Let’s Talk About Art, For Art’s Sake

A while ago, I was discussing about the blogging scene in Singapore with an ex-colleague. We were talking about how topics covered by the conventional blogs are typically composed of topics such as food, night life and fashion. And since I am passionate about the arts (and having worked in that industry for a period albeit brief), I naturally brought out the subject of writing about the arts. My colleague – with every good intention – advised me otherwise. He said “Don’t write about the arts. You will kill your readership. Write about food and lifestyle. Singaporeans love that.”

While I understand what he meant since almost all known Singaporean bloggers made their name through writing about those topics, I just can’t forsake [writing about] the arts. For the purpose of this entry, the term ‘Art’ or ‘The Arts’ will be used interchangeably as creative arts, performing arts, fine arts, literary arts and visual arts, etc, at any given time.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

– Spanish Artist, Pablo Picasso

Not gonna lie, I googled that. Laughs. But how true that statement stands. Yet, the Arts is not for everyone. In a developing third world country where their basic needs of food and shelter are not met, Art is relegated into third, fourth and often last place. I mean, if you don’t even know if there’s food on the table for your children and family tomorrow, you can forget about the Arts. But when society matures, when our basic needs are met, that’s when we can [take active steps to] truly appreciate the Arts as well as the art of living, puns intended. Only a mature society or community is able to truly appreciate Art.

With the introduction of modern film photography, one of the prime objectives of Art as a form of capturing reality and documenting history became obsolete within a short span of time. Instead, the Arts became almost exclusively reserved for creative expression. Rather than capturing history, Art now transcends beyond its interpreted medium far greater than the meeting of human needs. For with Art, a performer or artist can evoke a variety of emotions for reasons not commonly explored. Joy, serenity, peace, sorrow or even anger. Art can be used to remind us to pursue our forgotten dreams and aspirations. Art can be used to challenge cultural, social and political norms and injustice. Art can be used to shed light on environmental issues. Art can be used a medium to rally a nation for a cause. The importance of the Arts and its overarching themes explored and shown to its audience stretches beyond the canvas, performance or sculpture piece.

museums

Singapore enters into her ‘silver years’, hitting the big five-o this August. We have survived the tough initial years of turmoil, having emerged from the rubbles of war as one of the Four Asian Tigers and possibly, the leader of the four. Ours is the rag to riches story written by our pragmatic and relentless statesmen and policymakers. Our Government also understand that while pragmatism has led our country out of survival mode into prosperity, it is time we as a nation understand and appreciate Art like a cultured lady who knows her wine – beyond the rational fact that Arts is a rather unexplored but feasible market. All of our museums are packed with programmes and themed exhibitions the whole year round, our statutory boards, the National Heritage Board and National Arts Council are pushing for the Arts like never before, pumping an unprecedented millions of dollars into the industry every year in a move that would only seem ludicrous just a decade or two ago. Just this month alone, we have the Affordable Art Fair 2015, the Da Vinci exhibition at the ArtScience Museum that runs till May, and the Singapore Yacht Show which for the first time, features an Art auction among its line of programmes catered to the rich and famous.

art show

Our Government is opening our doors to the Arts world. In the recent years, we have seen so many important exhibitions and performances brought into the country. It’s high time Singaporeans get acquainted with Art.

“The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke”

– Polish-American Novelist, Jerry Kosinki

One of the most important misconceptions that the lay Singaporean has about the arts is “I don’t understand it” or “Arts is not for me.” But I feel that we all have that innate ability to connect with the underlying themes communicated across the different art forms. Through my observation and interaction with artist friends though, I also discovered that while there are many talented artists and performers out there, many fail to communicate their emotions and aspirations adequately across to their target audiences. I spoke to one of my artist friend, telling him about the times I would leave an exhibition with no idea at all what the artist is trying to convey.

That artist friend told me that “It’s like that in the industry lah! People tend to think that an exhibition they don’t understand is a good exhibition!” It’s saddening because art is so important and even fundamental to our existence. The art of Art appreciation continues to elude our people in terms of its importance and priority. It’s saddening because Art is so important and even fundamental to our existence.

