Monday, December 29, 2014

Signature Art Prize 2014

During one of my recent visits to the Singapore Art Museum, I set aside time to check out the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize 2014. The triennial APB Foundation Signature Art Prize recognizes the most outstanding contemporary work by artists from the Asia-Pacific region in the last three years.

The Signature Art Prize 2014 exhibition held at the Singapore Art Museum features the artworks of the 15 finalists which were chosen from a total of 105 nominated artworks from 24 countries and territories from the Asia-Pacific region. The 15 finalists were selected by a panel of five eminent judges based on the following evaluation criteria:
- strength of the ideas and the concept
- creative use of medium, material or technique
- artistic insight and interpretation
- imagination and originality

There are a couple of interesting artworks that have caught my attention during my visit to the exhibition. Admittedly, I find contemporary art challenging to understand at times. Thankfully, catalogues are available to provide visitors with insights to better understand each of the selected artworks.

Here are some of my favourite artworks from the Signature Art Prize 2014 exhibition:

Robert Zhao Renhui's Eskimo Wolf Trap often quoted in Sermons.

Robert Zhao Renhui's Eskimo Wolf Trap often quoted in Sermons invoked me to think about the relationship between humans and the snow wolf, the predator and the prey. The installation looked pure and minimalist, yet it was rather thought-provoking. I started to imagine how a snow wolf would cut its own tongue as it is lured by the blood-stained knife and starts to lick the blade.

Nguyen Trinh Thi's Unsubtitled.

Nguyen Trinh Thi's Unsubtitled somehow brings its audience to immerse into a very close experience almost face-to-face with the 19 artists who each performed the acting of eating a food item of their choice, stating their name and identifying what they had just eaten. The freedom of expression cannot be taken for granted. I thought that the use of life-size video projections against a dark setting works out really well. A very creative choice of medium and way of presentation.

Liu Jianhua's Trace.

Liu Jianhua's Trace had unconsciously made me felt its powerful impact when I walked past it while walking up the museum's central stairwell. This site-specific sculptural installation harmoniously bridged three different zones. As I walked up the stairway, I felt beckoned to imagine the nuances of tonality, shade, texture and depth that black ink can take. I like the idea of turning inkflow into sculpture. This somehow forced me to look at black ink and the Chinese art of calligraphy in a different way.

Choe U-Ram's Custos Cavum (Guardian of the hole).

Choe U-Ram's Custos Cavum (Guardian of the hole) intrigued me with its use of machinery and robotics to realize a imaginary creature that originated from a myth written by the artist. I cannot help but to take many looks of it to figure out how this machine-like artwork works.

Arin Rungjang's Golden Teardrop.

Arin Rungjang's Golden Teardrop was one of the artworks that attracted my interest. The  title of the artwork alludes to a traditional egg-yolk dessert that was first created in mediaeval convents in Portugal and introduced to the 17th century Siamese court by a Portuguese-Bengali-Japanese woman. I like the narrative story-telling character of the documentary video which gave me a glimpse to some of the key historical events and cultures that have shaped the Southeast Asian region.

The sculpture formed by almost 6000 brass teardrops suspended from a large frame made of timber salvaged from a traditional Thai house and steel beams from an old factory somehow formed an interesting backdrop for me to reflect as I watched the documentary video that was framed through Thai history.

The above-mentioned are my favourite artworks from the exhibition, not in any particular order. I was eager to support my favourite artworks. The good news is that voting for our favourite arwork has began on 14 Nov 2014. Members of the public can vote for their favourite artwork from the 15 finalists. The finalist artwork with the highest number of public votes will win the People's Choice Award, which is one of the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize 2014 awards. Voters can vote once a day from 14 Nov 2014 until the votes close at 11:59 p.m. on 21 Jan 2015. Voters stand to win prizes too.

