Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Glimpses from Bridging Worlds: Cheong Soo Pieng

About a month ago, I came across a video preview of the exhibition entitled Bridging Worlds: Cheong Soo Pieng, and I was certain that it was an exhibition that I must catch. Who is Cheong Soo Pieng?

Cheong Soo Pieng (1917 - 1983) was born in Xiamen, Fujian province of China. I do not know him personally. Thanks to his contributions to the Singapore art scene, I learnt a little bit about the artist, Cheong Soo Pieng, when I studied Art History during my secondary school days. He was one of the Singapore's pioneer artists. What I remember about him was that he was the artist who painted very stylised female figures with elongated necks, almond-shaped eyes and slender long arms. What I did not realise back then was that Cheong Soo Pieng painted more than just styled female figures. The exhibition, Bridging Worlds: Cheong Soo Pieng, brought to my attention that Cheong Soo Pieng was one of the most experimental artists of his generation.

Video preview:

(Credits: National Art Gallery of Singapore.)

If you had watched the attached short video preview, you might have realised that you could have been acquainted every day with one of Cheong Soo Pieng's art without your full knowledge. If you have a fifty-dollar Singapore note from the portrait series, please turn to the back and with an observant pair of eyes, you will find an image from a part of Cheong Soo Pieng's Drying Salted Fish (1978) in orange.

In the original Drying Salted Fish painting that was done with Chinese ink and watercolour on cloth, Cheong Soo Pieng depicted a scene of a fishing village that was commonly sighted in the 1970s. Although Chinese ink and watercolour were used, the painting was depicted using a perspective that was more commonly found in Western painting. The figures in this painting were elegantly stylised.

Actually, when I visited Bridging World: Cheong Soo Pieng, I was hoping to find out why Cheong Soo Pieng was greatly admired by one of the late Singapore artists, Ng Eng Teng. This question had been quite on my mind ever since my visit to the exhibition "Sculpturing Life - Ng Eng Teng Collection" about two years ago.

I think I could have figured out why Cheong Soo Pieng was so greatly admired by Ng Eng Teng. Cheong Soo Pieng was experimental in his approach to art and he was a very systematic artist. His courage to experiment and his diligence could have inspired Ng Eng Teng. The online article entitled "Arts and Thoughts: Conversation between Ng Eng Teng and T.K. Sabapathy" gives a glimpse of how Ng Eng Teng had greatly admired Cheong Soo Pieng. In Bridging World: Cheong Soo Pieng, visitors can see a three-dimensional relief portrait of Cheong Soo Pieng that was very thoughtfully done by the late Ng Eng Teng. I had almost felt as if Cheong Soo Pieng had came alive through the relief!

The revelation that I had at the exhibition was that Cheong Soo Pieng's art was more than just paintings. He experimented with various mediums and various art techniques. I suddenly realised that there was more to Cheong Soo Pieng's art than whatever I had learnt during my Art History lessons many years ago. I would say that anyone who is interested in Singapore's art history ought to make some time to visit this exhibition so as to study the works of Cheong Soo Pieng.

For novices, they would probably be inspired by the belief that had probably propelled Cheong Soo Pieng to be so brave and innovative in experimenting with various approaches to art. This quote by Cheong Soo Pieng summarises it all "You have many failures before you achieve success". Merely viewing his artworks lend one a glimpse of Cheong Soo Pieng's courage and willingness to experiment in efforts to excel in art.

Children will also find this exhibition very engaging. There is a Children's Art Studio in this exhibition whereby children can participate in various creative projects using the art materials and stencils provided. This is an exhibition suitable for all ages.

Check out this exhibition. Till 26 Dec 2010.

Bridging Worlds: Cheong Soo Pieng
Singa­pore Art Museum
71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday: 10AM –7PM
Friday: 10AM – 9PM
(Free admission on Friday night, 6pm – 9pm)

Acknowledgements: My words of appreciation to Mr Walter Lim and the National Gallery of Singapore for inviting me to the opening night of the Bridging Worlds: Cheong Soo Pieng exhibition.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Qibao Old Town

If you have been reading the posts about my visit with my mother to Shanghai and peripheral cities, you may have realised that I would have preferred travelling on a free-and-easy style.

