After Work | MAD, UOB & Sing Kar Por

5th September 2015
I have the opportunity to view two exhibitions this week, featuring the young UOB Painters of the Year and famed local photographer, Aik Beng Chia. The first was Passages, held at a corner of the Kenzo Tange designed UOB Plaza. It is curated by Chan Hampe Galleries which represents artists such as Eugene Soh and Chankerk.

Common Ground | Esmond Loh's This Land

Common Ground | Alvin Ong's Swee Chai

PASSAGES | by Alvin Ong & Esmond Loh
Passages seemed like a follow up from Chan Hampe Galleries’ previous exhibition, Common Ground and have the double meaning of a chapter and a journey which coincides with Singapore’s 50th birthday and the elections as the nation ponders upon its past, present and future. In such a context, Passages and the previous Common Ground exhibitions are rather interesting for contemplation on national identities and our relationships with homeland.

The two young artists have very distinct styles. Esmond Loh demonstrates superb technical skills through his detailed portraits of people he know to explore certain themes as such as kinship and national identities. White out backgrounds brings focus to the subjects. The approach seemed similar to the early Chuck Close portraits. Nonetheless, the paintings feel exclusive to a viewer like me.

 While there was an exploration of universal themes, there is a certain boundary or world Esmond has kept it away from the viewers. Perhaps, while presenting something autobiographical, he leaves  it to the viewer to search for a imagery or association to better relate to the paintings like a memory of seeing your aging mother by the a window in the morning light.

Alvin Ong’s paintings are more varied, organic and perhaps more experimental compared to Esmond’s exhibited pieces. I particularly enjoyed the range of textures present in the rain series which was inspired by the scenes of Lee Kuan Yew’s state funeral.

The piece that garnered quite a bit of controversy in Alvin Ong’s works for the event is a piece inspired by Edwin Koo’s Transit series. The artist explained that he has sought permission from the photographer and the piece is made up of several images from the Transit series. What is decried as plagiarism is not without precedent, Francis Bacon’s portraits of Pope Innocent X based on Velazquez’s paintings is one such example. 

Furthermore, when taken and looked at the today’s context, Alvin Ong’s Transit-inspired piece has a quality of its time. In an era filled with instant instagram photos are viral facebook images. Alvin has used an unconventional medium: painting instead of instagram or facebook and struck a chord with Koo’s photographs online. The act of putting together which Alvin relates with in his photographs to create this piece is a statement of that culture of social media sharing prevalent in today’s society like @leeyikkeat’s instagram photos where the makers are not credited for but the featured forms and spaces stirs emotions and feelings among viewers and the instagrammer. The debate that ensues is a good outcome as it has led to a meaningful discussion on several relevant themes such as ownership, originality, acknowledgement, society today….

This was taken at Holiday Inn Atrium, previously known as the Glass Hotel designed by Los Angeles-based architect firm, Daniel, Mann Johnson & Mendenhal. But images (and artworks even) such as these are often without credit to their makers. This is just one of the many:

Adults and children sometimes have boards in their bedrooms or living-rooms on which they pin pieces of paper: letters, snapshots, reproductions of paintings, newspaper cuttings, original drawings, postcards. On each board all the images belong to the same language and all are more or less equal within it, because they have been chosen in a highly personal way to match and express the experience of the room’s inhabitants. Logically, these boards should replace museums.”

-          John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972), though written in the 70s, these boards are now replaced by the likes of instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

19th August - 28th September
UOB Art Gallery at UOB Plaza

SING KAR POR | by Aik Beng Chia
Building up to the personal experiences of images, local photographer, Aik Beng Chia opens his exhibition covering a wide body of his works at K+ located at Scotts Square in collaboration with Books Actually. Aik’s photos, are highly accessible, the subject matter are around us and object that scene or image we see so often and probably took a shot with our phone once or twice before.

However, what sets Aik’s photographs apart from the typical instagram images or conventional photography is his unconventional perspectives and the mood they carries that makes them so effective and affective as images. Sing Kar Por may not be a large scale exhibition and the book may be gimmicky with the coupon stamps but the unconventional gallery set-up and rich content and provides a fascinating opportunity to look into the soul of Singapore through the lens of Aik Beng Chia.

