Art fills the streets with hope
The painting, HAPPY FLAG, by artist Milenko Prvacki, is among the many works of art gracing street banners around Singapore. (Photo: Milenko Prvacki)

Art fills the streets with hope

As we look to science to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we look to art for a salve for the soul. Enter Streets of Hope, the National Arts Council’s (NAC) collaboration with over 150 artists to take visions of hope and cheer to the public in unity against difficult times. The project features diverse offerings from our unique and multicultural visual arts scene, from print illustrations and composites, to mixed media, photography and even performance art by artists in Singapore, displayed on street banners.

The banners line streets such as St. Andrew’s Road, Fullerton Road and Esplanade Drive, and they will be rolled out to other spots island-wide in the coming weeks. The full collection of works featured in the project can also be viewed here.

Among the artists involved in the project are Milenko Prvacki, Sun Koh, Kumari Nahappan and Andy Yang. Prvacki, a Cultural Medallion recipient, is a senior fellow at LASALLE College of the Arts. Koh, an acclaimed filmmaker, has had her works screened at international film festivals. Nahappan, who works in various mediums, is known for her sculptures that dot the city, and Yang is a multi-disciplinary artist known for his experimental, abstract visual and sound works.

What is their experience making art in these challenging times? Read on to find out their answers regarding hope during this period.

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Movie still from the final segment of Lucky7, a film by seven Singaporean filmmakers, including Sun Koh, which is featured in Streets of Hope. (Photo: Sun Koh)
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Mixed media on papyrus, Night Sky from the Out of the Blue series, by Kumari Nahappan featured in Streets of Hope. (Photo: Kumari Nahappan)
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A painting of a lotus plant, Odyssey, by Andy Yang featured in Streets of Hope. (Photo: Andy Yang)

How does your featured work in Streets of Hope speak to the topic?
Prvacki: HAPPY FLAG is a “visual dictionary” comprising familiar social artefacts which the audience is encouraged to explore and find meaning in relation to their individual experiences. All my works are structured as “visual dictionaries” and my aim is to bridge different working methods, historical movements and have them in one place where they coexist peacefully and happily, hopefully.

Nahappan: Night Sky is a series of mixed media works, created as a response to the pandemic. The process of layering unrelated materials in the form of a collage, and stitching palm leaves, paper and fabric together, references the notion of fragility and how in this time, we are in states of flux, coping with uncertainties. But this mystical storm too, will pass in time — that is the hope of mankind.

Yang: The painting, Odyssey, is a response to the current situation of the world. I see it as a long-drawn trip with many, rapid changes, and as a collective odyssey to find a solution for a better world. It’s like how the lotus plant pushes its way out of mud, overcomes trying circumstances and eventually blossoms into a supreme form.

Koh: I picked a film still from Lucky7, a film experiment I did with 6 other Singaporean filmmakers. This particular film still is taken from the last segment of the film, directed by Tania Sng. The lead actor, Sunny Pang, has gone through hell and high heavens and ends up a vagrant at a beach. He tries to save Nira, whom he thinks is trying to drown herself; turns out, she was just going for a swim in the sea. This film still captures their sweet but brief connection, a moment in eternity. It is my hope that we remember what it feels like to be close to one another during a pandemic like COVID-19, where human connection can prove fatal, and we hold on to the hope that in the not-too-far future, we can be close to one another again.

How has COVID-19 influenced the art you make?
Koh: COVID-19 has really hit us hard on our heads, we can no longer be self-indulgent in the kind of art we make. Immediate questions need to be asked of our existence and the non-sustainability of a hyper-capitalistic world. How long more can we live the way we do and what are the solutions? I’m working on a series of projects on food sustainability, as well as the more ethereal question of the validity of our roles in the societies and families we live in.

Prvacki: Art has become a very important channel for me to express myself as I inspect and question the alien world around me: What are we, why are we the way we are, what are our dreams? I am avoiding classical narratives and making use of visual arts, which transcends language and culture barriers, to create an art form where dislocated cultural elements are assembled to form a picture that can be read like words in a dictionary.

Yang: It has got me thinking about this unexplainable uneasiness in the supposedly new normal that we are all living in; it is a torment and joy at the same time. I am curious about what lies ahead, and these thoughts have made me create more. Of late, topics of mortality, relationships and gratitude have surfaced quite a fair bit in my work.

Nahappan: COVID-19 has redefined the fragility of mankind and in my art, the process and choice of materials have changed. I am working with paper, palm, and fabric as other materials became limited. I am layering and stitching them into a collage, bringing unrelated forms together and making them one, and turning hope into my canvas.

Replies were edited and condensed. Explore Streets of Hope here.

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