Singapore art goes into Space!

When this article is published, NASA spacecraft OSIRIS-REx launches into Space with three of Lin Hsin Hsin‘s art works.

The art works are on a chip.

The original of one, titled “Asteroid”, is an oil painting on canvas from Man & his Universe Series (1982). It is in a public collection in Singapore, one of only four Asteroid paintings in the world. One other painting of the four is also by Lin Hsin Hsin.

The other two in Space are digital art works. The IT inventor / artist / poet / composer from Singapore created them by hand, or rather, by finger, on an Android smartphone. They are founded on mathematical theorems she invented in 2016. They are part of two new series of digital art on Universe.

This is an art show “opening” none of us can attend. But this exhibition “space” will be hard to beat by any Artist or Scientist.

Of course, anyone can invent Mathematical theorems any time! But is it a valid theorem? Validity has to be proven and endorsed (by the likes of NASA).

Best of all, I can now claim to know someone who had something that went into Space!


(I wrote this on May 12, 2011. National Library Board (NLB) gave me their blessings in June, 2011, to publish this here. A few recent matters reminded me about this. I have made some minor language fixes and added 2 references.)

TheatreWorks (Singapore) Ltd is Singapore’s second professional theatre organisation.1 It was founded in 1985 as a private company, TheatreWorks Pte Ltd. Subsequently, it earned non-profit status and has been a company limited by guarantee since 1990. TheatreWorks now describes itself as an “international performance company based in Singapore”.7 It is also involved in related literary arts, visual arts and interdisciplinary collaborations, including the use of digital media.

TheatreWorks’ main objective was to be relevant to Singapore and Singaporeans. It aimed to reach “as wide an audience as possible and at as low cost as is feasible”.1 This commitment still remains with its casts, crew and content. TheatreWorks’ blend of cultural with contemporary influences is still withstanding the decades. Singapore arts veterans from front to back stage have done some work or other with TheatreWorks.

Lim Kay Tong
First press and media relations consultant, veteran theatre performer with international exposure.11

Lim Siau Chong
First artistic advisor.

Lena Bandara
First production and stage manager.

Justin Hill
First project manager and theatre designer.

Jenina Gill
First public relations consultant.

Ong Keng Sen
Artistic director since 1988. First artist to have received both the Young Artist Award (1992) and the Cultural Medallion (Theatre) (2003).7

Mobil sponsored S$25,000 for TheatreWorks’ first two productions.

72-13, a converted rice warehouse, is the current home of TheatreWorks.

Representative works
1985 : First year. Sixty-seven people came forward to join TheatreWorks.2 Staged Be my Sushi Tonight, a local adaptation of a British tragi-comedy.5
1990s : Flying Circus Projects, multi-disciplinary research and development program. Musicals with some Singlish in the scripts, Beauty World written by Michael Chiang and Dick Lee, Fried Rice Paradise written by Dick Lee.9, 10 Lao Jiu the play, translated from Chinese by Kuo Pao Kun himself.11 The abstract Conference of the Birds directed by the late William Teo.8 M Butterfly, including nude scene, at the Singapore Arts Festival 1990.6
2000s : Ong and TheatreWorks’ King Lear gained international critical acclaim.
2010 : 25th anniversary Friends’ Season – Tenderness For The Future, including a performance based on the life of Goh Lay Kuan, a pioneer dance artist, with her husband, the late theatre elder Kuo Pao Kun, who had been detained under the Internal Security Act and after his release, awarded the Cultural Medallion.12, 13

1 Second theatre group formed. (1985, February 17). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

2 Join this company. (1985, March 9). The Straits Times, Section Two, p. 2. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

3 Professional theatre group finds sponsor for first two plays. (1985, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

4 Better, more regular theatre fare. (1985, April 6). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

5 Can hopes rise above doubts? (1985, April 21). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

6 M Butterfly to be staged, nude scene and all. (1990, March 21). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

7 TheatreWorks (Singapore) Ltd. Retrieved May 12, 2011, from TheatreWorks web site.

8 National Arts Council. Wong Kar Wai Dreams, Creative Dreams and Cast. Retrieved May 12, 2011 from National Arts Council (NAC) web site. (Note: No longer available online as at May 19, 2013.)

9 Lee, Dick. (1991). Fried Rice Paradise: a musical. [Typescript]. Singapore.
(Call no.: RCLOS English S822 LEE)

10 Chiang, Michael. (1988?). Beauty World: where life is a cabaret. [Typescript]. Singapore.
(Call no.: RCLOS English S822 CHI)

11 TheatreWorks. (1985?). Non-NLB ephemera (organisations).
(Call no.: RCLOS English O371 v. 1)

12 Ballerina’s detainee husband freed after 4 1/2 years. (1980, October 19). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved May 19, 2013, from NewspaperSG.