K+ Curatorial Space
Scotts Square #03-14/15

MAD Museum of Art and Design
Not too far from Scotts Square is MAD Museum of Art and Design located at Tanglin side. It is opened by Jasmine Tay who helped brought in contemporary Chinese art such as those by Zeng Fanzhi to the Singapore art scene and international market. A short visit to the varied galleries of the museum shows a collection of mostly foreign artists and currently most of them are by contemporary Chinese artists such as the works by Mao Zifei and Wan Tai Feng. Local artists, Thomas Yang’s bicycle art works and Hans Tan’s contemporary take on Chinese and Peranakan ceramics are on display as well.

 Hans Tan's ceramic series.
 Cycling Cities by Thomas Yang.
 Stylized Portraits of Famous Figures by Saran Yen Panya.
 Canvas Chair by YOY Design Studio (Japan), yes you could sit on it.

The MAD Museum of Art and Design seems to aspire to be a classy hang out place for fashionable creative minds like the galleries at Gillman. Covering two levels of exhibition space, while it may be commercial, the body of works are more experimental and conceptual compared to the normal commercial galleries.

The gallery is huge, and they even have an in-house bistro after admiring all the artworks or just to have a conversation after the viewing. The cuisine at MAD Museum of Art & Design bistro is a mix of Western and Japanese.

Creamy Three Mushroom Soup | Good
Interestingly served with a raisin brioche and drizzled with truffle oil. The soup wasn’t too creamy, was fragrant and I like how the sweetness of the raisin brioche and herbs gives an interesting flavour combination to the mushroom soup.

There are also finger food or “Tapas”

Ham & Cheese Ciabatta | Good, but normal.
Pan-seared ham served with shredded daikon crispy garlic chips and wafu dressing. This is essentially a fail-safe combination of ham and cheese on toast that was executed well. Loved the touch of balsamic vinegar.

Gyoza | Decent.
Homemade pan-fried pork dumpling. This has generous pork fillings, very thin and slightly chewy skin. I kind of enjoyed it as it is slightly different from the usual deep-fried gyozas.

Buffalo Wings | Could be better.
Fried home-made seasoned wings, tossed in spicy buffalo sauce. Explained that this was done at the lowest level of spiciness, the Buffalo Wings will be a disappointment if you are looking for a spicy, fiery kick because this is just some tender, sweet, decently marinated chicken wings. With “Buffalo” in the name, there is an expectation that this dish did not meet. Otherwise, it would have been alright.

Foie Gras Tapas | Great.
Oven-baked foie gras terrine on tortilla served with truffle and cheese. This is a simple and slightly different way of eating foie gras terrine despite the description and it works quite well for me. Savoury mix of foie gras, mushroom and cheese plus crispy tortilla, this leaves me wanting for more.

On to the mains.

Wagyu Beef Burger | Good.
Topped with melted cheese, sunny side up egg, and drizzled with decadent mushroom sauce. This has a juicy, well-seasoned burger patty with melted cheese and sweet, tangy mushroom sauce, this is a pretty decent and satisfying burger.

Crabmeat Fettuccine | I will pass.
Fettuccine tossed with crabmeat in spicy tomato sauce. The pasta has an al dente quality like those I had in Italy, firmer than the usual in Singapore. The sauce was kind of mild and overwhelmed by the spicy flavours (aka lacking depth). The pasta could use more tomatoes, herbs and perhaps more chunks of ingredients to create a more varied texture.

Cha Soba | I will pass.
Chilled Soba in Bonito Broth and Shoyu. This is just a run out of mill cha soba, nothing memorable. The noodle dishes in the mains are some of the weakest dishes I felt. Furthermore, the cha soba’s subtlety would have been overpowered by the heavier tasting starters and mains. This should be eaten at the beginning.

Piggy Back | Okay.
Oven-baked Pork Ribs, coated in New York Style BBQ Sauce. I was looking forward to this but it came out too dry and the meat has yet to be infused with the flavours from the sauce. While the portion is generous, I felt that there is definitely room for improvement for the Piggy Back.

Desserts at the MAD Museum of Art and Design are not made in-house which is a pity as it has such nice spaces and décor made by the staff and the owner. They have a normal Banana Walnut Cake and an interesting Yam Cake which resembles a cake version of Orh Nee. However, they don’t leave a deep impression for me and I would rather head over to Steeples next door instead if I am looking for a café space.

The service in general was very good, the staffs were friendly and helpful, the art content is a nice contrast to the traditional collection of works in the William Lim designed Tanglin Shopping Centre but I think there are some issues with the cuisine to be ironed out.

10 Tanglin Road #01-01/#02-01
Singapore 247908

Special Thanks to Terry from MAD Museum of Art and Design for the invitation!


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