Whatever it is, I shall share one of the final legs of my trip to Shanghai and the peripheral cities here. I hope that many years later when I look back at this trip, I would have a record of the positive moments to reminisce about.

It was 20 May 2010, there was an additional trip to Qibao Old Town. According to the tour guide, the tour group had a complimentary of the tour-bus as a token of our appreciation for supporting the optional ERA performance.

I was told that Qibao Old Town is a very popular destination for the locals of Shanghai. Tourists will visit Chenghuang Temple, whereas locals find value-for-money items at the Qibao Old Temple. The word "Qibao" is literally translated into Chinese as "Seven Treasures". According to wikipedia, the word "Qibao" came from a local temple which is no longer in existence.

What I like about the Qibao Old Town is its general landscape. It is like an ancient water-town with many bridges and pavilions. The prices of the goods at Qibao Old Town were generally much cheaper than those from the city areas of Shanghai.

We were told that one of the well-known rice dumplings (tang yuan) stalls was selling comparatively large rice dumplings, about the size of a closed fist of a child, at 1 RMB each only. There was a long queue for the rice dumplings, obviously.

I visited a stall that was known to sell of the best xiaolongbao (a form of dumpling) in Shanghai. I was told that xiaolongbao originated from Qibao Old Town, Shanghai. I got eight xiaolongbaos that costs 15 RMB in total. The xiaolongbao were alright. I think I may prefer the ones that I had in Singapore, just because they were cooked to suit the tastebud of the Singaporeans. If you like to patronise this xiaolongbao stall, I am sorry that I do not have its address. However, I have taken a snapshot of the building that it is located in. I hope the photo will help you in your quest for what is reputedly one of the best xiaolongbao in Shanghai.

Also see:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The evening near Chenghuang Temple

This is a way overdued post of my visit to Shanghai in May 2010. I cannot quite understand what makes Chenghuang Temple in Shanghai so popular. It seems to be more popular with the tourists than with locals. It was said that a visit to Shanghai will not be complete without visiting Chenghuang Temple. I learnt that Chenghuang Temple is a Taoist temple. Chenghuang Temple looked bustling with energy and glamour at night.

It was the evening after our tour group's visit to the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China and to a shop that sells Pu'er black tea. The tour itinerary stated that we would visit Chenghuang Temple. Dinner was not provided. That meant that I could be free to choose what I would like to have for dinner. I ended up choosing to eat Ramen at an eatery that sells Japanese food. Ingredients were fresh. My mother had a bowl of noodles served with beef.

After dinner, we were treated to a complimentary performance entitled Yu Shanghai. The decor of the performance venue looked modern yet with an Asian twist to it. It took me a while to figure out that the performance was about a romance story involving some form of travel through time. I suppose I would need more education to better understand theatre art.

To be honest, I was not impressed by Chenghuang Temple nor the Yu Shanghai. Nevertheless, I treasure the time to be out travelling with my mother. It was also nice to have the companionship of a good friend and her family onboard this trip.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Read: Anyway,The Paradoxical Commandments

The most recent book that I have read was "Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandments" by Kent M. Keith. I was drawn to this book as I had came across the commandments quite some time ago through one of my good friends, RL.

In this book, the author himself shared how he was moved when the Paradoxical Commandments that he had written years ago had travelled around the world and back to him. In this book, he shared the philosophy and the stories behind each of the commandments. I thought that this book was a simple yet profound read.

Each commandment, I personally feel, is visionary in itself. I suppose at the end of the day, finding personal meaning through our actions and thoughts will help each of us grow as a person. To me, I think that the paradoxical commandments encouraged us to move beyond our fears and doubts, to simply do what is meaningful. At the end of the day, regardless of the outcome, we will know that we have lived a meaningful life.

My project would be to internalise the paradoxical commandments and live them out in my own life. I ask for guidance, constant encouragement and inspirations as I work on this project.

Here's presenting the Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith. He wrote this when he was nineteen, a sophomore at Harvard. They were part of a booklet that he wrote for the high school student leaders titled "The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council" which was published by the Harvard Student Agencies in 1968. Alright, enough of the history, here's the Paradoxical Commandments:

"People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you've got anyway.

