Art Radar speaks to the director of STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery in Singapore on the occasion of the art space’s 15th anniversary.
While celebrating its 15th anniversary, STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery has mounted a special exhibition of David Hockney’s works on paper, entitled “A Matter of Perspective”. Art Radar spoke with the director of the art space Emi Eu about the exhibition, the organisation’s development and the local art scene.
Part of Singapore’s national Visual Arts Cluster of regional leading institutions alongside National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum, STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery was founded in 2002 and is celebrating 15 years in 2017. STPI is a dynamic creative workshop and contemporary art gallery, committed to the promotion of artistic experimentation in the medium of print and paper.
The art organisation holds exhibitions of emerging as well as established and leading artists from the region and beyond. In 2017, STPI has planned an ambitious programme, and will hold shows of some of the most important names in contemporary art, including Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan (Philippines), Aaron Curry (USA), Dinh Q. Lê (Vietnam), Jason Martin (UK), Philippe Parreno (France), Do Ho Suh (South Korea) and Pae White (USA).
Expanding the public programme, STPI has also been holding the ‘In Talks With’ series, a year-long series of symposia aiming to engage the public with the most influential figures in art, culminating in the ‘STPI Festival’ week in August 2017 as well as STPI Anniversary Dinner and Benefit Auction in September 2017. Additionally, for STPI’s major community initiative, OUR HOMES Project, local artist Ong Kim Seng produces an original artwork to be translated into 300 editions, all individually hand-signed and numbered by the artist. STPI will gift these prints to Singaporeans receiving keys to their homes this August.
David Hockney is known for his portraits and landscapes, and is also recognised for his refusal to be categorised under any particular medium or style. Over a six-decade long career, the British contemporary master experimented with various media and materials, as well as technological developments like sketching with iPads.
“A Matter of Perspective” reveals how Hockney’s work looks at two fundamental questions:
“How do we see? How do we depict?”
The artist employs multiple perspectives and points of view, escaping from the usual vanishing point of two-dimensional artworks, believing that “the human eye is more fluid and dynamic than a single point of view”. With this multiplicity of perspectives, Hockney is able to draw the viewer into the work and make her part of it.
Hockney believes that
We do not look at the world from a distance; we are in it, and that’s how we feel.
Art Radar spoke to STPI’s Director Emi Eu about STPI’s 15 years of operations, the current exhibition, and the art scene in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
STPI is celebrating its 15th year in 2017. Could you tell me a bit about how it came into being and what was its aim?
STPI was founded by the then-Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), predecessor to MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth). It was formed in line with the Singapore government’s Renaissance City Plan to position the nation as the prime arts hub of Southeast Asia. It was meant to carry on the boundary-pushing legacy of master printmaker Kenneth E. Tyler, who heralded the resurgence of print as an artistic medium in 20th century New York through collaborations with artists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella.
Looking in retrospect, what are the greatest strengths and developments of STPI today and what is its significance in the Singaporean art scene, and perhaps, in the Southeast Asian region?
The Gallery operates on an extremely full and tight schedule with 7 – 8 exhibitions per year, which is a lot more than the usual number of shows any gallery puts forward. STPI as a whole avoids compromising artistic integrity in everything we do and we give our best to support artists in every way.
STPI was intended to be a catalyst in the contemporary art scene and it definitely played a big part in getting this whole art ecosystem moving. While we single-handedly created a market for mid-range priced works on paper, we also opened up other possibilities for artists in SEA who have not had this type of experience. We also helped establish a much stronger sector for the art services from framing to conservation and art handling services.
The vision for STPI was to develop Singapore as a leading player in the international contemporary art world, as well as strengthen and deepen the artistic achievements of artists both internationally and locally. This vision has not changed since the beginning. But now, having been around for 15 years, we are looking to work more closely with arts organisations and other galleries from the region to really help make Singapore the focal point for SEA art. We also continue to work closely with artists from the region and around the world who are a reflection of their time. Whenever these artists come into Singapore, there’s a cross-pollination of ideas.
What is STPI organising this year to celebrate its 15 years?
