Singapore Identity in the Art Scene

1 Mar, 2020

We often say, Singapore is a melting pot of cultures with our diverse races, religions, and cultures. As such, this pot gives Singapore a vibrant and diverse potential in the development of arts. Art reflects culture and in turn refines it, creating a virtuous and healthy cycle within the arts scene.

Some would say that Singapore has no national identity in art.

To understand Singapore’s identity in art, we must first look at its history. The local art scene dates to immigrants bringing in calligraphy, porcelain, and sculptures from China.

The early fine art in Singapore then was heavily influenced by Chinese culture, and soon the Nanyang Style in fine art was founded by these settlers. The art style made its major debut in Singapore’s art history during the 1950s where four of the six pioneer local artists, Chen Chong Swee, Liu Kang, 
Chen Wen Hsi, and Cheong Soon Pieng, returned to homeland with rural scenes of Bali and its villagers, using Chinese coloured ink, or oil on canvas.

Though the Nanyang Style has its origins with the Chinese, its incorporation of the paintings’ details and the medium materialized from other parts of the world, such as Indonesia and Europe. 
In hindsight, this proclamation can be recognised from one of the six principles laid down by Lim Hak Tai – the unification of western and eastern art, when he founded the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore’s first art institution. With this universal culture, the movement was solidified with forms of expressions from local beliefs and practices.

The art scene in Singapore today has changed drastically with foreign influences – expressed in various art forms, and in numerous mediums and media. Paintings have been heavily influenced by the European style as seen from one of our local artists, Kevin Tan, in one of his works titled Clarke Quay. The bustling city translated through the vibrancy in his colour palette.

Despite it all, the Nanyang Style was considered the closest indigenous art style that Singapore possesses, even though it carries influences from abroad.

Head on down to our gallery at 315 Outram Road, or visit our website to explore the array of paintings and other art pieces from our local and international artists, including the Clarke Quay.

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