- Dr Kent M. Keith."

Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandment
Kent M. Keith
Berkley Publishing Group

Also see:

Sunday, September 19, 2010


In the month of May this year, my mother and I visited Shanghai and a few other parts of Shanghai. In the evening of 18 May 2010, our tour group went for an optional tour. Each of us paid an extra 280 RMB to watch this performance named "Era", since this performance claims that "Miss it You miss Shanghai". "ERA" was performed at Shanghai Circus World.

The acrobats are well-performed. The lightings and stage effects were of world-class standard. I may not go for it again since I don't personally have a fascination for acrobats. I was more entertained by the live music that accompanied the performance. With the limited narration throughout the show coupled with my limited knowledge on China's ancient culture, it did take me a lot of imagination to figure out what was going on.

Anyway, to give this performance the due credits, I read from a source that "ERA Intersection of Time" lends its audience an insight into China's ancient culture and civilization. My friend who was on the same tour enjoyed the last segment of the show consisting of acrobatic performances involving numerous motorcycles.

Now, tongue-in-cheek, I can tell everyone that I have already watched "ERA" and I will never miss Shanghai even if I do not watch it for the second time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Read: Twist Your Fate

Title: Twist Your Fate
Author: Geof Gray-Cobb
Published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
ISBN: 978-0-7643-2962-3

This book is about how one can benefit from coincidence or synchronicity. It was one of the recent books that I have read. It was interesting to read such a book that is in many ways related to metaphysics. Sometimes being rational did not fully give me the answers I wish, and this book gives some glimpses of how metaphysics may offer additional clues. I am still assimilating the wisdom from this book.

My favourite chapters from this book are: "Give Yourself Permission", "Cooperate with Your Chosen Destiny", "Pretend It's Already Happened".

Not everyone may read this book. Yet I suggest that lay-man who are keen to get a glimpse of metaphysics in a practical way may find this an interesting read.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The visit to Madame Tussauds Shanghai

One of the landmarks that I had visited during my tour to Shanghai was the Madame Tussauds Shanghai wax-museum. Interestingly, it is located within a shopping complex. I was told that the wax-figures in Madame Tussauds Shanghai have comparatively more natural looking poses than those in other similar museums. Since I have never visited the other Madame Tussauds museums, I am sorry that I cannot tell if this is indeed the case.

At the Madame Tussauds Shanghai, I had a glimpse of how the wax-figures were made. Like many other visitors, I took some time to pose with the wax-figures of prominent personalities. To much extent, they do have pretty natural-looking poses.

In this wax museum, I had the honour to meet wax figurines of well known personalities such as Bill Gates, Einstein, Andy Lau, Princess Diana and many more.

To be open, I might not visit a wax-museum if I were to visit Shanghai on my own. It had not strike me that wax-figures could be intriguing charming until I visited Madame Tussauds Shanghai. As such, I was glad that I had the opportunity to visit the humble-scale Madame Tussauds Shanghai.

Madame Tussauds Shanghai
10/F,New World Building, No.2-68 Nanjing Xi Road,Shanghai 200003 PRC

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Read: A Blessing in Disguise

A Blessing in Disguise: 39 Life Lessons from Today's Greatest Teachers
By Andrea Joy Cohen
Published by the Penguin Group.

I have the National Library Board to thank for a great collection of books that I can borrow and read. I suppose on the average, I have been reading at least one book per month. A Blessing in Disguise is one of the latest book I have read.

This book in some ways is indeed heart-warming to read. A number of wise contributors shared their personal stories. Many of the personal stories that were shared were about the dark times that the contributors have went through. Interestingly, like the book's title says, many of these challenging period have helped provided the contributors with some form of healing wisdom and/or a deeper understanding of life.

It has helped me make a bit more sense on the darker moments of life with a positive light. I like the way that the book was divided into various sections namely: Overcoming Challenges, Soul Expression, Death and Dying, Life's Everyday Lessons, Spirituality, (Family, Love and Relationships).

If you were to ask me to recall the details of the various life lessons that I have read in this book, I may not recall completely. Anyway, one of the chapters of the book reminded me to live each day fully by choice and not by default. That reminded me of a friend who enlightened me that happiness in a choice.

