Archive for the ‘Art Essays’ Category

Ha Manh Thang [SAM]
August 5, 2008

At the Singapore Art Museum, I also saw a set of paintings that caught my attention. It was titled, “The Artist” and “The Artist’s Girlfriend”, 2007, by Ha Manh Thang (1980) from Vietnam.

[ Image taken by me, hence the lousy quality ]

Acrylic on Paper, 255cm x 83cm

The two artworks are in fact paper scrolls, placed side by side. Both of them each depict a person, seated on a wooden chair. Both of the people drawn wear sunglasses and are clothed by what seems to be robes similar to those found during imperial Chinese times. Behind the head of the man is what appears to be a mirror, reflecting other faces inside. The shelf behind the woman is lined with cosmetics such as lipsticks, perfume bottles and combs. Inferring from the title, the two people that have been drawn are dating.

The first thing that struck me about the two pieces was the way it looked so garish. From a distance, the two paintings looked relatively messy and the colours were dischordant, making me feel somewhat repulsed. As I looked closer, I realized that the paintings actually had magazine clippings of famous brands underneath, resembling a collage.

Here is another art piece with a similar technique applied, done by the same artist:

[ Image taken from Suffusive Art Gallery ]

It can also be observed that the male and female in the paintings are seated in a way similar to that of traditional Chinese ancestral portraits. The format of the painting is a scroll as well, featuring two subjects enthroned on an old-fashioned carved wooden chair. [Compare with ancestral portrait below]

[ Image taken from Dynasties of Asia ]

I feel that the artist’s work has combined the traditional with contemporary in a very interesting manner. The fusion of an old ancestral painting with bright complementary colours similar to those of Pop Art pieces shows a blend of the new and the old. The under wash of advertisements and luxury brand names appear to represent mass culture, so it seems the artist is implying that the influence of modern-day mass media is eroding at our traditions, even becoming part of them.

Another realisation I made was that the title of the artwork is also meant to show the difference of our era with the past. Terms like girlfriend, from the title ‘The Artist’s Girlfriend’, did not exist back then. Our current generations of BGRs, flings, one-night-stands, divorces are indeed a contrast from those times of arranged marriages and match-makings.

Information at SAM stated that the work is a reflection of our obsession with consumption and power of the media.


Xu Beihong in Nanyang [SAM]
August 2, 2008

Today, Jingjing and I went to the Singapore Art Museum, to check out the Xu Beihong exhibition. (5th April – 17th August).

[ Image taken from Singapore Sights ]

Potrait of a Young Lady, 1940, Oil on canvas

One of the paintings I saw was Portrait of a Young Lady. It depicts a young lady seated on a chair, turned to her right to face the artist. Her expression seems rather dazed or distracted, and she does not address the artist directly.

The painting is painted in a painterly fashion. There appears to be thick coats of paint applied to the canvas [this is apparent if you view the painting first-hand], giving the canvas texture. The brush strokes seem to have been created by a moderately thick brush, and there is some effort in blending the strokes, especially on the woman’s arm. For her blouse, there is not much detail to attention as the pattern on it is depicted by relatively large dabs of paint.

The entire painting has a somewhat green hue to it, with dark green being used for shadows and eyebrows, and light green mixed into the background. The source of light for the painting seems to originate from the top left, and is dispersed.

It is also noticeable that on the wall behind the subject matter hangs a scroll signed off by Xu Beihong himself.

Portrait of a Young Lady bears some semblance to Portrait of Miss Jenny, 1939.

[ Image taken from China Economic Net ]

Portrait of Miss Jenny, 1939, Oil on canvas

Portrait of Miss Jenny depicts a lady seated on a rocking chair. The lady wears a full-length dress, accompanied by black heels and a gold necklace. Seated in what appears to be a study room or library, she appears affluent and hostile. [Although these two are not necessarily co-related of course]

The way Portrait of Miss Jenny has been painted is very much similar to Portrait of a Young Lady as the brush strokes in the former have also been applied rather thickly, with moderate attempt at blending.

Overall, I prefer Portrait of a Young Lady to Portrait of Miss Jenny. I prefer the brighter colours used in Portrait of a Young Lady, as opposed to the gloominess that the dark colours of Portrait of Miss Jenny seem to evoke. Moreover, I do not fancy the glacial expression of Miss Jenny’s. (:

AEP Block Test II
July 30, 2008

[Images taken from Sun Ran]

Describe the subject matter of these paintings. [Seated Model – Liu Kang][Bandung as a Sea of Fire – Hendra Gunawan]

Seated Model by Liu Kang depicts a woman, or as the title suggests, a model, resting on a black chair with natural scenery as the backdrop. The model is topless and is only clothed with a pair of red coloured pants. The composition of the painting is such that she is placed right in the center of the entire painting, which thereby makes her the immediate subject matter to focus on upon viewing the painting.

The model is seemingly seated comfortably as she slouches her body to lean her head on her left arm to relax. Her body faces the artist but she does not look at him. Instead, her eyes are closed. In her hand she holds a small white flower and her hair has a red clip clasped onto it.

It is possible to infer that she is a hired model by the artist, paid to sit for the painting. The exact setting of the painting cannot be concluded. Behind the seated model there is a red brick wall and many plants such as a bush of flowers, grass and some trees.

Bandung as a sea of fire depicts a town on fire, with many of its inhabitants carrying their belongings running away in an attempt to flee from the fire.

In the foreground there lies a man on the ground, with an anguished expression and a chest full of a fiery red substance, possibly blood. Close to him lies another person with a bloody face, sprawling on the ground, beneath rubble and wreckage possibly caused by the fire.

The entire painting shows the plight of the citizens of Bandung, and the main subject matter would be the man lying in the center. His eyes have been rolled upwards, possibly implying that he has passed.

