Singapore is celebrating its 50th year as an independent nation in 2015 and this provides an opportunity to show how far the city-state has come from its time as a “cultural desert.”
In recent years, the visual arts have flourished in Singapore, as an art and business with the strong support of the government both direct and indirect; from the setting up of Gillman Barracks as a gallery hub in 2012 to the establishment of numerous — some even argue too many — art fairs. The artistic community is thriving as never before with local artists increasingly invited overseas to participate in biennales, or being represented by international galleries in major art capitals around the world.
To join in the celebrations, BLOUIN ARTINFO selected 50 artists, particularly focusing on the newest generation. The list is by no means exhaustive:
1. Esmond Loh (b. 1995)
The young artist won the UOB Painting of the Year 2012 with his expressionist portrait, Just Let Me Sleep. His first solo exhibition in 2014 at Chan Hampe Galleries showcased his portraiture craftsmanship.
2. Sarah Choo Jing (b. 1990)
Currently based in London, the young photographer has already won the ICON De Martell Cordon Bleu 2013 and the Kwek Leng Joo Prize of Excellence in Still Photography 2013. She was also short-listed for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize (2014). Her works have an appealing, moody cinematographic quality.
In 2015: Her works will be shown at Art Stage Singapore (January), as well as Photo London in Somerset House (May) and OCBC Art Space (October).
3. Ruben Pang (b. 1990)
Pang was selected as a Singapore Finalist for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2010 and 2011. His deformed portraits have a strong dynamic that recalls Francis Bacon’s work, and he has quickly gained a foothold amongst collectors.
In 2015: A solo exhibition at Chan Hampe Galleries.
4. Melissa Tan (b.1989)
The young artist had her first solo exhibition at Richard Koh Fine Art (RKFA) Singapore in 2014. Using acrylic paint on watercolor paper, she manipulated the paper to create a layered surface inspired by organic growth patterns, but also burned the paper to create holes. The resulting layered ‘paper-cut’ looks like geological lace.
In 2015: Richard Koh Fine Art will present some of her new work at Art Stage Singapore (January) and she will participate in a group show at Grey Projects (May).
5. Geraldine Kang (b. 1988)
She received the Kwek Leng Joo Prize of Excellence for Still Photography in 2012. After an early series of half-nude family portraits and a collaborative project on mental health titled "Black as waves, Half as light," she has turned her attention to space constraints and land usage in Singapore, observing the impact of pragmatic realities on the Singapore landscape.
In 2015: A group show in Berlin and four group shows/events planned in Singapore next year.
6. Eugene Soh (b. 1987)
Using technology to manipulate various forms of digital art, his latest solo show, Renaissance City, at Chan Hampe Galleries, parodies iconic works of art while providing a tongue-in-cheek commentary on contemporary life in Singapore.
In 2015: A group show planned in March and a solo show planned for the end of 2015.
7. Alecia Neo (b. 1986)
Working primarily with photography, video, and installation, Neo produces series of portraits involving a variety of individuals or overlooked communities and the areas they occupy as she seeks to explore the relationship between people and their living spaces.
In 2015: In March, new work based on her series Resting on the Horizon will be part of Open House! 2015, while her large-scale exhibition titled Unseen: Constellations, exploring sight and sightlessness in society through the voices of youths living with visual impairment, will be shown in October.
8.Samantha Tio, aka Mintio (b. 1986)
The fine art photographer prioritizes process and has found a distinct style with which to capture urban landscapes in movement.
In 2015: Her photographs have been selected for the Prudential Singapore Eye Exhibition.
9. Joo Choon Lin (b. 1984)
Underlying Joo’s practice is her interest in the nature of reality. The artist’s work often tricks the eye and makes you ponder the relationship between appearance and essence. Her investigation into these areas is also informed by her interest in technological developments.
In 2015: Artist residency and group exhibition in Nantes, France (Jan-March), followed by another group exhibition, "Lunar Glide" at Gare Saint Sauveur in Lille, France (April).
10. Aiman Hakim (b. 1984)
Using toys as the main protagonists, the hyper-realist painter focuses his works around two principal themes: conformity in society and the notion of individuality in an Asian culture where communal ideologies still dominate.