“Like Friendship, Art has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

My personal interpretation from a quote by British Novelist, C.S. Lewis

I did not google for this quote this time. Laughs.

I have decided. I will continue to write about Art. I will continue to use this space to write about art and event listings for all things pertaining to the Singapore arts scene. Art shouldn’t be too ‘chim’ or ‘too confusing’ to understand. Though I have not written for a while, I am really excited to be engaged to write content for an Art Auction Catalog for the Singapore Yacht Show 2015. No prizes for the right guesses who I wrote it for. I believe a good copy is fundamental to the public education and appreciation to the arts. This is especially needed since the Arts industry is severely misunderstood and neglected. We need to create more conversations about the Arts over the media and public sphere so that Singaporeans in general get to benefit from it. So for Arts’ sake, let’s talk about Art.

To a better year for the arts scene,

Reuel Eugene.

Writer’s Note: I will be opening my (freelance – I have a day job) services to art galleries, exhibitors and auctioneer. For all copywriting, event listing, media and PR enquiries, kindly email me at kairoscommsg@gmail.com.

Photos:

All photos from Google. I do not own any of the photos shown here.

The Fourth Men

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Sometimes, it’s difficult to hold on to our values when it differs so much from the world’s. But who could blame? After all, we are only but temporary residents in this world. I was reading the Book of Jeremiah last Thursday when I felt a sudden impression to flip to the Book of Daniel. I was once again inspired by the courage of Daniel to stand firm on his beliefs in Jehovah God and that God would not fail him. And just like what Pastor Phil said, how he turned things around for the Jews when he held on to his faith in God. I was also deeply moved by the story of the Fourth Men (Jesus Christ) when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego was cast into the burning fiery furnace for refusing to bow down and worship other gods. (Daniel 3:8-30)

The fire was so strong that the king’s best soldiers were killed by the fire while going near it. It must had been so excruciatingly hot. When everything seemed bleak, the Fourth Men appeared and was with them in the heat of it all. In fact, the Fourth Men was possibly already there as they were drawing near to the furnace, for none of their clothes nor their hair was harmed by the fiery flames. The Fourth Men was Jesus. I thought about this and am reminded how in our situations and crisis, when there seems to be no way, God will make a way. And He has already done so even before the trial has taken place. I am reminded of the goodness of my Lord Jesus Christ, whose mercy and goodness will never fail [me].

Perhaps you are like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, casted into a burning fiery furnace-of-a-trial and everything seems hopeless. You need a Fourth Men. Fret not, God is right there with you in the heat, and His hands are not short that He cannot save [you]. Jesus is your Fourth Men when everything seems hopeless.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 
– Lamentations 3:22

And as encouraged by Derrick, a fellow ministry member, I decided to come out with an entry on the idea and inspiration behind the painting.

 

First, I applied the principle layer on the canvas. Painting a color over the canvas more than I intended is fine as I can simply use the next color to overlap it. It will be more disastrous to not cover enough area and having to damage-control later on.

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Next, using a paint brush I pulled the yellow up into the flesh tint in a swing-up motion to emulate the movement of the flames. I added a few drops of yellow with those small paint brushes to make it more realistic. The flames should not be uniformed as a real flame is never uniformed, right?

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In the next motion, I threw a dash of mixed burnt sienna and white paint as the base layer for the bottom part of the canvas. Adding contrast, I added the burnt sienna onto the canvas to give the fire some ‘depth’.

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Following that, I thought about what was going on in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego’s mind during the trial. From there, I moved on to think about what were they thinking? Were they full of faith? Were they scared? Were they dancing? Could they see the Fourth Men?

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The painting was completed, I pictured the Fourth Men Jesus to be in a robe of white just like the angel in my previous Abram painting. I imagined their locks of hair to be shining white (from God’s glory). One was lifting his hands in worship. One was moving towards the Fourth Men. One opened his arms to embrace Him. Yet I wasn’t satisfied by the color of the three men’s robes. I then played around with the leftover paint, mixing the colors here and there, and putting them on their robes.

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Now you can be a painter too. (Note that I have no prior experience and proper training in painting) If you have a revelation, why not paint it out? Immortalize it, help yourself to remember it. A picture speaks a thousand words.

