said Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore. “I hope that their example will encourage Singaporeans to look at modern art in Southeast Asia from new perspectives, of curiosity, wonder and new understandings.”
Educating and Inspiring Singaporeans
My Masterpiece is the first of an exciting lineup of initiatives and activities that will bring Singaporeans closer to their arts heritage. There will be numerous opportunities for the public to get sneak previews of the facilities and artworks on display when the Gallery opens in November 2015.
The Gallery aims to capture the artistic spirit of Singapore and Southeast Asia. By sharing stories of our region’s distinctive art within the global context, we seek to be a leading visual arts institution that inspires and engages our people and our neighbours, creating a dialogue between the art of Singapore, Southeast Asia and the world. We also seek to encourage a deeper appreciation of art, and foster a greater sense of national and cultural pride.