Commemorating 200 years with these public art commissions


SINGAPORE – As one of the highlights celebrating 200 years of Raffles’ arrival in Singapore, two out of three new public art commissions were unveiled on Wednesday (28 Aug). The third artwork, titled Five Stones by Twardzik Ching Chor Leng, will be launched in November.

On the same day, Crossing Shores by Speak Cryptic was unveiled at East Coast Park and The Time Tree by Robert Zhao at Jubilee Park by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

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“As we commemorate Singapore’s bicentennial, the launch of these new public art will help showcase the different facets of our Singapore Story while revitalising public spaces around Singapore. Singapore’s bicentennial is an excellent opportunity for us to reflect on our history and connect with our shared values such as multiculturalism, openness, and self-determination. I hope that these artworks will inspire more Singaporeans to come together and experience the arts in this time of reflection,” said Minister Fu.

Speak Cryptic’s first 3D large scale artwork Crossing Shores explores the theme of migration and multi-culturalism, an important aspect of Singapore’s history. The work reflects Singapore’s diverse ethnic makeup – from Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival on our shores in 1819 to the influx of early immigrants and also makes connections to how Singapore developed into a free port. Set against the backdrop of the sea at East Coast Park, in a space that many Singaporeans have shared memories of, the artwork serves to remind us of how a nation of diverse faces from different lands worked together to build a home, and calls for stronger social integration in contemporary times.

Speak Cryptic’s first 3D large scale artwork Crossing Shores explores the theme of migration and multi-culturalism, an important aspect of Singapore’s history. (PHOTO: National Arts Council)

When asked about the inspiration behind his artwork, Speak Cryptic said, “It is actually based on my current interest which is migration but I’m really talking more about the emotional and spiritual changes that you go through during migration. You can also sense an idea of this while you are in Singapore because Singapore also changes a lot, we are always progressing so things are not always the same. The faces are based on people that I know, but they are from memories not from pictures so it is sort of like a representation of the people I have met in my life. So I was able to identify certain characteristics that I think represent them, like the hat, glasses and different hairstyles they sport.”

The Time Tree by Robert Zhao imagines what a tree older than 200 years might look like in Singapore. (PHOTO: National Arts Council)

The Time Tree when illuminated from within at night. (PHOTO: National Arts Council)

Robert Zhao’s The Time Tree integrates traditional craft with 3D printing technology. The Time Tree is an imagination about what a tree older than 200 years might look like in Singapore. The age of the imagined tree, beyond the 200 years of Singapore’s bicentenary, is an acknowledgement of Singapore’s pre-modern history and the plurality of narratives that go beyond the colonial era – reflecting the tenacity and resilience of Singapore, and the myriad of possibilities in imagining a nation through the lens of natural history. The large-scale installation comprises an upright tree stump and a cross-section of the tree that shows its ring patterns. At night, the work will also be illuminated from within, offering a new perspective and evoking a different mood.

Zhao’s work will travel across the island and pop-up in three public sites, starting from Fort Canning Park, (end-August to September 2019) and Jurong Lake Gardens (October to December 2019). It will eventually be installed in the heart of CBD – Raffles Place Central Square from January to March 2020.

Zhao’s work was inspired by the old Changi Tree. He said, “It was an imagination of the old Changi Tree, also known as The Time Tree that once existed in Singapore. Little is known about this tree except that it was a very big tree. It stood at 70 metres tall and had a diameter of 3.5 metres. So when I read about this tree, I wish I was there to see how big it was. The thing about big trees is that you know that it has stood there for a long time and maybe longer than 200 years so I felt it was a good way to think about Singapore’s long history with a tree that stood as long.”

Crossing Shores by Speak Cryptic is located East Coast Park and The Time Tree by Robert Zhao will be located at Jubilee Park, Fort Canning (end-August to September 2019) and Jurong Lake Gardens (October to December 2019) and Raffles Place Central Square (January to March 2020).



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