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September 28, 2008

Masriadi Exhibition At Singapore Art Museum

Masriadi Exhibition At Singapore Art Museum:

This post was created because of Yesterday.sg, the brainchild of the National Heritage Board. I recently read several posts there that had great impact on me.

Visitors to Yesterday.sg would not have missed NHB’s prominent post on the first-ever Heritage Starbloggers Contest. To qualify for this Starblogger contest and perhaps win attractive prizes, I had to search for an NHB museum or heritage idea to blog about. Again yesterday.sg’s voluminous and insightful articles came to the rescue.

The exhibition “Masriadi: Black is My Last Weapon”, a first solo exhibition of the renowned contemporary Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi featuring works from 1998 to 2008, caught my attention. Held at the 8Q SAM, the newest baby of the Singapore Art Museum, two yesterday.sg members wrote enough about it to trigger further action.

In “The Power of Black” at Yesterday.sg, I found the painted comic version of Batman from DC Comics in Masriadi’s “Neon Hero” intriguing. In another yesterday.sg post, ‘What’s Your Speech Bubble", the mention that his paintings "command the highest prices in the field of contemporary Indonesian art” raised my temperature even more.

I googled “Masriadi” and discovered that one of his painting "Sudah Biasa di Telanjangi" ("Used to Being Stripped") was recently sold for $540,000 at a Christie’s auction house according to Newsweek.com. Immediately a lighted bulb appeared in my thought bubble. I was sold on the idea of a visit to 8Q Singapore Art Museum to inspect these costly paintings.

Next, I had to convince my kids. As a parent with young children, it can be difficult most times to raise kids’ enthusiasm for a visit to an art museum, especially when they have little flair for art and craft. Lame excuses about art pieces and paintings – boring, ugly, “too cheem” and other unflattering remarks seemed to surface, again. (Eh... these comments are not directed specifically at SAM, ok?)

So what did I do? Let them play computer games! While surfing SAM’s website, I discovered an online computer game based on Masriadi’s exhibition themes.

This slash-and-shoot arcade game may not look as fun as playing Formula 1 racing but it became addictive once we mastered the controls. Unfortunately the software programming seemed to favour the baddies and in the end we could only battle our way to the fifth and final level before succumbing to an invincible green-blob monster.

As exams were nearing and our kids not impressed by snippets of these paintings on-line, only wife and I eventually made the trip.

First glance inside level 4 of 8Q Singapore Art Museum gallery revealed large blackish paintings bearing down on us. So threatening! Especially the warrior with a sword (no, not the museum guard with walkie talkie) that hung on an air-conditioned wall did not appear too friendly upon our approach.

Yet as I warmed up to the presence of these paintings, I found myself drawing closer to the art pieces. Larger than life, these plump-looking figures with oversized features reminded me of similar work by Fernando Botero that were once exhibited in Singapore. Except that in Masriadi's paintings, the figures seemed to have more muscular profiles splashed with prominent shades of grey and black. Even squiggles and bubble writing were bold statements done in black marker ink. Such a gloomy colour would have easily doomed lesser paintings but in Masriadi’s hands, black really rocked.

Of the 30-odd masterpieces, I liked the painting entitled “Geli-Geli” (Ticklish) best. You can see it here at the row of thumbnails located at the bottom of 8Q SAM webpage. It featured two wrestlers (an artist and an art-dealer) where one was busy cleaning his ear while the other struggled in the contest. His sarcastic visual commentary on the state of the art market is evidently clear. This cheeky sense of humour is also expressed in the many strategic scribbles placed like graffitti on his paintings.

Regarding that half-million-dollar painting “Used to Being Stripped”, let’s just say that if the market rate for it remained unaffected by the current US credit turmoil, then I would presume that some of the other more aesthetically pleasing pieces could easily command higher bids at auctions.

As I left the exhibition satisfied with the outing, a lingering thought still remained. What would my speech bubble say? In reply to this question posed by a member of yesterday.sg, mine would look something like this:

Masriadi paintings sat on a wall.
Seen this scene that’s black and more.
All the flashy cybergame
And all of comic Batman fame
Could not bring my children
And Singapore Art Museum
Together again.
{Scribble}: I no shame,
only playing Starblogger game.
What would you like to do next?
2. Visit 8Q SAM
3. Visit Yesterday.sg
5. All the above!

See more places. Live more life.

Heritage Star Blogger!

seen this scene that

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