11. Genevieve Chua (b. 1984)
The multimedia artist made her name with her hand-colored photographs of green landscapes, investigating our often ambiguous relationship with land and our fears of the unknown, but of late she’s explored new media, such as enamel on linen. The Los Angeles-based Gusford gallery took her work to PULSE Miami Beach 2014 for a solo artist booth, and she was selected by the Prudential Art Award 2015 in the drawing category.
In 2015: exhibition at Gallery Exit in Hong Kong to coincide with the Art Basel week.
12. Liao Jiekai (b. 1984)
In 2012, he was given the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council and in 2013 he won the President's Young Talents Award. The film maker and visual artist’s works focus on Singapore’s changing landscape from a people’s perspective. His drama, Clouds in a Shell, depicts Singaporean youths who question the past and wonder about their future, while Fireworks looks at a man doing National Service in Singapore. He created Bukit Orang Salah for the Singapore Biennale 2013, a moving single-channel video that captured images of St. John’s Island today, while also recalling its past.
13. Jovian Lim (b.1984)
His minimalist approach towards image-making has evolved over recent years towards a more abstract photography.
14. Frayn Yong (b. 1984)
Constructing miniature panoramas from pencil lead that blend man-made structures with natural forms, he illustrates his preoccupation with the transience of the human condition.
15. Dawn Ng (b. 1983)
Best known for Walter — her giant rabbit installation that has popped up in different locations around the country — Dawn Ng works in a range of mediums to create large scale installations (flying paper plane, paper boat on a river) that have a sense of wonder.
In 2015: A series of photographed installations of small, locally sourced objects at Chan Hampe Galleries opening in January, which will be a preview of sorts to her solo show in March, “A Thing of Beauty” at Art Paris 2015. Walter will also be shown in two contemporary art museums in France — Lyon and Lille.
16. Robert Zhao Renhui (b.1983)
The multidisciplinary artist’s work addresses man’s relationship with nature, using a false naturalization and manipulation of beliefs. In Zhao’s universe it is impossible to tell what is real and what is fake. He received the UOB Painting of the Year Award (2009); the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award (2010); and the Deutsche Bank Award in Photography (2011). He recently completed a three-month residency at Kadist Art Foundation.
In 2015: Vying for the Signature Art Prize, Zhao will also have a solo show at ShanghArt Gallery in Shanghai, his first in China, and will participate in Photobook Melbourne (12-22 Feb), exhibiting A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World at the Centre for Contemporary Photography.
17. Ang Song Nian (b. 1983)
The photographer focuses on places that are influenced by human presence, but are half-forgotten. His landscapes betray subtle signs of mankind’s interventions, like a tree stump in a wooded area. In one recent series, his landscapes have small pieces of paper dropping, which at first look like snowflakes, but are actually made from ‘paper money’, also known as hell money, for the spirits of the forest as the artist mourns the gradual loss of greenery in Singapore.
18. Joel Yuen (b. 1983)
His series of photographs, Anatomical Fantasies of Meat that showed cow, chicken, and pig organs artfully arranged, controversially won the UOB Painting of the Year in 2008. The multidisciplinary artist’s work reflects on Singapore’s contemporary society using photography, video, and performance practices. His most recent exhibition, Sing City, looked at all thing Singapore, reflecting on ‘that moment’ when the then Prime Minister shed a tear while announcing the separation from what is now Malaysia.
19. Chun Kaifeng (born 1982)
The artist is interested in mapping the day-to-day using ordinary elements of our urban environment (cigarette butts, dustbins, discarded flip-flops) to create sculptural works conferring them an iconic status.
20. Justin Loke (b. 1979)
Part of the art collective, Vertical Submarine, the artist ventured out in 2013 for the first time on his own with a solo show, entitled “The Seven Scenes of Barry Lyndon” where he explored the ideas of framing and composition.
In 2015: These artworks will be shown in the Prudential Singapore Eye Exhibition.
21. David Chan (b. 1979)
A graduate of Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, David Chan won the UOB Painting of the Year in 2004 and is known for his humorous artworks that portray human-animal hybrids to ponder human behaviors.
In 2015: Currently working on a commissioned sculpture/installation to be unveiled on the front lawn of Singapore Art Museum (SAM) in January and his work will probably be seen later at Art Central Hong Kong, a new art fair.
