The Big Picture Show

In line with Singapore Art Museum’s mission which is dedicated to the collection and display of Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art, a selection of large paintings from the Singapore Art Museum’s collection representing many countries in Southeast Asia and Asia will be on display.

The show has been divided into four themes. They are: Imagined Spaces; Larger than Life; Horizon: Poetic Landscapes and finally Horizon: The Built Up City.

(Imagined Spaces Room, image with the kind permission of SAM)

Blatantly obvious, straight to the point, kitsch title aside, the exhibition is an impressive collection of large two dimensional works, highlighting the museum’s commitment to collect significant works, representative of South East Asia. For a painter, embarking on a large painting is no dimple feat of enlarging your work. Special considerations like viewing distance, height clearance through the doorways, enormous costs of framing, even lighting are paramount, and well thought through here.

For the art viewer, the concept of ‘horizon’ is explored by the curators, where larger paintings allow the viewer to be engulfed by their peripheral vision, and this occurs not just in an illusionary perspective sense, but in an abstract sense – shaped filled colours, stoked splashes and evocative strokes suggesting a need for formalistic appreciation of the paintings as a record of spontaneity. The peripheral is also explored by the suggestion of ills of a developing asia, using complex symbolism and layered compositions in the room Horizon: A Built Up City.

For local artists, the works do inspire, bringing new scope and scale to possibilities within the surfaces of painting. Strategies like ‘paneling’, dividing the massive picture plane into smaller manageable rectangles are new possibilities for many.

If the practical issues of provenance and ownership were not limited, other large painters like German artist Georg Baselitz (click here for a link to a December show at the Royal Academy, London), famous for his up-side down paintings, or even American artist Julian Schnabel, that once made room filled installations child’s play compared to the scale of his paintings in an exhibition at the South London Gallery in 1999.

As a strong curatorial contrast, and a more appealing title the Hayward Gallery in London is staging The Painting of Modern Life (Oct 3 – Dec 30, 2007) , highlighting the development of contemporary painting from the angle of a translation and manipulation of photographic images into paintings. [Click on the link to see an interview with Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward, giving insight into how large ‘realistic’ paintings are made]

While the interests of the artists are wide ranging, the 4 rooms do serve as reference points to appreciate the scale of the works. While a big success of the exhibition is not guaranteed where big is necessarily better, and  because of the title, the size is emphasized more than content, it is a block buster exhibition with something for everyone and not to be missed.

(Students in front of Unfinished Painting Of The Present by Edgar Talusan Fernandez, 3.67m by 6.12m, Collection of Singapore Art Museum, image with the kind permission of SAM)

7.0 of 10 stars

Singapore Art Museum
14 September 2007 to 23 March 2008

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