Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Treatment of Space and Structure in 2D artworks: Chen Chong Swee

Top: Chen Chong Swee, Scenery, 1980, Chinese Ink and Colors.

Bottom: Chen Chong Swee, Village Scene, 1980, Chinese Ink and Colors.

What you need to know about the artist (key points):

Born 1910, Died 1985
  • was the first in attempting a synthesis of distinctive aesthetic traditions of East and West. This became known as the "Nanyang School" Chinese painting style.
  • One of the founding members of SG's Watercolor society.
  • took a lot of trips to Bali and Malaysia for inspirational scenes of what is authentically Southeast Asian: was one of the 4 artists who went on the historic "Bali Trip" (Liu Kang, Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi, and Cheong Soo Pieng). This trip not only provided material for visual expression that is uniquely Southeast Asian but also revealed Southeast Asian art as ritualistic, experiential and decorative.
  • was a large contributor to written reviews and reflections of works and trends in art. One such issue that he wrote on discussed the fundamental differences between Eastern and Western art, and the need to develop traditional Chinese painting as to be relevant to the multicultural environment of the time.
  • Was the first artist to incorporate the local subject matter of Singapore into Chinese Ink Painting. This is HUGE!
  • Chen Chong Swee believes that there are 6 principles, all of which must be sustained, in the ink painting tradition:
  1. Spirit Resonance and Life Movement
  2. Bone Manner (structure): use of the brush
  3. Conform with the Objects to give likeness
  4. Apply the colors according to the characteristics
  5. Plan and design (composition)
  6. To transmit models by drawing
He believed that a student of ink painting needed to fully comprehend all the six principles in order to create a good ink work.

Chen Chong Swee believed that
*Art is a part of life and cannot exist independently from real life. If it fails to be accepted by another (as it is subjective), it looses its essence of universality and can no longer exist as art*

Treatment of Space in a 2D artwork: Dede Eri Supria

Top: Dede Eri Supria, Labyrinth, 1987-88, oil on canvas.

Bottom: Dede Eri Supria, Between the Red Steel, 1992, oil on canvas.

What you need to know about the artist and his artwork:

Born: 29 January 1956, Jakarta
Nationality: Indonesian
キ 7th of 11 children
キ burst into the Indonesian art scene in the 1970’s
キ considered innovative for the discussions that his art brings up
キ uses objects to represent social issues (Symbolism)
キ an idealist painter: paintings must have beauty & content
Common themes in his work:
o Population & living environment
o Terrorizing products
o Crossroads of emancipation
o Peace & war
o Urban violence
o Manpower
o Industrial pollution
o Human Rights
キ Particularly, the Urbanization of his beloved hometown, Jakarta.
キ During WWII, the Allies dubbed Jakarta as the “treasure of Asia”.
キ People here depended on the earth & had a very harmonious relationship with her.
キ Since the war, Jakarta has become extremely built up & is now a large urban city.
キ Iron & concrete now trample the fertility of Jakarta’s soil.

In Labyrinth notice the use of brand names that make up the walls of the maze.


The use of color is very important in Supria's work. In Labyrinth he uses primary colors, and in Between the Red Steel, the red is overbearing. Why do you think that Supria used these color schemes for his work?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Design: The Esplanade

Vikas Gore, The Esplanade Theatres by the Bay, 2002, architecture

What you need to know about the artist and the work:

Vikas Gore is the leading architect on the Esplanade

The inspiration for the shape could be a durian or the eyes of a fly

The "spikes" are really sun shades. This came about as the original design was made of 2 glass domes, but in a tropical climate, these become like greenhouses maintaining all the heat. The sun shades were added to deflect the sun and protect the structure.

Please see the accompanying handout distributed in class for more info on Vikas Gore. Read through the whole thing please.

Design: Philippe Starck

Philippe Starck, Juicy Salif (Lemon Squeezer), 1990, product.

What you need to know about Philippe Starck:

Has always been a tinkerer.

Designs hotels and restaurants as well as products, and pays as much attention to what isn't there as to what IS there.

Shows Bauhaus influence:

What is the Bauhaus?
Click here to learn!

Idea of form AS function in his design, as well as design for mass-production.

For this particular artwork, he was inspired by a meal that he was eating that had squid in it. He was literally squeezing the lemon onto the squid when he had the idea. It is a bit of a whimsical or playful artwork, in that the lemon is squeezed over the squid, as it is when one eats squid.

Visit the artist's personal website at to learn more about the artist and see his other works.

For discussion:

Please choose a work that interests you from his website. Where do you think his inspiration comes from?

