'Odd' items from first art show at Haw Par Villa

'Odd' items from first art show at Haw Par Villa
Artists Jonas Rubin and Joanne Pang with Ground Inclination, based on tile patterns from the old Jade House.

The first art exhibition to be held at the Haw Par Villa attraction is an esoteric mix of pieces such as a chain made of kitten's teeth and a silent video of old cupboards.

Held in a small room at the faded attraction, Nameless Forms, a showcase of eight mixed-media works by local and foreign artists, puts unfamiliar objects on a pedestal and challenges the audience to make sense of them.

The Singapore Tourism Board, which owns the 77-year-old park, has opened it to art exhibitions and workshops to "enliven" it.

"We wanted the audience to see the world like kids again and make sense of objects they did not know about," said Mr Chun Kai Qun, curator of the exhibition.

On display is mosaic work based on tile patterns from the Jade House, owned by Tiger Balm tycoons Aw Boon Par and Aw Boon Haw. The brothers used the original building in Nassim Road to exhibit their jade collection, some of which was bought from people fleeing the Japanese invasion of China in 1937.

The remodelled tiles are elevated on asphalt.

"Asphalt signifies urban construction whereas the tiles were from the past," said artist Joanne Pang, 28, who created the artwork with her partner Jonas Rubin, 44. "We wanted to show how the past is intimately linked to the present."

Another work is a chain of kitten's teeth by American artist Darren Tesar, who collected the teeth when his kitten Alex shed them last year. It is a personal object that signifies the "passing of time", said Mr Tesar, 30.

Visitor Shafiqah Nadiah Song, 27, a teacher, said she found the pieces hard to understand.

Mr Chun, 32, said workshops such as tea appreciation and home gardening will be conducted at Haw Par Villa on June 28. "We hope it will bring the general public back to the park," he said.

Nameless Forms is on till May 4.


This article was published on April 8 in The Straits Times.

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