Recap: Singapore Biennale 2013


With every art exhibition I go to, I always look forward to personal reflections that will follow. And so this Chinese New Year, I went AWOL for a bit (sorry guys!) but with a good reason – I went on a trip down south to visit friends and relatives for CNY, and also to visit the Singapore Biennale 2013 which was happening from 26 October 2013 to 16th February 2014.

Biennales are large exhibitions that are held every 2 years. And what I love about large art exhibitions is that they feature the work of many artists all packed into one place, although it may not be technically be in the same building. This can be due to the size of the installations, and the nature of it (whether it’s an outdoor, indoor; whether it needs for a more complex mechanism to run it, etc).

For Singapore’s 2013 Biennale, the exhibitions were spread out across the Bras Basah area, with one installation at Taman Jurong. There were 82 artists whose work were spread out across the venue, and Mr. T and I had so much fun tracking them all down with the help of the guidebook (it came with the entry ticket) that documented each and every work available. I loved the variety of the artists work shown this year, and I wanted to share some of my favorites:

Shieko Reto’s Waiting Room installation featured paper cut outs that mimic the waiting room of a slightly seedy transgender/cosmetic surgery waiting room through illustration. It echoes the many episodes of “waiting” that they have to undergo (family’s acceptance, confirmation of regular employment, and even into society). The social messages are further spread by the zines and pamphlets that Shieko illustrated herself, and forms a big part of the installation in its entirety.

Eko Prawoto’s Wormhole is a grand installation made out of bamboo that punctuates the front of the National Museum of Singapore. Resembling a series of mountains, it’s a landscape that Prawoto is familiar with in his homeland of Indonesia, and yet alien to Singapore.  Wormhole refers to the theoretical opening of a galaxy which allows one to traverse through time and space, as well as the insignificant passage through earth created by a burrowing earthworm. One is invited into the Wormhole, and in turn, are made to feel as though they’re part of the landscape – we are the worms. Through a glimpse of the outside world through the clouds and sun above, it offers shelter and respite, and a complete sensory experience from the modern world outside.

Jainal Amambing’s experience of growing up in a Rungus longhouse in Kudat, Sabah is illustrated in a collection of artworks entitled My Longhouse Story. Bold, bright and filled with textures, these paintings seem to also belong among the pages of a children’s book. There’s mischief and adventure, with sidekicks and pets thrown in for good measure.

Irwan Ahmett & Tita Salina’s Urban Play is a series of interventions in public spaces that the artists have devised by using the element of play to connect communities and individuals to respond to specific problems. Their work is one of my favorites! Although not an installation, their ideas were expressed mainly through various videos taken of their project, which took place in different places around Indonesia and Singapore. One example of this was how they started a ball of trash (I’m not kidding!) by taping all sorts of wrappers, tins, paper, etc with tape and got the community to participate by picking up the trash around their neighbourhood to add to this ball. It snowballed to a size of a van or a small truck! And the best part was how they rolled the ball on its journey through the small streets and eventually, rolled it onto a busy road, as if it had a life of its own. It was fantastic and inspiring on so many levels – particularly if you’re living in places where civic consciousness isn’t as far along as it should be; especially when trash is a glaring by-product of such an environment.

I also appreciated how the information was presented, especially the artists statement – which was done professionally (with I assume was done with the help of a copywriter/writer). It was brief and simple to understand, and really gave great context to a work that might otherwise not have been understood easily. There’s nothing worse (at least in my eyes!) than trying to decipher big words which can alienate people from understanding art.

Here’s our route (plus tips!):

  1. We bought the tickets at Singapore Art Museum (SAM), and immediately went to work there first. The Biennale was organized by SAM, so this is where most of the installations were located. The ticket also stated that entry to SAM and SAM at 8Q is only allowed on the day of ticket purchase.
  2. Next up we headed down the road to SAM @ 8Q. Then we walked past Waterloo Centre, before heading to the National Library to check out the installations there.
  3. Since we split our visit into 2 days, the next day we went to the National Museum of Singapore. The Biennale ticket allowed us entry to the permanent exhibitions within the places that held the installations, so we took some time to visit other exhibitions not associated with the Biennale. We also walked past Singapore Management University and Fort Canning Park too (which only held about 1 – 2 installations). Our last stop was at Peranakan Museum. The ones that we didn’t manage to visit were the installations at Tank Road and Our Museum @ Taman Jurong.