To vote for your favourite finalist artwork, please visit:

APB Foundation Signature Art Prize 2014
14 Nov 2014 - 15 Mar 2015
Singapore Art Museum
71 Bras Basah Road
Singapore 189555

Opening hours:
Mondays - Sundays: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Fridays: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Citizens and permanent Residents - Free
Foreign visitors, adults - S$10 each
Foreign visitors, students - S$5 each
Foreign visitors, senior citizens - S$5 each
Free for children under six
For more details, please visit:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recommended: Leonardo da Vinci's Earlier Mona Lisa, the exhibition

From 16 Dec 2014 to 11 Feb 2015, I highly recommend art enthusiasts visit the historic The Arts House at the Old Parliament to marvel at the world premiere of the exhibition entitled Leonardo da Vinci's Earlier Mona Lisa. This exhibition offers visitors the exceptional opportunity to see in person the painting now known as the "Earlier Mona Lisa".

In this exhibition, each visitor will be treated to an interactive tablet-led audiovisual-guided tour that will guide visitors to explore the scientific and historical evidences supporting the painting's attribution to Leonardo da Vinci. Participants of all ages can enjoy the audiovisual-guided tour. The tablet-led multimedia application is available in two version:, one for the adults and one for the children. Visitors will be requested to produce their identity documents to exchange for the interactive multimedia tablet. The identity documents will be returned upon the return of the tablet at the end of the tour.

I think it was an apt idea that the painting, the "Earlier Mona Lisa", was being exhibited in the former Parliamentary Chamber of the historic Old Parliament House. I simply felt I was being transported back in time the moment I stepped into the former Parliamentary Chamber. In this chamber, Singapore's first parliament session was opened by the then President Yusof bin Ishak on 8 Dec 1965.

Visitors could take a seat on one of the seats in the former Parliamentary Chamber to admire and marvel at Leonardo da Vinci's "Earlier Mona Lisa" against the backdrop of the Neoclassical design prominent of the building. The lucky visitors may find themselves sitting on seats that had been sat on by notable politicians. Please take note that according to the signs that were being put up, a maximum of 80 visitors is allowed into the Chamber at each given time.

The "Earlier Mona Lisa" attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is simply beautiful and awe-inspiring. I spent time looking at the sfumato technique that was used in this painting. The graduations are so subtle from light to dark areas, without any sharp outlines. I have yet to figure out the kind of lighting that has been used to cast on the painting. I will be interested to find out more about it.

In the Chamber.

Accordingly to the publicity materials, I learnt that the adult tour is designed to take 1 - 1.5 hours. However, art enthusiasts who would like to examine the various supporting evidences that are being presented at this exhibition could consider setting aside more time to tour the entire exhibition. I spent more than three hours at this exhibition browsing through the various supporting evidences.

All the sections in the exhibition were engaging and interesting to me:

  • Historical Evidence: The historical evidence involving the history of the painting during the Italian Renaissance. The names Giorgio Vasari, Agostino Vespucci and Salai stuck on my head after viewing through this section.
Historical evidence.
Reproduction of Vasari's Vite.

  • The Discovery of the Century: Hugh Blaker (1873 - 1936) and his rediscovery of the painting now known as the "Earlier Mona Lisa" in the early 20th century.
About Hugh Blaker and his discovery.
John Eyre's "The Two Mona Lisa".
Henry Pulitzer's "Where is the Mona Lisa?"
  • Science and Mathematics: I spent quite a fair amount of time at this section being intrigued by geometrical and mathematics principles that Leonardo used in his works of art. The Goldblatt Thesis had also caught my attention. Bring along a jacket or some warm clothings. This section of the exhibition was rather cold during my visit.
Intrigued by Harmonic Geometry and the ancient geometric code used by Leonardo da Vinci.
Treatment of the canvas.
  • Comparative Analysis: I was drawn to the observations that Leonardo da Vinci put in a lot of attention in painting unique embroidery patterns based on geometrical shapes in the portraits that he executed. Intricate embroidery patterns can be found painted on both the "Earlier Mona Lisa" and the Lourve version.

  • See the painting: Concluding the exhibition, visitors get the opportunity to witness firsthand the "Earlier Mona Lisa" with a full light show that is designed to illuminate Leonardo's marvelous interplay of light and shadow. 

In my opinion, I would say that this painting is an artwork by a great master. Based on the various supporting evidences that are being presented at this exhibition, I also concur with many of the experts that the painting is a work attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, and it predates the Lourve version.