After reading Starck's biography, how do you think that his past and his personality have influenced his artworks?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cultural Commentaries: Traditions and Heritage: Montien Boonma

Montien Boonma, Buffaloes from the Field to the Town, 1988, mixed media.

What you need to know about the artist:

Boonma's works are always about the change that has occurred in Thai life.

Like the rest of Asia, Thailand has gone through a rapid phase of modernization in the last 50 or so years. This type of rapid modernization has a great impact on the people who live through it, as they witness the demise or decline of one way of life and the birth and fruition of another. Many times this type of change is met with hostility.

In his artwork, Boonma juxtaposes the old with the new: we have manufactured stools placed with old gunnysacks that could be found in the more rural areas, with corn husks, another material found in rural areas, and finally a buffalo horn. While the abstracted and simplified Buffalo forms have been created from all natural materials, because some are manufactured it creates both tension and harmony between the old and the new.

The significance of the Buffalo in rural Thailand is huge. In rural areas, even in modern times (but less frequently as modern farm equipment is more readily available), water buffalo are used to help plow the rice patty fields, and in many villages are seen as a sign of wealth. They were once essential for a farmer's success.

Boonma also claims that his artwork is environmental. By using primative and natural materials, he hopes to get viewers thinking about environmental problems, and perhaps awareness will be heightened.


1. In your opinion, how is this work environmental? (or is it?) Support your answer with contextual information.

Cultural Commentary: Traditions and Heritage: See Hiang To

See Hiang To, Malay Man with Wayang Kulit, 1977, Chinese Ink.

What you need to know:

Wayang is the Indonesian word for theatre.
Wayang Kulit is the most widely known type of wayang, and is a shadow puppet theatre.
This type of theatre uses light and shadow, and the puppets are made of leather and placed on bamboo sticks.

It is thought that the Wayang Kulit began with the influence of Hinduism in Indonesia in the first century CE. When Muslim influence came to Indonesia, the Wayang Kulit suffered censorship due to it's portrayal of Gods in its stories.

The Tok Dalang, similar to a puppeteer, is the mastermind behind the show. He narrates the story using voice inflections from behind the screen. There is orchestra music in the background.

Here's a taste of what the Wayang Kulit is:

Historically, people of Malay decent have been living on the island of Sumatra. It therefore may be inferred that it would not be uncommon for a Malay man living in Indonesia to take up the art of the Wayang Kulit.

The man is wearing a songkok, a hat traditionally worn by Muslim men, and typically worn with traditional clothing. While it is difficult to tell what exactly the puppet is, it has striking similarities to depictions of the Hindu God Balrama. The coloring (green), headress worn, and even the style of pants are very similar. Click here for an image of Balrama. This creates a juxtaposition, or conflict of interests, as we know that the religion of Islam does not allow for the use of Hindu Gods and Godesses in Watyang Kulit. How you interpret this is completely up to you.

Furthermore, there is Chinese writing on the side of the page. With so many aspects of widely distinct culturals present in this work, it could be a commentary on the diversity of cultures that are represented in Indonesia, around 300, a melting pot that has been developing for centuries.

Social Commentaries: Ways of Life: Tan Tee Chie

Tan Tee Chie, Brobak Birds Competition, 1966, Woodcut

What you need to know about the artist & artwork:

  • Tan Tee Chie was a graduate from NAFA in 1951 and became a lecturer there.
  • Uses traditional 1-point perspective.
  • Documents an Asian pastime: bird competitions were, and still are in some places, a form of entertainment. The birds are judged on their singing abilities, and as birds are eliminated from the competition their cages are removed from their stands.
  • Singapore still has these competitions regularly.
  • Is a way to document the everyday and to preserve traditions for future generations.
What is woodcut?
  • woodcut is a type of printmaking technique where the artist removes the areas that he/she wants to keep white. The ink is applied only to highest surface on the block of wood, or those NOT carved away. Typically, artists will use line (like hatching and crosshatching in ink, except that they would carve away what they want to be white) to create values and depth, although Tan Tee Chie's woodcut is relatively flat lacking in tonal values.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Social Commentaries: Ways of Life: Nyoman Nuarta

Nyoman Nuarta, Rush Hour, 1992, Brass and Copper

What you need to know about the artist:

There is very little out there about the artist's personal life. Even on his own website, he only publishes his CV, listing only his professional accomplishments.

He is Indonesian. We know that in the last 50 years or so, Indonesia has undergone massive change both politically, from being a Dutch colony to gaining it's own independence, and then a change in government as recently as 1998.