P.S. I hope this painting and/or the inspiration behind it has encouraged you. 🙂

Counting The Stars

IMG_6231PHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay

 

Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”- Genesis 15:5

Here’s a painting I did most recently inspired from Genesis 15:5. Believe that God is still working in your life, the end pages of the book of your life is not filled up yet, His promises and covenant to you will surely come to past, Count the stars, count the stars, count the stars.

 

P.S.It must had been quite a spectacle that night.. 🙂

Not Everything Needs To Be Fixed

IMG_5978PHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay

 

Expanding my recent interest in oil painting, I spent an afternoon painting an image of the sunshine according to the image conceived in my head. It was much tougher than the previous painting (although it seems to be easier) as both acrylic and oil based paint is used to produce this painting. Finally, after hours of work on it, I decided to call it a day and prepare to head back to camp in a while. The image above is the supposed final product.

But the perfectionist in me can’t help but squirm upon seeing defects in the painting. I just couldn’t ignore that flaw! As such, I set off to correct those errors. But Murphy’s Law apply, and the more I tried to correct the flaw, the worse it got (partly also because acrylic based paint’s properties is much different from its oil paint counterpart). The ‘ugliness’ got so bad that at one point, I was so frustrated that I wanted to throw away the painting! Before I could bring myself to do so, a quote from the book ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch came into my remembrance.

Pausch quoteDesign: Reuel Eugene Tay

 

In that mini chapter, Pausch’s wife Jai accidentally bump their van into Randy’s convertible, causing a greater dent on the convertible. Jai was very apologetic and sad. Pausch forgave her but forbid her to get the car fixed.

“Tomorrow morning,” she promised, “I’ll get estimates on the repairs.” I told her that wasn’t necessary. The dents would be OK. My parents had raised me to recognize that automobiles are there to get you from point A to point B. They are utilitarian devices, not expressions of social status. And so I told Jai we didn’t need to do cosmetic repairs. We’d just live with the dents and gashes.

Jai was a bit shocked. “We’re really going to drive around in dented cars?” she asked.

… my belief that you don’t repair things if they still do what they’re supposed to do. The cars still work. Let’s just drive ’em”.

… For Jai and me, our dented cars became a statement in our marriage. Not everything needs to be fixed.

An abstract from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, p 86-87

Just thought that this statement can be applied in our daily lives in so many ways; in our relationship with family, friends and loved ones.

Being in close proximity with our close friends and spouses (or boy/girlfriend) greatly exposes us to both their strengths and weaknesses. While we can easily celebrate their strengths, it can sometimes be hard to swallow their weaknesses which may come in the form of attitude differences, perspective differences, conflict of interests, character flaws, etc. The closer we got to them, the more (unwanted attributes) we see, the easier we get irritated (and they irritated by us as well). And when we take it upon ourselves to remedy their flaws, somehow things go totally out of control and taken out of proportions. Talking about one issue can bring out so many other past unrelated issues altogether. The end result is a wrench thrown into a once beautiful relationship.

This may sound familiar to some. Well, I’m no saint and so I am no exception.

But like Randy Pausch’s statement, not everything needs to be fixed. As long as the issue regarding the other party does not shipwreck the relationship, that vehicle of relationship can still go somewhere even if that ‘blemish’ is not fixed. Dents (issues) can be turned around, serving as proof of the the longevity of that relationship too. Sometimes, to agree to disagree is the best policy. And why do we overlook the flaw? Because our love for the other party; that relationship is of much greater worth than correcting him (or her). Love is the common destination (common interest) that brings the two together.

Perfection lies in imperfection.”
– Unknown

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
– 1 Peter 4:8

 
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Back to the oil painting, this time round I took a different approach, just paint away instead of vehemently remedying the flaw. And this was the end result.

IMG_5979PHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay

 
It turned out better than I expected surprisingly..! It’s not the best of paintings definitely but there’s beauty in its imperfections too. Not everything needs to be fixed. 🙂

The Light of Christ

IMG_5963(Model)PHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay

 
My first hand at oil painting entitled the Light of Christ. An embodiment of my own struggles in life, I know that even when I am scared, at a loss and stranded in boisterous waters, the Light of Christ will be with me and guide me home.