Tourist in homeland

Yesterday, Cass and I visited 4 museums and an Art gallery at the Art Plural Gallery. The last time I visited a museum or an art exhibition that I could remember was for my school assignments; wasn’t for a leisure purpose. I didn’t take many photographs because they turned out blurry in my camera. Like any other museums I’ve seen on screen, they’re as dark and hollow as they seem.

Our first stop was at the Asian Civilization Museum. The exhibitions were based on South, West, Southeast Asia, etc. In Southeast Asia, the artifacts that were at the Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand exhibits had a sort of similarity in their designs – probably because they are situated closely in the same region and influenced by one another’s culture.

Besides that, the other exhibits that were quite significant in my memory was China and West Asia – the Islamic countries. The ‘computerized standee’ that was placed at the start of exhibits served us as excellent tour guides. I learnt more about the education system in China, the Gods and deities worshiped by the Chinese, the five pillars of Islam, the five daily prayers and Islamic calligraphy. The Chinese ones appear more familiar to me because; besides that I’m a Chinese, it is also because of the movies and the China / Hong Kong teevee shows I’ve watched when I was young. The digitized visuals and guide are more useful for our understanding than the static artifacts themselves, which are there to complement the learning.

Our next stop was at the Singapore Philatelic Museum aka the Stamps Museum; which I’d call it! It’s my favorite museum out of the four we’ve visited. I remember that my last visit there was during my childcare days. I used to collect stamps in the past and even bought a stamp book, along with foreign stamps to fill it up. Only now do I realized that there’s a certain level of honor and prestige to stamp-collecting in philately. Nevertheless, its an expensive hobby to adopt.

The Bahamas’ underwater stamp [Source]

Stamps – they’re one of my favorite things in this world. A long time ago until now, they’ve played a part to mail out handwritten letters with the most sincere thoughts to  receivers at anywhere world they’re in, as long as they have a mailbox.

Did you know they do have postboxes underwater? I googled it and I found that there are actually quite a number of underwater post offices around the world – Japan, Norway, The Bahamas, Mele Island and even nearby in Malaysia! The job of the underwater postmen must not be easy. All hail to all of them!

Another reason why I love stamps is because of the art on the stamp itself. However, I don’t understand the use of the art on stamps when their purpose is to indicate to the postman that the mail is already paid for before he can deliver it. I learnt that the use of a national landmark / symbol on the stamp is used to represent the country origin. But not all of the stamps are with those. Some of them have random animals, scenaries or objects on these stamps, which barely represent anything about any country.

The museum wasn’t just purely based on stamps. Going up to the second floor, there were some areas that were set up in historical, local context settings. Like these I saw in the museum, which I found it online in a tourism website:

Our third stop was at the Peranakan Museum, which was further up the road; opposite of the Philatelic Museum. It was like going into the set of the Little Nyonya series! The furniture made out of dark, teak wood and carved with designs, the costumes, the pottery and brightly-colored ceramics and the altar. It was a brief visit until we proceeded on to the Art gallery.

It was novel seeing those art pieces in the gallery. Yet, its not possible to compare an art exhibition with the exhibitions in the museum – the contrast of history and modernity. The art gallery was at Armenian Street. Cass came across this exhibition in the Straits Time newspaper, it was titled Excess – a joint exhibition of a Chinese artist Fu Lei and an American artist Dane Patterson. The gallery also featured art pieces from other artists, where you can check it out here.

My favorite was Qiu Jie’s works. They were all pencil-drawn works, which made it different from the others. The efforts to painstakingly shade and detail the art work deserve its recognition!

I noticed that the art works done by Chinese artists tend to put an emphasis on its politics and especially, Chairman Mao. For instance, the one on the left – it was titled Portrait of Mao (‘mao’ translated to ‘cat’ in English). This one’s clear, but there were a couple of others which were vague in its message.

I like how the catalog describes his style as “manipulating images from a broad spectrum of Chinese history, and integrating them into stories interspersed with elements of Western popular culture”. The use of the cat head is prominent in his works. It reminds me of the American apparel brands that photoshop animal heads on muscular human bodies in their advertisements. Was he also influenced by the advertising tactic used by American companies?

However, the art works were mainly feast for the eyes, than it is for my thoughts. Perhaps they reflect certain occasions in the historical timeline which I wasn’t aware of. It’s nice to see these events come back to life in a canvas. That sort of talent is out of the world.

Our last stop was at the National Museum of Singapore. It was also another brief visit through the different exhibitions. We went through an audio-guided tour with a tablet for the Singapore Biennial 2013 exhibition. Most of the time, I was engrossed in pressing the numbers on the device each time we reach a different exhibit. It tells about the progression of the country over the years. It was very elaborative so we walked past this exhibition very quickly. The last exhibition that we visited was based on the art works done by Singapore artists. Compared the ones at the gallery, most of the art works had a direct meaning to it – for e.g., a scenery, a crane by the construction site; mostly depicting the changes in the urban landscape.

It was a great day spent. I learnt more things than I’ve ever did in my school assignments or planned visits to these places. And I really appreciate Cass’ initiative to look up on the art exhibitions, or I wouldn’t have known that there were so many of these around Singapore. The art gallery that we visited could use a few more, or a store full of visitors who have an interest in Art. The art works are hung up in the exhibition for only a couple of months before they get taken down and replaced by new ones. These things are like “undug treasures” that we don’t see around for very often, or for a long time.

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