National Gallery Singapore’s Nothing is Forever exhibition: sculptures that shaped Singapore
It is not hard to notice and appreciate sculpture in Singapore. For decades, they have been adding to and enlivening Singapore’s public spaces, whether in the form of national monuments, landmarks, or temporary installations.
But contemplate this art form a little more, and one will find that they have helped shape art and even Singapore society as we know it today.
Nothing is Forever: Rethinking Sculpture in Singapore, the latest exhibition by National Gallery Singapore (NGS), is a free-for-all event that takes visitors on a journey to learn more about this three-dimensional art, its evolution, and role in the country.
It is, notably, the first major exhibition in 30 years to examine sculpture on this level, and traces the artistic medium in Singapore from as far back as the 19th century.
The exhibition title Nothing is Forever,an excerpt of a quote by Singapore contemporary artist Tang Da Wu, sets the tone for the unconventional and previously-unrecognised approaches to sculpture that visitors will observe at the show. It could come in the form of familiar materials like bronze, but just as rightly in the form of everyday objects like plastic bags, bricks, or wire, and even ephemeral elements like light, wind, and rain.
To drive home the exhibition’s hopes of encouraging visitors to rethink sculptural practices and forms, sculpture will also come to life through performative works.
All of these will be presented and explored in the exhibition through four thematic sections: Power, The Spiritual, The Corporeal, and Making, Unmaking and Remaking.
The A List highlights some of the works within each section that you could keep an eye out for.
This section will take visitors on a journey through Singapore’s urban landscape, putting a focus on iconic public monuments that show sculpture’s impact on architecture and society. This includes landmarks like City Hall and the former Supreme Court, now home to NGS itself.
As an easter egg of sorts, pedestrians will also see the preliminary model of Ng Eng Teng’s beloved Mother and Child (1996), which sits on the Gallery’s facade.
2. The Spiritual
In this section, visitors will see the definition of sculpture broadened in the form of never-seen-before works. Hindu temple sculptures donated by the Hindu Endowments Board will be presented for the first time within a fine art context, as a part of Singapore’s modern art history.
This includes S. Chandrasekaran’s Earth #04 (1994), a terracotta sculpture made using clay sourced in India and relates to the Trimurti, the trinity of supreme divinity in Hinduism.
3. The Corporeal
Chances are, most people have come across sculptures inspired by the physical human form. This section explores this and features works like Latvia-born Dora Gordine’s Indian Head (c. 1930-1933), which the artist used to portray the Southeast Asian population.
This section also features photos of Singapore artist Lee Wen’s performance Journey of a Yellow Man No. 2: The Fire and The Sun (1992).
4. Making, Unmaking and Remaking
For an exhibition that invites people to reimagine forms of sculpture, it is perhaps apt that it ends with a section that features works employing non-conventional materials and presentations. This section features works of artists whose methods were not restricted to the traditional ideas of sculpture.
Lim Leong Seng’s New Era (1977), for instance, uses air-filled plastic bags, turning an everyday object into contemplative art.
The exhibition will also celebrate the rich history of sculpture in Southeast Asia, particularly in six Asean Sculpture Gardens in six capitals. The Gallery will take visitors on a 360-degree interactive video installation to virtually explore the gardens – the first of which is Singapore’s Fort Canning Park. Visitors can do this via a physical installation at the Gallery’s Spine Hall.
Nothing is Forever: Rethinking Sculpture in Singapore runs until 5 Feb next year at the Gallery’s Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery and The Spine Hall. Admission is free for all, including non-Singaporeans.
View the exhibition’s digital brochure here.
(Photos: National Gallery Singapore)