We also know that Western influences, while adapted in their own way, are never copied outright and are typically met with resistance in Indonesia.

We can blatantly see the influence of Futurism on Nuarta's work

  • An Italian art movement that began in 1909, it celebrated modern technology, speed, city life, and tried to break away from traditional Western Art.
Jagged planes and repetition of shapes and lines are characteristic of Futurist works.

In Nuarta's sculpture, we can see that the bikers are moving at full speed (by the angle of their bodies and the impact of the wind), but they are not ACTUALLY moving.

This is one of the biggest criticisms of Futurism is that ultimately it was not possible to show actual movement, so while trying to be active it is still a bit static, due to the limitations of the media of painting and sculpture.

Nuarta's work is created using a variety of techniques such as modeling, carving, casting and construction. This allows for quite a bit of freedom in creating the work, as it allows for change to occur throughout the process.

Other Futurist works:

Top: Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Umberto Boccioni, 1913, Bronze

Bottom: Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, Giacomo Balla, 1912, Oil on Canvas

Citations: Art Outreach Singapore, 2005, Herbert's "...isms, Understanding Art,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Social Commentary: Ways of Life: Chua Mia Tee

Chua Mia Tee, Workers in a Canteen, 1974, Oil on Canvas

What you need to know about Chua Mia Tee:

Born: 25 November, 1931
Nationality: Chinese; immigrated to Singapore in 1937

  • He graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1952: studied Western painting under Chen Chong Swee.
  • To the artist, art MUST reflect life, & must be firmly grounded in reality, even if it is not necessarily painted in a photorealistic manner. It was important to document the everyday. This was a way to document the growth and changes that were occurring in Singapore in a visual manner.
  • One of the Pioneers of Social Realism in Singapore.
Social Realism
Social Realism took place in Europe in the 1850’s, but did not reach South East Asia until the 1970’s. The goals in Europe & SG were the same: to give the people a sense of national identity & pride, & to portray the working class as heroes. This was to give the budding country a sense of national pride and to promote patriotism. Look at CMT's other artworks: they all focus on the working class and places them in the spotlight. By taking the everyday and making it special (by portraying it in art), the artist has highlighted and created "heroes" out of the working class.

  • Artist’s Inspiration: This type of painting is part of the Nanyang style of painting. While not one of the big 4 Nanyang painters, having attended NAFA and having studied under Cheng Chong Swee, CMT can be considered a Nanyang Artist.
  • Reminder: The Nanyang style of painting developed from a group of painters who went to Nanyang and came together to form their own style, to be unified, and to be identified as SG’s first style of painting: a style of painting that Singapore could call it’s own. This happened shortly after Singapore's independence from Great Britain.
  • This piece sheds light upon the need to create an anti-colonialistic & national identity for Singapore artists & art.
Other artworks by Chua Mia Tee:

From top to bottom: Samsui Women, 1977; National Language Class, 1959; Snake Charmer, 1977; Portable Cinema, 1977

All works are Oil on Canvas


  1. Describe Workers in a Canteen.
  2. Is CMT successful in creating "heroes" out of workers? Why or why not? Support your answer with visual evidence.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Check out their site:, with some interesting facts on their Wrapped Coast project from the 60s. Remember the materials, and think of the rationale for using those materials.

Check out the excerpt from their Biography on the site: this will provide you some insight into their work.

To return to the question of how you finance your work, it’s very unusual in the art world and very impressive. Is it done only because you want to avoid any entanglements, or do you see the process of moving from the software to the hardware as an integral part of your art? In other words, if you were independently wealthy, would you just go out and do the installations and not bother with the selling of the drawings?

That’s a very good question and we have never thought of it, because (laughter) we have never been independently wealthy and so we have no idea. But the drawings are not created only to be sold. The drawings are extremely important to clarify our ideas and to crystallize the idea. And for every project, because it takes years, you can see the early drawings and collages as just a simple, vague idea, and through the years and through the negotiations of getting the permit, you see that every detail is now clarified.

We have been working with the engineers, we know the site by heart, and the last drawings, which are done just before completion, because Christo never does preparatory drawings after a project is completed, then you can see that it’s unbelievable! It almost looks like we’ve seen a photo of the project. It’s so perfect! And this is how our engineers can build it, because finally, its neat and clear and crystallized, exactly what it will look like.

Your work by its nature draws the public into the process before it is built. They visualize it in terms of why they support it or why they oppose it. How does that interaction with the public shape your work?

