Once Upon This Island


"Once Upon This Island" navigates ideas of home, community, identity and memory, and raises pertinent and timely questions on what it means to live in contemporary Singapore – an urbanised, ever-changing city-state and island, set between peninsula and archipelago. 

Untitled work from the 'Singapore' series, Nguan, 2012, From the collection of: Singapore Art Museum
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Nguan expressively captures quiet, everyday scenes on the streets of Singapore, as well as the sense of alienation and solitude that exist in this city
(which is arguably also prevalent in all metropolises), by taking intimate and un-posed portraits of strangers while exploring Singapore on foot. The art work reflects a discreet observation of Singapore and the Singaporean way of life, a dozen of untold stories and personal histories are waiting to unfold.

The Hidden Dimension II (2013) by Sarah Choo JingSingapore Art Museum

The Hidden Dimension II depicts seven family members going about their daily routine and task in individual rooms and sections of a house, played on a seemingly endless loop. The patterns and habits of everyday life portrayed in The Hidden Dimension II are familiar; patterns which many people might exhibit in their own life. And yet, this quiet normalcy also contributes to a sense of isolation and distances as each family member seems to e lost in their own routines and the trappings of objects, where the lack of interaction is a reflection of the modern society.

HDB Life (2014) by Shin LinSingapore Art Museum

HDB Life is an interactive installation that invites visitors to create their ideal Housing Development Board(HDB) unit by decorating it with stickers representing everyday items and bric-a-brac that are characteristic of a Singaporean urban life. The fun and participative approach to the installation is also a reference to the communal and colourful living experience in HDB estates.

We Are Family (2014) by Vicente DelgadoSingapore Art Museum

We Are Family celebrates the diversity of Singaporean's cultures by employing vivid colours, textures and shapes in a participatory, intertwining soft sculpture installation. The art work suggests that the soft sculpture pieces are much like the members of a family, or even a societal unit that, when linked together, forge a stronger structure through unity.

Strange Fruit (2003) by Lee WenSingapore Art Museum

Carrying a cluster of red lanterns and covering the entire body in yellow paint, The performance took place during the Mid-Autumn celebration in Singapore , and was a way for the artist to celebrate the festival as a "one-man lantern procession". The particular use of red lanterns was an easy signifier of 'Chineseness' and the work is also an allusion to the anti-racism song made famous by Billie Holiday, wherein ethnicity becomes a confining prison by which a person is judged, obliterating all other facets of one's identity or personality.

Not Much to See (2014) by Chun KaifengSingapore Art Museum

Not Much to See is part of a series of sculptural works by artist Chun Kaifeng which explore the significance of commonplace objects that exist in Singapore's urban environment. Although familiar and commonplace objects such as these slippers define and make up our everyday settings, they do not stand out, and are not meant to. However, the artist suggests that these objects wield a powerful influence on the urban environment and the people who live in it, and that these apparently mundane objects and settings might be more significant that they seem at first, being so intimately linked with our everyday lives in Singapore.

Siapa Nama Saya? (2012) by Green ZengSingapore Art Museum

Siapa Nama Saya? is a part of a series of artwork by artist Green Zeng that examines issues of history and identity in Singapore. Siapa Nama Saya? revisits the idea of identity, language and its significance in the context of Singapore's multi-cultural society, at the same time reminding viewers of the historical events that took place in the 1950s when Singapore was still a young nation wrestling with issues of identity and governance.

Singapore Idols (2006) by Jing QuekSingapore Art Museum

The Singapore Idols series of photographs celebrates the Everyman and common, everyday situations and environments in Singapore. The large group of National Servicemen posing in an outdoor training area in full military gear, striking confident poses in a highly stylised manner reminiscent of celebrities in magazines. Jing Quek signals the values he ascribes to the oft-overlooked individuals featured in his work, in his attempt to address constructions of identity, stereotypes and communities, particularly within Singapore.

Self-Portrait (No More Tears Mr.Lee) (2009) by Jason WeeSingapore Art Museum

Self-Portrait (No More Tears Mr. Lee) is made out of 8,000 plastic shampoo bottle caps placed individually on an angled pedestal. The part by part construction of the image of the person represented questions how biographies and histories of historical figures and multi-faceted and pieced together. This installation is also introspective and self-reflexive in that Jason Wee sees himself represented in the portrait as well, in the way that a person might identify himself or herself with an influential father figure.

Constructing Construction #1, Francis Ng, 2009, From the collection of: Singapore Art Museum
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Constructing Construction #1 exemplifies the artist's ongoing interest with spaces in transition. The artwork invites audiences to take a closer look at ordinary, often overlooked sites that are constantly being made and remade through the process of construction and re-construction, and to consider their own relationship and exchanges with these spaces.

Sparrow (after National Theatre, 1963-86, on Clemenceau Avenue) from the series "City Planned: Tracing Monuments" (2005/2006) by Michael LeeSingapore Art Museum

This work is part of a larger series by artist Michael Lee that seeks to explore issues of social memory and cultural heritage in Singapore, through the construction of architectural models of demolished or revamped buildings. The artwork echoes a period of significant development in Singapore's history - the remembrance of a country's path towards its present progress, and what might have been lost or forgotten along the way.

HDB Corridor, Dawn Ng, 2012, From the collection of: Singapore Art Museum
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HDB corridor is part of a series of hand-crafted, large scale photo collages by the artist that presents a cheeky look a present-day Singapore, highlighting its unique characteristics and traits: common obsessions, insecurities and ambitions seen through the composition of text set against familiar, everyday landscapes.

Credits: Story

Singapore Art Museum

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