22. Zul Othman, aka Zero (b. 1979)
One of Singapore’s leading street-art style artists, he received the NAC’s Young Artist Award 2013.
23. Grace Tan (b. 1979)
Formally trained in fashion design, Tan began her art and design practice in 2003 under the kwodrent studio, presenting a series of works based on the study of rectangles, materials, and construction methods. Since then she primarily works with textiles and structures that relate to the surroundings.
24. Jason Wee (b. 1978)
The established artist may be best known for his powerful No More Tears Mr Lee installation using bottle caps (now studied by local school children) and is the founder of Grey Projects, a non-profit artists’ space in Singapore supporting curatorial, exchange, and publication work. He received the NAC’s Young Artist Award 2008 for visual arts in Singapore. His latest works, an exploration of grief and mourning, are on view until January 10 at Galerie Michael Janssen at Gillman Barracks.
25. Donna Ong (b. 1978)
The established artist is known for her immersive installations which transform found objects, such as nail, glass, etc. into dream-like narratives. Ong was the recipient of the NAC’s Young Artist Award 2009 and the People’s Choice Award at the 2009 President’s Young Talents Exhibition, and her work has appeared at several international biennales including the Venice Biennale in 2008.
In 2015: Ong is part of the Prudential Singapore Eye Awards and Prudential Singapore Eye Exhibition and her work can also be seen in the "Da Vinci: Shaping the Future" exhibition at the Art Science Museum. In March, she will be showing a work at SAM and exhibiting at the inToAsia Festival in New York’s Queens Museum. She’s also planning a solo show for the year’s end in Milan at Primo Marella Gallery.
26. Heman Chong (b. 1977)
The artist and curator represented Singapore at the Venice Biennale in 2008. He has been working on his Cover (Versions) series since 2009, painting imagined book covers, mostly of books he hopes to read.
In 2015: It will be a busy year for the artist with a solo show at Art Sonje, a private museum in Seoul in February, followed by group shows at Hessel Museum of Art and Graz Kunstverein in March, National Museum of Art in Osaka in July, and another major solo show at Wilkinson Gallery in London in September.
27. Andre Tan (b. 1978)
Following in the footsteps of Justin Lee, Andre Tan has established himself as a Pop Art Artist whose works pack a strong dose of cynicism against consumerism and brands.
In 2015: Working on a new solo show for August with a new series based on Singapore history.
28. Sufian Hamri, aka TraceOne (b. 1980)
The established street-art style artist is best known for his stenciled skaters balancing on shadows, but has also had his work exhibited in numerous commissioned projects, for example at Facebook Singapore’s office, and exhibitions both locally and internationally. His works are also humorous but often with an acerbic take on society.
29. Safaruddin Bin Abdul Hamid, aka Dyn (b. 1977)
Dyn’s practice looks at the coexistence of old and new in Singapore, re-interpreting old photographs in candy-colors to give a sense of displacement and longing.
30. Ang Sookoon (b. 1977)
Ang majored in sculpture at the School of Visual Arts, New York, but works across multiple media. She has created helium word installations, intriguing crystallized sculptures using bread (with phosphate), and her photograph series “Exorcise Me,” dealt with teen anxiety, as part of the Singapore Biennale 2013.
In 2015: To exhibit as part of “These Sacred Things” (16 January‑1 March) at the Esplanade and solo exhibition planned in Utrecht, NL.
31. Ho Tzu Nyen (b. 1976)
One of the most established Singaporean artists internationally, his more recent works have focused on immersive multimedia installations. His films characteristically comprise elaborate tableaus that refer back to well-known artworks (such as works by Caravaggio, Gericault, etc).
In 2015: In the running for the triennial APB Foundation Signature Art Prize and will also appear at the Prudential Singapore Eye exhibition. Also participating in the Forum Expanded section of the Berlinale/Berlin Film Festival with a work called "The Nameless" which is a found-footage-style film re-assembled to tell the story of Lai Teck, a Sino-Vietnamese with 50 aliases, no one knows his true name he was the Secretary General of the Malayan Communist Party from 1939 to 1947, and who was also a triple agent. The footage is gleaned from films featuring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, recast as Lai Teck. Also working on a related project, called "The Name," which will open at the DAADgalerie in Berlin on Feb 13. This is also a found-footage-style film re-assembled to tell the story of an author known as Gene Z. Hanrahan, who wrote one of the earliest and most authoritative accounts of Malayan Communism: The Communist Struggle in Malaya. Hanrakan was likely a pseudonym and the front for a research organization with ties to military intelligence.