It doesn’t shape the work. It only shapes whether we get the permit, or not. It doesn’t shape the work itself because we have never changed an idea, we have only crystallized it and made it clearer. Our work is not just painting or just sculpture, even though it has elements or painting and sculpture, but it’s also architecture, environmental planning, all these things. Nobody has ever discussed a painting before the painter has painted it. Nobody has ever discussed a sculpture before the sculptor has sculpted it. But everybody discusses a projected new airport, new highway, new bridge, before they are created. Our work encompasses all these elements.

You are viewed as controversial artists. What do you see as the source of that controversy?

This is a great compliment because we are 66 years old and to be still today called controversial makes us feel so young. It’s marvelous! (laughter) Imagine, they call us avant garde and controversial after 44 years of work. It’s fabulous! Controversial is because we never do twice the same work. We will never wrap a bridge again as we did in 1985 in Paris when we wrapped the Pont Neuf, the 400 years old bridge. We will never wrap a bridge again. We will never build Umbrellas again. We will never wrap a parliament again. We will never do a Valley Curtain or a Running Fence. We will never surround any islands, as we did in Florida in 1983, when we surrounded 11 islands with pink floating fabric in Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida. We will never do again the same.

Therefore, when we arrive in a place and talk to new people about a new image, it is very hard for them to visualize it. That’s where the drawings are very important, because at least we can show a projection of what we believe it will look like. We tell them that we believe it will be beautiful because that is our specialty, we only create joy and beauty. We have never done a sad work. Through the drawings, we hope a majority will be able to visualize it.

If, in Colorado today, were we to tell the people: you have a beautiful bridge. May we please wrap it? Look at this book. It’s 400 pages, showing you how beautiful the bridge in Paris looked. Probably everybody would say, “Oh! That is magnificent. Yes, you may wrap our bridge.” But we have no wish to wrap again a bridge. Therefore we have to go over the fact that all human beings are afraid by what is new. It is our work to convince them that they will enjoy it, and even if they don’t, to allow us just for 14 days to create that work of art.
Proof that all the drawings you do before assignments are not for nothing :D

Please answer the following questions on YOUR blog (be sure to become a follower of mine for a grade). Each question is worth 10 points.

1. Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work is atypical. How would you describe this artwork to someone? Remember to use your elements and principles of art, as well as adjectives to answer.

2. In your own words, what is "Wrapped Coast" about? What was the purpose of creating such a monumental work?

Ibrahim Hussein: Self and Identity

Ibrahim Hussein, My Father and the Astronaut, 1970, acrylic.

Ibrahim Hussein was born to a poor family in Malaysia, and always had a knack for art. He studied at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, and considered his medium to be "Printage", a combination of printing and collage.

What you need to know about this artwork in relation to world history:

THE SPACE RACE: a competition between Russia and the USA to land a man on the moon first. Landing first meant that the winning Superpower would show that they were technologically more advanced, and would be seen as more advanced in a military sense as well.

The Russians landed a craft on the moon in 1959.

The Americans landed a manned spacecraft, Apollo 11, on the moon on 20th July 1969. The world stood watching as Niel Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon.

Please make sure to zoom in and see the writing that is present in the artwork. They are important.

"Place sungai limau dalam, yen" is the place where Ibrahim Hussein was born.
"13 March 1936" is the artist's birthday.

Also: Asian Cultural History:

Sometimes, children would refer to their father as "My Father the Astronaut". This was because some fathers would always be traveling for business, and only home for brief periods of time. However, based on the image of how his father is portrayed, we can infer that this was probably not the case in Ibrahim Hussein's household. Also, the title of the painting is "My Father AND the Astronaut". It is still worth noting however.

Question 1a: Using what you know, why do YOU think that Ibrahim Hussein has juxtaposed the image of his father with an astronaut? What is the relationship between the two (also think about the title)?

Question 1b: Why do you think that the text that is placed between the figures relates to the artist's birth? Where does the relation lie between this and the rest of the work?

Question 2: DESCRIBE the mixed-media artwork:

Answer these questions as a guide for ALL 2-D mixed media works (some questions do not apply to every painting):
  • What is the artwork an image OF? (What are the identifiable things IN the artwork?)
  • Where are these things located IN the artwork?
  • Where does the subject of the artwork take place? (in a room, at a festival, etc)
  • What COLORS are used & what do they look like? (bright, dull, earth tones, etc)
  • What type of PERSPECTIVE is used in the artwork?
  • What materials are used? Is there a unique effect that these materials create?
  • What texture (if any) does the artwork have?