We opened the year with Amanda Heng, as well as had an external show in London, which was a project with Do Ho Suh. We had a huge group exhibition in March by international artists Carsten Höller, Tobias Rehberger, Anri Sala and Rirkrit Tiravanija. In May, we held the first solo exhibition in Singapore of Korean artist Kim Beom, and now, we just opened our Annual Special Exhibition featuring David Hockney.
We will be having the STPI Festival as a one-week celebration in August, where we will open our premises to the public to have fun with print and papermaking and know more about this niche industry.
Also, to celebrate 15 years with Singapore, we are launching Art in Our HOMES on 27 August, a collaboration with Cultural Medallion recipient Ong Kim Seng, the One Dream initiative, as well as grassroots leaders from the Jurong GRC, to present 300 unique prints to the residents of Jurong Spring, Clementi and Bukit Batok. This is part of our dream to bring art to every household in Singapore.
What are the plans for the future of STPI and its further development and expansion?
We have a lot of artists on our wish list and it’s only the beginning of our work. So we are going to continue to develop a good programme and provide artists with the opportunity to make interesting and innovative works. There are infinite collaboration possibilities so we are excited to fully explore them and show the results to the public.
The current exhibition of David Hockney is one in a series of shows dedicated to influential, international artists. Could you tell us a bit more about this show and why it is significant to present his work now in Singapore?
The show is part of our Annual Special Exhibition segment in our calendar that seeks to present works in print and paper created by significant figures in art history to local audiences. Hockney is such an exceptional figure when it comes to challenging his own boundaries as an artist, and with major institutional retrospectives this year (National Gallery Victoria, Tate Britain, recently at Centre Pompidou and Metropolitan Museum of Art in November), we felt there was no better time to show his works from the Singapore Art Museum collection as part of that wider dialogue, and offer the perspective of him as a printmaker. His inventiveness and zeal is something that resonates with the spirit of what we do at STPI, so it’s fitting to present him this time – on the occasion of our 15th year anniversary as well.
Which other big international artists have you shown before as part of this programme of special exhibitions?
Past STPI Annual Special exhibitions have included artists Henri Matisse, Picasso and Zao Wouki.
Could you tell us more about the importance of mounting such exhibitions in Singapore and what it means for the public there?
It is important if we want to create a culture and appreciation for the arts that wasn’t present before in Singapore. That’s the trajectory we’re heading for – greater exposure and understanding, greater appreciation. And there’s nothing to lose since all sorts of art is an expression and reflection of the human condition, and every artist brings to light fresh perspectives of the world – its problems and its joys. It sparks discussion and inspires us to look at things a little differently – which is what we need from time to time.
Lastly, what do you think about the art scene in Singapore and its development to this day, and what do you envisage for its future?
Singapore’s art scene has made a tremendous leap and I’m sure there will be more things to come. The arts ecosystem in Singapore and Southeast Asia is starting to take its place, with a litany of public museums, galleries, events and fairs. Southeast Asia is really coming together to build a good ecosystem; Singapore especially has established itself to be a cornerstone with solid infrastructure. For example, we have the National Gallery, the Singapore Biennale, and Art Stage Singapore, etc. I envision Singapore to be the anchor of contemporary art in the region and many are working towards that.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
- Evolving Images: modern Hong Kong printmaking at Sun Museum, Hong Kong – May 2017 – the group exhibition features 9 Hong Kong artists who bring a contemporary twist to printmaking
- Wu Jian’an: “Omens” at Beijing Minsheng Art Museum – artist profile – November 2016 – “Omens: Recent Works by Wu Jian’an” is the first comprehensive solo museum exhibition of paper-cut artist Wu Jian’an’s work
- Embracing diversity in art and life: “Rauschenberg in China” at UCCA – a conversation with the curators – June 2016 – Rauschenberg experts and curators Susan Davidson and David white join forces to create a powerful retrospective on the life and work of Robert Rauschenberg
- Southeast Asian art in a global context: National Gallery Singapore Director Eugene Tan – interview – November 2015 – Eugene Tan talks to Art Radar about the National Gallery Singapore and the future of Asian art
- 30 printmakers reinforce ties between Australia and Thailand – in pictures – May 2015 – the exhibition extends the ongoing dialogue between Australian and Thai contemporary printmakers
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