32. Ng Joon Kiat (b. 1976)
The artist’s paintings explore the materiality of paint as a material as well as the representation of geographical territories, real or imaginary.
33. Francis Ng (b. 1975)
The multidisciplinary artist represented Singapore at the prestigious 50th Venice Biennale and participated in the 5th Gwangju Biennale in South Korea.
34. :Phunk Studio
The graphic designers turned visual artist collective comprises Alvin Tan (b. 1974), Melvin Chee (b. 1974), Jackson Tan (b. 1974) and William Chan (b. 1973) who all met at LASALLE College of the Arts, and came together in 1994 to form their collective. Their graphic visual style, which incorporates diverse Asian influences from Chinese craft and folklore to Japanese manga and Wuxia fiction, is instantly recognizable and is particularly popular in Japan. They have been roped in by numerous brands such as Nike, Comme des Garcons, and Levis, and were awarded "Designer of the Year" in 2007 by the President's Design Award, the highest accolade for designers in Singapore.
35. Verticale Submarine
The art collective comprises Joshua Yang (b. 1974), Justin Loke (b. 1979) and Fiona Koh (b. 1983) and is known for their witty tongue-in-cheek, mixed-media works that often incorporate word play. Vertical Submarine received the President’s Young Talents 2009 Award. The trio landed in hot water at the Singapore Night Festival in September with their exhibition Eville where flyers urged people to “kill stray cats” as part of a satirical performance-exhibition against evil acts, commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement but which did not amuse animal welfare groups.
In 2015: Planning an installation this January as part of Singapore Art week, while one of their works will be shown at the Musee Orsay in Lyon, The collective is also planning to launch a curatorial platform, named Dialogic, with Randy Chan of Zarch Collaboratives. One of its key spaces will be located at Golden Mile Tower.
36. John Clang (b. 1973)
The established New York-based photographer’s latest series “The Land of My Heart” is an ode to Singapore ahead of the nation’s 50th birthday. The new series re-appropriates the iconic Singapore Girl to reflect on identity and personal memories encapsulated in nostalgic spaces of his rapidly evolving homeland.
37. Charles Lim (b. 1973)
This former national sailor, who represented Singapore in the 1996 Olympics, is the founder of collective art group tsunamii.net, which exhibited at Documenta 11. His film practice documents waterways and how they represent issues of mobility, migration, and ecological concerns. An edited version of All Lines Flow Out, commissioned for the 2011 Singapore Biennale, received a Special Mention Award at the 68th Venice Film Festival, a first for a Singapore film.
In 2015: Lim is representing Singapore at the Venice Biennale and his artworks will be shown at the Prudential Singapore Eye Exhibition.
38. Michael Lee (b. 1972)
The artist’s practice explores the representation of the built environment in the contexts of its lost elements, transforming his observations into objects, diagrams, or essays. In 2005 he received the Young Artist Award (Visual Arts) by the NAC and in 2011 he received the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize 2011 (People’s Choice Award).
In 2015: planning ‘Hookup #1: Professional Speed-Dating for Artists & Curators,’ at Art Stage Singapore, professional networking events held in the Latent Spaces booth.
39. Green Zeng (b. 1972)
A multidisciplinary artist whose practice encompasses visual art, film, and theater, Zeng’s works explore concerns related to Singapore’s history and national identity. Inspired by the notion of constructed history, he has put the faces of pro-communist figures and ex-political detainees from the 1950s‑60s on fictional Singaporean bank notes asking the viewer “What if?”; he has also shown photographic works imagining an exile who returns to Singapore after a long absence. He was also shortlisted as a Finalist for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2012.
In 2015: He’s been commissioned by the Singapore Land Transport Authority to create the artwork for one of the train stations in the Thomson Line Art Program.
