Every time I go to the Singapore Art Museum, I’m amazed at how quiet it is. Quiet relative to the traffic storming down Bras Basah Road just some metres away. Quiet compared to most public spaces in Singapore, especially on the weekend.
I guess quiet is a good thing, because it means that museum visitors don’t have to contend with children running wild or cell phones going off every few minutes. Plenty of hushed space in which to contemplate art — or to just zone out for a bit.
I was at the museum to see the Chen Wen Hsi Centennial Exhibition. I grew up seeing a lot of Chen’s paintings because my dad was a big fan, and my parents would drag my brother and I (yeah, I wasn’t so keen on art then) to Chen’s shop in Tanglin Shopping Centre where they would examine his latest work and make an offer on whatever caught their eye.
This exhibition brings together a real spectrum of Chen’s work, from the very realistic portraits and landscapes of his early work, to the distinctive Chinese finger-paintings of gibbons and sparrows, to more abstract explorations. It’s a great primer for anyone who isn’t already familiar with Chen’s work, or for those who might be curious about how Singapore artists synthesise Eastern and Western styles. I still like the Chinese-style paintings that I remember from my childhood, but the abstract pieces are captivating in their own way too.
The exhibition is on till 8 April (as usual, I procrastinated and waited till it was almost over before I went to see it). Admission to the museum is just $5 — a real bargain for the quality of this and other exhibitions that are going on at the moment.