AEP Block Test
July 30, 2008

Montien Boona, Two Buffaloes

Describe the subject matter by Montien Boonma, highlighting the significance of the materials used

Montien Boonma’s art work comprises of two stools, two rice sacks, a structure shaped like a horn, and a structure that resembles a long, braided rope. The fusion of these respective objects by Montien Boonma has created two figures that seemingly represent a buffalo each. The intended buffalo on the left is most likely to be back facing me, whereas the buffalo on the right seems to be facing the right.

The entire structure is mostly of brown tertiary colours, and the materials are largely biodegradable. There is no introduction of modern man-made materials such as plastics or metal parts.

I believe that the materials used have been carefully selected in order to express Montien Boonma’s intended message. The two buffaloes are both largely made up of rice sacks as their entire body is a rice sack. I do believe that this signifies Montien Boonma’s concern that buffaloes are becoming increasingly burdensome and taxing on the lives of farmers as they consume large amounts of rice.

Another possible interpretation of this installation is that Montien Boonma wished to express that buffaloes are the major source of livelihood for farmers. This would be a logical deduction as buffaloes are used for ploughing fields for farmers in order to harvest crops. Montien Boonma then conveys the idea of harvesting crops by using rice sacks, indicative of a crop harvest, for the buffaloes. This in turn shows that the amount of work a buffalo can do is equivalent to a sack of rice.

Montien Boonma’s structure overall is relatively simple, thus also possibly hinting that Buffaloes are simple creatures, or that their purpose is simple: to aid in harvesting crops for our consumption. This idea is also applicable as humans, or southeast Asians such as Montien Boona , often regard rice as staple food, and consume large amounts of it. By using a rice sack to represent a buffalo, the artist is expressing that we are indirectly consuming the buffalo by simply using it to harvest our crops for us.

Moreover, Montien Boonma’s usage of such ordinary materials (rice sacks, braided rope) also shows that he feels that the rapid modernization of his nation is eroding traditions. The main critique of his work is on the rapid industrialization of Thailand against the traditions and beliefs of the people.


With Reference to another work by the artist, explain why the subject matter appeals to you as an installation, as opposed to a painting.

Another work by Montien Boonma is “Lotus Sound”, 1992. It consists of many black pots arranged neatly to form a circular wall of pots. Above them is a tubular structure that has yellow droplets descending from it. The entire installation seems to be that of a lotus flower hanging above lily pads.

Overall, the entire installation is considerably appealing, as it allows me to see the used objects from a different perspective. By using objects to form a structure that resembles something else, I am able to see another usage in the arrangement of pots. The subject matter is thus infinitely more appealing, as I am seeing it being represented by other objects.

In comparison to a painting, the installation which shows the same subject matter challenges the perspective of those who view it. For example, compared to an actual painting of two realistic buffaloes, the installation “Two Buffaloes” allows me to learn that even objects such as stools or rice sacks which alone do not resemble the body parts of a buffalo, can be eventually placed together to form two buffaloes. Even though the accuracy of depicting a buffalo by using installation art suffers, it is a much more refreshing experience for viewers. This same understanding extends to the subject matter of many other installations.

AEP essay practice
July 16, 2008

  • Describe one of Han Sai Por’s sculpture.

[ Image taken from boonscafe ]

“Spirit of Nature”, 1991

Spirit of nature consists of 3 structures, each made from granite. The structures are curvy and seemingly resemble the trunk of an elephant or a wave. The shape of each structure is organic, giving the entire figure a sinuous and flowing form.

All the figures in the sculpture are of the same colour and texture. They are a stony grey with faint black dots and are generally smooth to touch.

One of the structures is positioned such that it lies horizontally on the ground while the other two are placed vertically, seemingly stretching outwards towards the sky.

Each of the structures seems to represent a tube, with the base attached to the ground rather enlarged. The visible end of the tube has a dent in it, like the snout of an elephant trunk.


  • Describe one of Antony Gormley’s installation, in relation to the concept of Land Art.

[ Image taken from Newcastle Website ]

[ Image taken from Wikipedia ]

Angel of the North, 1998

One notable installation of Antony Gormley is Angel of North, located on an open field in Gateshead, UK.

It is a 20 meter tall structure of a man who has two wing-like structures attached to the sides of its torso, in replacement of the arms. The structure weighs 200,000 kilograms, with the body weighing 100,000 kg and the wings at 50,000 kg each. The entire piece was made from Cor-ten steel and cost £800,000 to construct.

The structure is of a dark bronze colour, possibly due to its permanent exposure to sunlight and precipitation. The form of the structure is very solid and the two plane structures attached by the side are generally straight and thick. Their position, as well as the title of the art piece, suggests that they are intended to be wings. However, unlike conventional angels depicted in biblical paintings, the wings of this sculpture are straight and rectangular, bearing semblance to the wings of an aircraft instead.

The entire surface of the structure is covered by thick lines of steel that are concentrated mostly on the body, eventually spreading out more neatly on the wings. The man in the figure stands with his body upright, his back straight and legs together.

The installation is representative of the concept of land art; it is placed on an open space to imply that the landscape surrounding the creation is to be considered as part of the sculpture as well. Another of Gormley’s sculpture, titled Another Place, expresses this concept as well.

[ Image taken from The Stavanger region ]

Another Place, 1997

Another Place consists of 100 cast iron figures which face out to sea. They are distributed over about 3 km of beach. Each figure is about 1.9 in height and weighs around 650kg.

Another Place can be considered land art because the figures are seemingly a part of the ocean. They are embedded in the sand on the shore, and are revealed and submerged by the sea depending on the tide. In this sense, they appear to be continuous with the land beneath them, and are a part of their surroundings.

Another Place has been exhibited in Germany, Norway and Belgium.