40. Ming Wong (b. 1971)
The Berlin-based artist has represented Singapore at the Venice Biennale and has been internationally recognized for his performance and video works that engage with world cinema history while dealing with issues of identity. He casts himself in various roles, female and male, re-enacting well-known films.
41. Yeo Chee Kiong (b. 1970)
The sculptor is known for creating playful and surprising juxtapositions in his pieces that pull in everyday objects and make the viewer rethink them. He received the 2006 Young Artist Award and won the inaugural Grand Prize at the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize in 2008.
In 2015: His works will be seen at the Prudential Singapore Eye Exhibition. He expects to be involved in an outdoor sculpture project in Bangkok in Feb/March and sculpture group shows in China (April), Taiwan (July), Singapore (July), and Japan (September).
42. Foo Kwee Horng (b. 1969)
Moving away from the shophouse and river scenes, the watercolorist turns his gaze to document daily local scenes and contemporary Singapore, be it a durian seller or the Art Science Museum.
43. Jason Lim (b. 1966)
The performance and visual artist won the Juror’s Prize at the 4thWorld Ceramics Biennale in Korea in 2007 and that same year presented “Just Dharma” and “Light Weight” at the Singapore Pavilion of the 50th Venice Biennale.
In 2015: The artist will be involved with a performance art piece at Latent Space during Art Stage and will also present performances in Beijing, London, and New York as part of the Singapore Tourism Board celebration of SG50. He’s also planning a collaboration with an Australian artist at Chan Hampe Galleries in December.
44. Ian Woo (b. 1967)
One of the most prominent painters in Singapore, Ian Woo is known for his scope of abstract experimentation, ranging from minimalist washes to exuberant, colored surfaces that suggest movement, rhythm, and geographical formations. He won the UOB Painting of the year in 1999.
In 2015: A solo exhibition at Tomio Koyama Gallery in Singapore in April.
45. Zai Kuning (b. 1964)
Considered one of the pioneering experimental artists in Singapore, the roving multidisciplinarian is equally adept at the traditional mediums of painting, drawing, and sculpture as he is with experimental music and sound installations. His works, at times deemed controversial, reflect on his unique heritage, cultural background, and life experiences and mixed race upbringing with his father, a Malay-Muslim, and his mother who is Chinese.
46. Jane Lee (b. 1963)
Known for her highly texturized paintings she seeks to explore the meaning of a painting and paint itself.
In 2015: Her works will be seen at the Prudential Singapore Eye exhibition.
47. Justin Lee (b. 1963)
With his brand of East-meet-West Pop Art juxtaposing traditional Chinese paper-cut motifs with well-known Asian and American icons he popularized modern Pop Art in Singapore. The established artist won the Philip Morris Singapore Art Award in 2005 and the Prestigious Mont Blanc Artists World Patronage Project in 2007. His warrior wearing headphones has found its way on mugs and carrier bags, making his work very familiar.
In 2015: The artist is studying for a Master of Fine Art with LASALLE-Goldsmith and he has just finish a design for the Maxwell subway station, due to open in 2020.
48. Vincent Leow (b. 1961)
Once one of the enfants terrible of the local art community in the 1990s (he once urinated into a cup and drank it in front of an audience), Leow is now an established artist and represented Singapore at the 2007 Venice Biennale. He is best known for his series of hybrid creatures, such as Andy, a man-dog character based on his black mongrel pet named after Andy Warhol, which he has used to comment on crossbreeding of identities and cultures that Singaporeans have experienced.
In 2015: The artist is working on a solo show tentatively planned in August.
49. Suzann Victor (b. 1959)
The Sydney-based artist represented Singapore in the 49th Venice Biennale and has had numerous public art commissions, while also most recently participating in the Singapore Biennale.
In 2015: The artist will be unveiling a new body of work which was created during her residency at STPI, Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor (18 January‑21 February). Her swinging chandelier installation can be seen at Art Stage Singapore 2015.
50. Lee Wen (b. 1957)
One of Singapore’s foremost performance art practitioners, the artist is best known for his Yellow Man series that explores issues of identity.
In 2015: His works will be seen at the Prudential Singapore Eye Exhibition.
This story was first published for BLOUIN ARTINFO. To see all the artworks for these artists go here;