I felt thankful that there were not many people at the exhibition yet during my visit. I think this lack of visitorship will not last for long. Sooner or later, visitors will be flocking into The Art House at the Old Parliament to marvel at Leonardo da Vinci's "Earlier Mona Lisa".

This is an exhibition that I would highly recommend. If you only have the time to attend one exhibition that is related to Leonardo da Vinci in Singapore from now till 11 Feb 2015, this is the exhibition that you could choose to go. If you wish to be further convinced, watch this trailer of the exhibition:

16 Dec 2014 - 11 Feb 2015
11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
The Art House at the Old Parliament
1 Old Parliament Lane
Singapore 179429

Tickets are available from SISTIC and all SISTIC counter. The tickets are open tickets (i.e. you can buy the tickets first and decide on the date of your visit later) and each ticket is good for one single entry to the exhibition. A standard adult ticket costs $21 including SISTIC booking fee.

Family Packages are available!

American Express Card Members who make payment with American Express Cards issued by American Express International Inc. in Singapore (excluding American Express Corporate Card and American Express Cards issued by Citibank Singapore Limited, DBS Bank Limited, EZ-Link Pte Ltd and United Overseas Bank Limited) enjoy exclusive savings on ticket prices. Maximum 10 tickets per eligible Card per day.


Friday, December 19, 2014

A visit to ArtScience Museum: Da Vinci: Shaping the Future

Leonardo da Vinci is possibly a man ahead of his time. I look up to him as he was not only a well-known artist, he was also a scientist. Several years ago, there was an exhibition, Da Vinci The Genius, held at the Science Centre Singapore. I remembered I was attracted to the art-related sections of that exhibition during a visit.

Currently, the exhibition entitled Da Vinci: Shaping the Future held at ArtScience Museum. Being drawn to learn more about Leonardo da Vinci, I made a special trip to the ArtScience Museum to catch this exhibition a week ago.

Da Vinci's designs for flying machines.
In this section, visitors can see Da Vinci's design for a parachute.

Da Vinci: Shaping the Future held at the ArtScience Museum will feature five different themes that represent Leonardo da Vinci as a multi-talented person during his life time. The five themes that are featured are: Mathematics, Natural Science, Architecture, Technology and Music.

A video on Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

The main focus of this exhibition at the ArtScience Museum is the Codex Atlanticus, Da Vinci's largest notebook.The Codex Atlanticus recorded innovative designs and stunning artistic sketches. These records reveal Da Vinci's ideas and how his thinking remains relevant even today. Visitors ought to take note that for the first time in Southeast Asia, 13 original pages from Da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus are presented in this exhibition. In Feb 2015, these 13 pages will be replaced by another set of 13 pages from the Codex Atlanticus. I was pretty intrigued by Da Vinci's talents to interweave the connections between different disciplines. What a genius he was.

Military designs.

It is very apt that Da Vinci: Shaping the Future is held at Singapore's ArtScience Museum which explores the intersection between art, science and technology.

My favourite section was the section on Technology. In this section, there are many interactive exhibits on display. I was fascinated with da Vinci's studies of mechanical tools and military equipment. Da Vinci's design demonstrated his understanding of the forces of Nature to solve daily practical issues.

Wall Protection System made based on sketches by Da Vinci.

In conjunction with this exhibition, there are a wide range of programmes and activities being organized. If time is limited, I recommend that visitors at least consider participating in one of the public guided tours to the exhibition. These public tours are complimentary to ticket holders for the exhibition. Each tour can take up to 25 visitors, on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is required 5 minutes before the start of the tour. The public guided tours are held at the following timings:

  • English tour: Saturdays and Sundays from 22 Nov 2014: 11.30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • English tour: Mondays to Fridays from 24 Nov 2014: 1 p.m.
  • Mandarin tour: Saturdays and Sundays: 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

There are a number of interactive exhibits that will prove to be engaging for families. I was pretty engaged by the activities of making three-dimensional platonic solids out of two-dimensional cardboard.