The Biennale is held from 26 October 2013 to 16th February 2014 (which means that this is the last week to catch it!), so if you haven’t made the tour already, I suggest you hop on over!

For more information, visit the Singapore Biennale website at‎.


Have you paid the Singapore Biennale 2013 a visit? Which artwork or installation was your favorite, and why? If there’s a large exhibition that has created a deep impression, do share with us too in the comments below!

Image credits: select images of Shieko Reito, Eko Prawonto, and Jainal Amambing’s work were taken from the Singapore Biennale website.

Q+A: 5 tips for a stress-free social media experience

Hi Amy,

I am a recent illustration graduate from the UK. I’m already using Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about my work, but I’m not quite seeing the results that I am hoping for. And I have to say that I’m feeling really stressed at seeing other people’s pages and tweets – they make me feel pressured, almost as if it’s one big game of brown-nosing, and I’m not good at it, and I’m not sure if I can do it much longer. What should I do?
~ Qibby

Dear Qibby,

Your question prompted me to do a bit of research about introverts, and according to the Urban Dictionary, an introvert is defined as “a person who is energized by spending time alone. Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone.” [read more!] And what do you know? Although I’m an extrovert by nature, however I’m a social media introvert (I coined the term myself, ha!)

The thing is this: with social media, it can get really overwhelming really quick. I’m not sure if this holds true for other people, but it holds true for me. For the first 10 minutes in, it can get pretty fun: “oh look, so-and-so just got a new book out, hurrah!”; “you mean I can’t do that for a client, because it’s considered plagiarism? Bummer.” But leave me on for more than 15 minutes and I melt into a puddle of confusion and beleaguered with self-doubt that you’d have to scoop me off the floor in a cup. Give me a quiet space to work on my projects or put me in a room with people I don’t know, and I’ll work it just fine (with a few new friendships made along the way) – but social media? Uh-uh.

So instead of hiding away, for me, I think of it this way: it helps to think of social media as a way of connecting with others, and not merely brown-nosing! Think of how you’d usually connect with other people face-to-face. Taking it online is almost the same thing, where there are rules and etiquette to follow. I’d advise you not to think of what your friends or acquaintances are doing as “brown-nosing” it’s just a way that they’re connecting with others. The issue if how. Perhaps it’s the way they’re doing it that turns you off. But there are other ways that you can make yourself more comfortable with the idea of using social media – maybe my handy list of how to interact with others on social media will help you out:

TIP #1:
Don’t send tweets to other people where you’re clearly just talking about yourself and don’t care at all about the other person. You’ll just be ignored!

For example: “Hey @pikaland check out my portfolio – I think you’ll LOVE it!” Some people do this and wonder why they aren’t getting responses – and I’m here to tell you that there’s a reason why. A Twitter account isn’t a personal hotline to a client/blogger/editor at your disposal! Think of all the hair-tearing sessions where you wonder why you didn’t get that response from someone although you clearly tagged them on Twitter/Facebook/etc. Yup. If you didn’t know before, then I’m going to tell you now – CUT IT OUT. You’re better off sending a nice email instead. And make it personal. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

TIP #2:
Be genuinely nice and helpful.

If you see someone on your list needing a bit of insight or help, jump at the chance to offer your time and expertise. People will remember you better and will thank you for taking the time to come to their aid.

TIP #3:

Don’t overdo it.

Space out time for yourself instead of hearing everyone else’s chatter online! We might trick ourselves into thinking that if we spend our time on social media then it’s time spent on “researching” or “keeping in touch” – but don’t lie to yourself, you’re going to feel sorry for yourself at the end, because I know what you’re really doing. You’re just sizing yourself up on competition and that’s not healthy at all!

