Daily Archives: April 22, 2007

Eden by Donna Ong

‘Eden’, a fake garden?

Eden by Donna Ong

Placed conspicuously near the busy crossroad of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road, the commissioned work by Donna Ong for the Singapore Arts Festival turns more than heads, improvising brooms, paint brushes, toilet brushes, hair clips, plastic ware in the latest make-believe-world work “Eden”. Improvisation has always been Donna’s obsession and methodology, last seen at the four works in the Singapore Biennale 2006. It is encouraging to see commissions of this grand nature (sic), bearing continuity and interest.


The strength of the work seems to lie in turning everyday objects, in a surrealist/Dada fashion into a completely unexpected idealised garden, where our imaginations do the filling in like a child playing make-believe. Yet there’s something disturbing about the work, like Guillermo Del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH, where the lead character finds herself shot but finding her ‘imaginary’ underground kingdom, while the viewer possibly reads the ending the other way and weeps as the girl lay dead. Similarly, we question what we see, nothing more than toilet brushes masquerading as tulips. I’m reminded of the fairy tale Cinderella, where objects are transformed magically; the reality hits the viewer when another person steps onto the platform. It may be interesting to consider the work by comparing it to Singapore’s tourism tagline, Singapore the garden city. Is Singapore the metropolised ‘Eden‘ or a fake garden? How many Singaporeans actually have green fingers, and keep plants larger than $2 cactus? While these rhetorical questions linger, I am certain the work will be enjoyed by many in this busy area, especially those who have no time to stop and smell the flowers to appreciate art.


Delusion by Miguel Chew

Splatter in Space

Delusion by Miguel Chew

Those who have seen the work may agree with me, it resembles a splatter of paint in space, in the traditions of Roy Lichtenstein “Brushstrokes” seen at Millenia Walk Singapore. It seems to shout “pop art”, unlike the artists’ earlier subtle prints or paintings on fabric over a lit frame or stretcher. This splatter blinks on both sides, any brighter will resemble the strobe that will cause epilepsy. The workmanship is appalling – the ‘front’ and ‘back’ are slightly misaligned and the spray paint is spotchy on certain parts – compared to the industrialised production methods of the Minimalists. The imperfections however, revealed the complexity of bending aluminium to a desired odd shape, riveting the pieces together in gravity defying positions.

In the context of the National Museum, we are indulged to believe that the work alludes to some form of national identity, the political comment made by former Indonesian president B. J. Habibie, referring to  Singapore as  a red dot.  This dot, is now a splatter, a more creative expression than a mere ‘dot’.

I suspect the work is better represented at night, perhaps on the facade of the building where the ‘blink’ would do the work more justice, against the flowing traffic and imposing colonial architecture. Indoors, it is dwarfed by the tall hemispherical dome, and not allowing the visitor to have any critical distance to consider the juxtaposition of the two.   Eager visitors by day pass the sculpture (not installation, stressed the artist) unaffected. Perhaps the work is a double edge sword, with its meaning fixated on “a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur”, a pun gone wrong. In this case, the artist has stabbed his own foot, and splattered more than just blood.  Nonetheless, the work read in this context, the statement is a daring one, challenging the museum (as many contested the need for the overtly lavish opening party last December) in a pop-art-ish way that Warhol would have been proud.

3.0 of 10 stars

National Museum of Singapore