2D to 3D Shapes: Platonic Solids

I am ambivalent about whether to recommend this exhibition. While there is an extensive number of interactive exhibits on display, a number of such exhibits have subsequently been classified as "do not touch" exhibits possibly due to the high volume of visitor-ship that has led to faster than expected tear-and-wear of many of these interactive exhibits. I suppose it helps to go for this exhibition with minimal expectation and an open mind.

This automatic drum is made by craftsmen to work.
Yet I remember that there is a "Please Do-Not-Touch" sign.
Hopefully the sign will preserve the exhibit for a longer period of time.

Then again, for anyone who is interested to get a glimpse of the ingenuity and innovative mind of Leonardo da Vinci, this exhibition will bring a lot of interesting design ideas if one is willing to spend hours and hours studying the records on the Codex Atlanticus rather intensively. Please bring along warm clothings to keep yourself warm. The air-conditioning at the exhibition halls can be pretty cold for some. If possible, the studious ones who are studying the records on the Codex Atlanticus could consider visiting the exhibition during non-peak hours.

Families with children will find this exhibition pretty fascinating and engaging if these families visit the exhibition and participate in the various interactive activities together as a family unit.

Da Vinci's Archimedes' Screw. This device can lift water from low to high ground.
One of the hands-on exhibit on display.

Da Vinci: Shaping the Future
ArtScience Museum
Marina Bay Sands
Operating hours: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily, including public holidays
Last admission at 6 p.m.
Please visit the Welcome to the Museum's page for notifications of ArtScience Museum closures.
Admission fee: $19 per adult for Singapore citizens (Please produce your identity card for verification.)
For more visitors' information, please visit:

Monday, December 08, 2014

Roasting Tour at Papa Palheta

CSHH Coffee Bar, 150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore 207563.

Coffee-lovers in Singapore who are curious to learn how coffee beans used in specialty coffee are roasted could consider going for a roasting tour organised by Papa Palheta, the independent coffee boutique.

Papa Palheta. At the Annex. 150 Tyrwhitt Road.

Several months ago, out of curiosity and interest to learn how to brew a good cup of coffee, I took up a Foundation barista course with Bettr Barista Coffee Academy. Subsequently, while browsing various website, I learnt that Papa Palheta organizes a roasting tour, usually on the last Sunday of each month, and I decided it will be a worthwhile experience to see first-hand for myself how coffee is roasted at Papa Palheta.

For safety reasons and better interactions, the Roasting Tour conducted by Papa Palheta is limited to a minimum of three and maximum of six participants. Eager to ensure that there is a minimum number of three participants to get the tour confirmed, I went around asking those of my friends whom I think would be keen. In the end, I did not manage to get a friend who was free as well as interested to attend the roasting tour together with me. Thankfully, the tour went on as planned.

Coffee beans from different sources dried using different methods. At Papa Palheta.

At the start of the tour, our guide gave us an introduction to specialty coffee and the roasting process. Curious to find out more? Go for the tour!

After the theoretical yet interesting part, we went to the roastery. At the roastery, our guide showed us coffee beans from different sources that were dried using different methods. Afterwhich, we had a first-hand experience witnessing how coffee is being roasted. I learnt the art and science behind roasting coffee.

After the tour, each of us were given a complimentary pack of roasted coffee. Our guide brewed coffee for us. The coffee beans used for the brew were similar to the coffee beans that we had witnessed being roasted at the roastery. The only difference was perhaps that the coffee beans used for the brew were roasted a day or two before the tour.

Enjoy a brew of coffee.

The brewed coffee tasted good! I could drink it without sugar and I was savouring every drop of it.

Many thanks to the people at Papa Palheta for organizing the tour. I paid $28 for the one-hour tour which our guide had extended out of his enthusiasm. I think this is a pretty value-for-money tour for anyone who is curious to have a first-hand experience to witness the process of roasting coffee. Coffee-lovers with no experience with roasting are likely to find themselves more appreciative of every cup of specialty coffee that they drink after attending this roasting tour. A good roast enhances the taste of the coffee.

Roasting Tour
Papa Palheta
150 Tyrwhitt Road
Singapore 207563