From the article Age of Distraction: Why It’s Crucial for Students to Learn to Focus:

[quote] “If you have a big project, what you need to do every day is have a protected time so you can get work done,” Goleman said [Daniel Goleman is a psychologist and author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and other books about social and emotional learning on KQED’s Forum program]. For his part, when he’s writing a book, Goleman goes to his studio where there is no email, no phone, nothing to distract him. He’ll work for several hours and then spend designated time responding to people afterwards. [/quote]

Hey it works for me, so it might just work for you!

TIP #4:

Separate your Twitter/Facebook friends into lists.

For example, you can filter your social media connections into media contacts, inspirational reads, friends, clients, etc. Doing so will help you keep track of different segments of your lists, especially those you feel are important to your growth as an artist, instead of just consuming everything all at once like a no-holds barred buffet bar. You’ll only get sick afterwards with no recollection of what you just consumed! Here’s help for Twitter, and here’s one for Facebook.

TIP #5:

Take it offline.

A lot of the connections I’ve made isn’t just online – they’re made offline as well. So go out and connect with other people from different fields. Start a new hobby (or get serious with a current one). The most important thing is that while the internet has made it easier to connect, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s easy to make connections. You’ll need to spend some time to build relationships – and that applies to both offline and online.

And there you have it! If you follow these guidelines, you’ll slowly realize that social media isn’t the be all and end all for artists (especially if you’re like me, a social media introvert!) It’s just  a tool for you to reach out to your fans, friends and to help others understand you better. How you use it is up to you.

Good luck Qibby!


Have you ever felt overwhelmed by social media? If you have, what have you done to make it all easier for your sanity and productivity? If you have any tips for Qibby, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

{please note that Q’s are usually edited for clarity and conciseness, as the queries I get can get pretty long winded!}


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Q+A: How to start drawing

Hi Amy,

I’ve only begun learning and loving illustration. But sadly when it comes to creating something myself, I don’t know where to start. I haven’t drawn anything since when I was a kid. Can you give me a few pointers please? ~ Liza

Hi Liza!

The thing about drawing, is that it can look like this big hurdle you need to overcome. But in reality, everyone can draw. The only difference how one draws from one another makes all the difference. Oh sure, people balk all the time when I say that – they’ll gasp at what I’d say – “Me? Draw?” followed by guffaws of laughter, and the insistence that they can’t. But I beg to differ.

So while the most quickest answer I can think to tell you is to just put your pen or pencil in your hand and start to move it across the paper; I know that the psychological hurdle is what keeps you from starting, not the physical aspects of it. So here are my 3 tips on how to start drawing:

Tip #1: Don’t think, just draw

I equate drawing to riding a bike, or even swimming. You need to just not think too much into it and start to put your body in motion. If you were riding a bike, you wouldn’t second guess yourself – oh wait, are my legs doing it correctly? How do I hold the handlebars? Will I crash? There’s no time to think about all that. Paper, meet pencil. Move.

Tip #2: No one gets it right the first time

Ok, so you’ve moved that pencil, now what? It’s time to let go of the need to be perfect all the time. No one does things right from the first stroke (as evidenced by Pablo Picasso in this time-lapse video up here.) If one of the most revered artist in the world doesn’t get it right from the first stroke, you better believe that you’re going to have to experience the same process (and notice I didn’t say problem – it’s a process!)

Tip #3: Don’t know what to draw? Don’t fret because you don’t have to do it alone

So once we’ve moved on from putting that pen onto paper, let’s talk about what should you draw. While drawing your cat for the first 20th time may be amusing, it can get old pretty quickly. Which is why you’ll need to head on over to sites like Illustration Friday to get a weekly topic, and then participate by submitting your artwork along with the rest. There’s a fantastic community of artists there who will be able to give you feedback! Also try 1000 things to draw – a free, often time silly topic generator (designed by yours truly) that helps you to think of weird things to draw. And what if you’re often mobile and want to participate in an ongoing challenge? Give Sktchy a try. It’s an app where you draw portraits, upload it and get some love and feedback from the community.

I hope those tips will help you out Liza!


Do you have any other tips for Liza when it comes to overcoming your fear of taking that first step towards drawing? Or perhaps you have a secret sauce that you can share, a ritual of sorts on how you get yourself prepared for the drawing process? Share it with us in the comments!

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