Another chapter has a rather mysterious story which illustrates a quote by Albert Einstein "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it." It was interesting to read about how we could find answers to the questions that we have been stuck with by finding our soul's voice and letting down our defenses.

Admittedly, the reason why I picked up this book was because I have found out that one of the chapters, To die in one life is to blossom in another was written by Tama J Kieves whose book I had read some time ago. It got me thinking about some of my personal dilemmas: to choose the safe and conventional or the out-of-convention ideas that at times ring in me. I shall remind myself "what feels like dying is probably birthing".

There's quite a lot of wisdom in this book. For now, I shall leave these wisdom to the back-burner and move on to another book.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Hong Zi Ji and more food

It was 18 May 2010. My mother and I were on a tour to Shanghai and various other parts of China. After our visit to the Shanghai World Financial Centre, if I recall correctly, we had lunch at Hong Zi Ji, a restaurant that literally means as "Hong Zi Chicken". This restaurant, I was told, is one of the famous restaurant establishments in Shanghai. Generally, I was satisfied with the food at the restaurant. It is most famous for its chicken dish. One interesting feature of this restaurant is that the waiters and waitresses wear roller skates. I suppose they wish to serve the food as promptly as possible?

I pretty much like the vegetarian dish which was meant to imitate the Western pork chop. It is served with sweet and sauce sauce. I like its crispy texture.

I cannot quite remember the itinerary of the day. Anyway, we had went to an establishment that provides Feng Shui related services. Subsequently, in the evening, we had a healthy and nutritious meal at a Traditional Chinese Medicine establishment which kindly hosted us with a free dinner. The soups were good, and I like them.

Dinner on 18 May 2010.

I had not been travelling on package tours for a long time, and it seemed that the tour I had went for had a number of destinations that were related to getting us tourists to shop. Personally, I have learnt from this trip to stay clear-minded so as to only buy what I need and not on impulse. Spending is not saving, even if I was told that certain items are cheaper in China than if I were to buy them in Singapore.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition

"I'm really still in prison and my love,
she holds the key,
a simple yellow ribbon is what I need to set me free."
- Irwin Levine and L Russell Brown (1973) "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree".


I have learnt something new when I attended the Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition held at the Singapore Art Museum, The Chapel, yesterday. I had a vague idea that the Yellow Ribbon Project was about promoting a more accepting and inclusive society that is willing to give ex-offenders a second chance at making good. However, I was never aware that the name for the Yellow Ribbon Project was inspired by the 70's hit song, Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree. The song was supposedly based on a real-life story of "an ex-offender's journey to forgiveness".

This year, The Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition is based on the theme "RestART", which is also an acronymn for REsilience, Self-Awareness, Transformation, Adaptability, Reintegration into The Community. The artworks featured in this exhibition expresses the participants' interpretations of the theme.

One thing I like about the exhibition is the brief descriptions that accompany each and every artwork. The descriptions were thoughtfully written to give visitors to the exhibition a glimpse of what each artwork intends to express. A number of the artworks featured in this year's Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition had caught my attention as these works seem to portray the inner thoughts and feelings of inmates and ex-offenders to ask for forgiveness and to ask to be reaccepted by the community at large.

Among the various 3-dimensional works, my favourite one was a clay sculpture entitled  Re-united by Affendi. The work was said to be created by the artist "to demonstrate his love for his family. The process of creating it requires a lot of practice, hard work and perserverance."

Although this exhibition does not feature any world renowned artists, the quality of the artworks and the sincerity behind each of the artworks make this exhibition worth our time to support. For we are not just supporting the artworks and the artists, we are doing our part to demonstrate our willingness to accept and to give a second chance to ex-offenders. 

In conjunction with the Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition, "RESTART", there will also be various art workshops held at Programme Space, Level 2, Singapore Art Museum at 8Q.

Members of the public who enjoy the artworks at the exhibition can even look forward to adopting the artworks. Proceeds from the adoption will be contributed to the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

Yellow Ribbon Communtiy Art Exhibition, "RESTART"
1 to 14 September 2010

Opening Hours:
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon to Sun)
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Fri)

Singapore Art Museum

Free admission
(Museum admision applies for entry into other galleries)