Please Mind The Platform Gap: H2 Art – Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

by Noor Adilah (17S06B)

You’ve heard the stories. You’ve seen the gorgeous paintings that line the corridors. You’ve probably even gawked at the beautiful Art Studio where mysterious art students spend inordinate amounts of time. What goes on in there? What are those mysterious wooden structures in the corridor? Did the Art students put those mannequin body parts there just to scare me?

Last year’s H2 Art Exhibition, aptly titled Where Art Thou? created a space for anyone to marvel at the beautiful works that the Art students created in their first year. It allowed visitors who entered the mysterious, hallowed Art Studio to meet students taking the subject. The Exhibition aimed to display artworks and creations that students made, as well as the Art theory and history that they studied over the course of the year.

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Raisin Drawing, Hu Jun Yi (17S07D)

After the exhibition, I talked to Austin Chia (17A01E) intending to learn more about the H2 Art Syllabus. In turn, I learned not only about H2 Art, but more about the ways Art can shape a student’s worldview; and about the people that make H2 Art a wonderful experience.

The first part of the exhibition included the practical and theory work that students did in Semesters 1 and 2, in both Exploration and Transformation.

In Semester 1, students were trained in the art of acute observation, by being put through several exercises that train their artist’s eye. This included drawing large portraits of the miniscule wrinkles on a raisin, drawing the different details of floors, and creating charcoal rubbings of different parts of the school. These exercises train students not to take details for granted, and to truly observe one’s surroundings. Students also experience System Photography, which utilises repeated images of objects with a common theme. By creating a constraint on the types of images created, students are forced to think creatively. In Austin’s words, “You have to have a box to think outside of it!”. These exercises, amongst many others, are aptly themed Exploration.

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This timeline of Western Art is a glimpse at the theory studies that Art students do, apart from practical applications.

In Semester 2, students try their hand at the transverse of Exploration — Translation. Translation involves the replication of an existing object to create art. This may come in the form of placing a familiar object in an unfamiliar context, or in changing an object to create new meaning out of it. This is best demonstrated in Chair Replication, where students translate a wooden chair to create their own art pieces. Students learn to create their own tools and use different means to achieve their artistic intentions. They learn techniques of modelling objects using different moulds and moulding tecnhiques. Through these exercises, H2 Art teachers train their students to become better artists, and in turn, better people.

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Rubbings, photos and draft work. This explains the chalk on the floor next to the Parade Square last year.

Entering the Art Studio was anything but daunting. I was greeted warmly and led around by the entire Art batch — all six of them. It takes a certain tenacity and unbridled passion to be an Art student. Any Art student will tell you about the heavy workload and gruelling amount of time they spend on this subject. “Taking this subject means more than your final paper and the submitted pieces at the end of two years. It means staying back in the Art Room until 9 at night, and spending crazy amounts of time with your teachers and classmates.” Clearly, Art is not for the light-hearted. Being realistic and extremely committed are the expected traits of an Art student in RI.

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Chair Replication

At the end of the year, during the June holidays, students are tasked to apply all that they’ve learnt to create their own series of artworks. These artworks formed the pinnacle of Where Art Thou? last year. 

In the A-Levels, Art students must produce three different submissions mainly:

  1. A written paper,
  2. 8 A3 sized boards that capture and document all they have done and learned in the two years,
  3. and their Final Work, which can take the shape of any form of art

When I asked Austin for any last words to our readers, he reminded us of how Art may not offer tangible benefits to most (unless they plan on pursuing a career in the industry). Art equips its student with upright values and the ability to observe beauty in everything. Furthermore, the small batch of Arts students, along with dedicated and nurturing teachers, create an environment that encourages one to grow in technical skill, and develop oneself character-wise.

This might be best demonstrated by a habit Austin says Art students inculcate from the very beginning of their H2 Art lives. “Every time you drop a pencil, or any tool that aids you in creating Art, you must say sorry — that’s what our teacher taught us. And the subject really makes you understand why you need to say sorry. Art makes you value everyone and everything … you learn to appreciate the tiniest details of the most mundane objects and learn to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.”

All pictures credited to the H2 Art Batch of 2017.

View the students’ end-of-year submissions as part of their Promos last year.

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Austin Chia (17A01E) – Morning Assembly

Lino Print on Paper

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Sophia Kim (17S03P) – Arrière

Watercolour on paper

“My older sister has always loved dancing ballet, and it was always one of my fondest memories watching her dance and learning to dance with her. Unfortunately, she was forced to stop when she started studying for her A levels and, subsequently, university entrance exams and other commitments. I wanted to capture through this work the joy that dancing brings to her and the happiness that radiates from her dancing whenever she dons her trusty pair of pointe shoes. This work follows her journey from the day that she picks up this pair of shoes, to the day she stops attending ballet lessons. The title “arrière” is a ballet term “in which steps are made backward, away from the audience”. As she puts down her pair of pointe shoes and steps away from the closing stage curtains, I wanted to show that even though this chapter of her life has closed, the memory carries on in her heart as she dreams of reliving those moments once again.”

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Tseng Chen Yu (17S06H) – The way home (歸路)

Watercolour on paper

“As my surroundings endlessly alter and become foreign, one thing that stays the same is none other than the way home. Although it is a seemingly repetitive routine with nothing especially “fun” and outstanding, it can be such a mysterious thing. By slowing myself down and closely observing what I go through almost every day, I begin to ponder what home truly means. Years down the road, I might have a different view on what home is. Presently, I feel that it cannot be merely defined as bricks and mortar but by the emotions I attach to a place and the presence of loved ones I hold close.”

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Peng Muzi (17S06H) – Clouds

Acrylic on Canvas

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Matthew Toh (17S06H) – My Brother

Acrylic on canvas paper

“I have a 15 year old brother who has autism and through this work I wish to express the relationship I have with him. The multiple portraits serve to offer several angles that reveal my brother’s personalities, moods and pains. The various postures that he has adopted in the frames are influenced by his constant need to regulate his body, and were carefully recorded through photography and observations before being expressed in the paintings.”

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Hu Jun Yi (17S07D) – Her

Acrylic, ink, water colour and marker on paper “In Her, I seek to investigate the futile crusade for human beings to understand each other through exploring my own relationship with my mother, which has been an epic collage of complex situations that should never have gelled but somehow did. This senseless struggle has been captured in the styles of numerous art movements, emulating the way Art has struggled throughout history to derive its own indefinite identity. The subject has also been treated with a heavy dose of ambiguity, never once truly revealing her full figure, just to coax viewers to draw their own conclusions through her atmosphere, activity and silence. Such is the truth of relationships; there is only so much we deserve to know.”

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