13 Winners, all. (1990, May 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved May 19, 2013, from NewspaperSG.

Further readings
Chan, Mark (Composer), TheatreWorks (Owner). (1993). The other actor. [CD]. Singapore: Stardust Music Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING English 782.14 CHA)

Lee, Dick (Composer), TheatreWorks (Owner). (2004?). Waiting & Time, from Mortal Sins. [CD]. Singapore: Ping Pong Music Pub.
(Call no.: RSING English 782.42164 LEE)

Tay, Tong (Producer). (2005). The re-making of a marionette troupe. [DVD]. Singapore: TheatreWorks.
(Call no.: English 791.5309591 REM -[ART])

Artskakis Singapore Arts Consumer Price Index

Some people use the local price of a famous hamburger as a reference to compare prices in different countries. My brother pointed out the flaw that the hamburger was of different sizes in different countries. He therefore counter proposed using cans of a popular soft drink of a certain volume, clarifying that the volume needs to be specific because the default size of the canned drink is different in different countries.

For Singapore consumers, I would say, whether or not something is generally considered affordable would be compared against the average price of a plate of fried rice at a food court.

The Artskakis Singapore Arts Consumer Price Index for ticketed performing arts programs is now 10. That means that at an average price of a plate of fried rice at a food court of SGD 3.70, the typical performance ticket price of SGD 37 is costing the equivalent of 10 fried rice meals.

Opera soiree

I could not believe I was listening to Mr Leow Siak Fah’s mellow singing voice in a living room. He heartily sang If I were a Rich Man, from Fiddler on the Roof, dramatised with comical expressions.

I was at the December 2010 soiree (pronounced “swa-ray”) by the Opera Viva Club. We have long read about soirees from the classic English story books, but they are so rare in Singapore. Despite having memorised the names of historically great works for my Western classical music theory exams and watched some videos my kind music teacher used to let us watch, all I know about Western classical opera in Singapore are Singapore Lyric Opera and Mr Leow Siak Fah! So there we were, about 20 of us, from various races, of various age groups, in a cosy private living room. A dance veteran demonstrated and told us amusing side stories of how dancing in musical theatre is different from a dance-only performance. A young stage singer aspirant wowed us with her voice projection. Who would have guessed she is a science lab professional by day! I was envious the lady piano accompanist could just sight read on the spot and played so brilliantly. And did someone call her “Doctor”? There was spontaneous singing, spontaneous piano playing, spontaneous ribbing. How delightful.

Musical theatre, if I may classify opera as, unifies music, drama, dance, set and lighting design, even possibly fashion.

It is time for Western classical music to be less aloof. It is time for cosy little arts communities. It is time for “arts consumer generated content”. Can we come up with a word that is easier to spell and pronounce than soiree?

I look forward to the coming Opera Viva soiree, “Why Libretto?” by playwright-poet Robert Yeo. Perhaps, one day, there will be another staging of The Fairy Queen by Purcell, possibly the earliest Western classical opera staged by a cast with at least a Singaporean/ Malayan. (Resource: Notes across the years, by Paul Abisheganaden, 2005, pg 161)

Has Singapore arts reached the collector stage yet?

“How does one collect an art work that can only be installed at the site?”, I asked my artskaki, the lady boss of Artitute.
“With confidence.”, came her witty reply.

I had thought art collectors have a lot of wall space (besides spare money, of course). But having seen the private collections exhibited at Collector Stage, I marvelled at the macabre and delighted in the sensorial installations. These art collectors’ estates must be expansive to house these expensive works. Do we have such art collectors in Singapore?

A large cube of mirrors fascinated me the most. It must have been my inner nerd. The light and dark colours of the little photos were cleverly reflected in the angled mirrors. When you stand afar, they made up larger pictures! I wonder if some computer geek wrote software to simulate this before they built it.

The photos at Artitute’s article of Collectors’ Stage flatter the works. If only we recorded the music that came with them, like 1 of the visitors did!

Wherefore art thou, collectors of Singapore art?

Furniture design in Singapore gets more interesting

I had the opportunity to be on board the Portugese goodwill tall ship Sangres last Oct 10. It was indeed a refreshing showcase of furniture designs from Portugal, neatly tucked into the Captain’s office etc. Despite the fine wood craftsmanship, the furniture was firmly fixed to the ship.

At the exhibition the day before, I was fascinated that I could see through from the front to the side of a chest of drawers. The “hole” was really a very clever practical way for your hands to grip and pull the drawer out over its hidden smooth rollers.

If you fancy some variations to the Western look for your home or your clients, contact Associative Design. I understand the furniture makers will act on feedback about adapting to the country’s needs. Portugal celebrates 500 years of being in Asia this year. You may also wish to contact them for events using Portugese furniture design.

Furniture design in Singapore is finally getting more interesting. I hope such inspiration will lead to more Singapore designed furniture.

National Art Gallery Singapore, open house, open mind

7 May 2015: Corrected “last month” to “2 months ago in Oct” and “Parliament House” to “City Hall”

The National Art Gallery of Singapore had an open house 2 months ago in Oct. It was an odd event title, considering the buliding was not yet the National Art Gallery of Singapore and it was actually the closure to the public of the former Supreme Court and City Hall. Nonetheless, let us applaud the The National Art Gallery team for starting with an open mind. By popular demand, they co-ordinated with various parties to extend the program, which I am sure was not fun to do with so few of them. And they have been very forthcoming in encouraging us commoners to give them feedback. Bloggers were on the official guest list at the opening! Granted that we cannot afford to alienate the many arts lovers who prefer arts events to be more exclusive, I believe there can be different programs for different people. I eagerly await the real opening, to admire again the beauty of the buildings with its new visitor experience.