On the surface, Singapore may seem like a cultural desert. It is not surprising given its short history with multi-racial migrants forming the bulk of it population composition hence lacking a distinct cultural identity. However, it is precisely in such conditions that perhaps Singapore artists need to work ‘harder’ and dig deeper to create extraordinary works. Their efforts are gradually paying off.
In recent years, several Singapore artists are setting record prices in auction houses with works reaching up to three million dollar marks. Certainly an achievement for a country with less then 50 years of modern history and a population only a quarter of the size of Shanghai.
This May, LWH Gallery is presenting two award-winning artists who have worked hard to reach where they are today. Although both artists adopt different mediums and with works that are vastly different in styles, both share a common drive to produce heartfelt artworks that reflects not just their personal dreams but importantly to also give voice that reflects the hopes of the ‘ordinary’ us.
Born in 1985 in Singapore, Chen Shitong graduated from Nanyang academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) majoring in Western Painting before obtaining his degree with Lasalle College of the Arts in 2013. In 2009, he was awarded the NAFA Fine Arts award. He participated in the 1st Macau printmaking triennial in 2012 and was a recipient of The Winston Oh Travel Award the same year. In 2013, he was the best selling artists at Spot Art 2013 – South-east Asia’s only international juried arts festival of artists under 30 years.
In his practice, Shitong uses printmaking as a medium to highlight the intersection between history, people and places. Despite the enveloping concrete in modern Singapore, Shitong managed to seek inspiration from it, for this series of mix medium work entitled ‘Choices’.
Drawing inspiration from classical Chinese landscapes, Shitong reinterprets them through contemporary prints. The monolithic landscape serves as the metaphor for the migrant make up of Singapore’s population and serves as the back drop for his intuitive protraryal of the issues facing Singapore and perhaps the the world at large.
In this series of works, Shitong sought inspiration from issues that are shaping his home and the environment. Like many Asian countries, Singapore is experiencing growing income disparity. Shitong sensitively capture the sense of lost and helplessness as those from the lower income strata makes difficut choices in leaving their loves ones in order to make a better living for their love ones. Those who are less fortunate, struggles to make meet while they witness the others moving up in the socio-econmic ladder.
The extremity of the life goes beyond the social. Despite being known as a clean and green city, Singapore is not spared from the recent climate change. Extreme weathers, such as piercing rain, extended dry spells are acutely felt by its people. All these are represented by the duality of elements in drawings, medium, colour, texture or form in his works. The choices we made and the repurcussions we faced in the name of progress.
“As a boy, I dreamt of being a professional artist. Ever since I could hold a pencil, I was always drawing”, say Aaron Gan. Born in 1979, it was a time of both racing growth and change for both Singapore and him. Although Aaron stopped learning art as a formal subject when he reached 14, he continued to carry a sketchbook whenever he went and drew whenever he could. And like many other Singapore youth of his generation, Aaron pursued a general business degree and worked regularly before managing a successful business.
“They say your life changes when you become a father. That was true for me. I had been running my own business successfully for several years but I never forgot my childhood dream. I felt that as a father, I should one day be able to look at my daughter in the eye and tell her that life is for living, and that it is up to her to live and pursue her dreams.” Aaron wind down his business and plunged headlong into the arts. He painted day and night, studied and learned from not just books but also from accomplished artists.
In July 2012 his dedication and hard work paid off. He was chosen to participate in the International Watercolour Biennial in Belgium alongside international watercolour heavyweights such as Nicholas Simmons of USA. He was also featured in a full-page article on the local newspaper.
In this series of works, Aaron exudes his sense of hope and positivity with his dream-like works. From the serene portrait of artist in the clouds to a quiet respect and appreciation of the diversity of life – such is the power of fatherhood.
“I believed that to be a good artist, one must first understand art, to understand art, one must first understand life. Once you understand life, you will no longer need to understand art. Then you can start painting.” – Aaron Gan
For more information, please contact us at:
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50 Moganshan Road, Shanghai, China
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