Cover Art is “Flood in the Art Room” by Yu Ke Dong, which was also exhibited at Idëa.
By Alyssa Marie Loo (19A13A)
Peer into the fishbowl art room and it might feel like peeking into an alternate dimension. In fact, H2 Art students befittingly look like aliens during crunch weeks: urban legends speak of them wandering blearily across school halls, finally settling to hermit in the art room until 9-10pm. If you’ve ever asked, ‘why do these Art Room creatures torture themselves as such?’, you would’ve found the answer by visiting these mythical beings and their creations at their inaugural Art Show 2018, Idëa, held in November this year.
A department store spoof on an art exhibition, Idëa was a multi-location, multi-media showcase of this Y5 batch’s work (and though all the artworks had price tags, we were sad to learn that nothing was actually on sale!). What a grand showcase it was indeed: the Art Room — usually an organised anarchy of a classroom–was turned into a gallery overnight. Arranged on white flats were artist mood boards, gathered from each artist’s UOB Painting process, style transposition task and various other assignments done during the year. If that didn’t already give enough detail, sketchbooks waited on the table for any curious hands to leaf through, and eager art students hovered around to catch any questions.
Despite the different style, subject and artist influences displayed on each mood board, there was one striking commonality across them all: a tireless refinement through trial and error. All moodboards proudly displayed ‘incomplete’ works: a photorealistic cat study missing an eye, multiple tiny canvases just exploring brushwork and colour, and 1st trial studies that still had a long way to be refined. The well-worn sketchbooks were also bulging with photographs, painting pieces and attachments that students had stuffed inside, their pages filled not just with visuals but also paragraphs of words detailing thoughts and research. To us, the first thing that the art show showed us was that merely looking perfect and pretty is a gross misunderstanding of art as a discipline. And this is perhaps clue one to understanding why art students seem so endlessly busy: art requires endlessly making quantities of exploration before anything translates into quality.
And certainly after all their slogging, the batch is deservedly proud of their works. Eager artists personally gave visitors walking tours to art installations placed around the school, with each piece responding to its respective space. Experiencing these spaces first-hand alongside installations, even mundane walkways became places of special experiences.
One such artwork was Zara Asriani’s (19S07B) installation: 4 printed panels displayed on the Block C 4th level walkway, facing the sculpture garden. The work featured distressed, scratchy grayscale backgrounds, with circles of colour floating across each panel. Despite seeming detachedly abstract, Zara’s work warmed our hearts when she shared that it was “inspired by a friend who blew bubbles”. (Even we had heard of this mysterious bubble blower in the 2018 batch, oft spotted spreading soapy love after tutorial blocks!) Our appreciation grew when we learned that the circle-bubbles contained coloured facades of A/B block, while the scratchy background was edited from the cement ground of the installation. To us, Zara’s work perfectly captured the feeling of wonder when we see schoolmates doing small acts of kindness (and zaniness), adding rhythm and colour to an otherwise monotonous school life.
Aside from the campus installations, another set of stunning artworks were the batch’s submissions to the UOB Painting of the Year competition. The large paintings sat humbly at Pick-Up Point 4, their quiet presence not at all betraying the arduous month of effort, heart and soul that had been poured into every work.
We found Alvin Lim’s (19S06B) painting particularly tongue-in-cheek, aptly named “The Art of Painting”. The model in the painting casts an arresting gaze at the viewer through the canvas, while a painter paints him within, well, the painting. The self-referential nature of the painting depicting the process of painting is both amusing and intriguing, and its baffling effect is enhanced even further considering that the two depicted figures are based on the actual artist himself. Furthermore, Alvin uses an impressionist style to great thematic effect to emphasise that, even while depicting a scene of painting, the original work is undoubtedly a painting as well. With its lilac-mustard pallette and subtle vignette, the work also has a dreamlike quality that cohesively packages its self-referential theme.
Yet, not everything in the art room is about reaching intellectual and artistic heights. Asking curators Zara and Valerie Lu (19S05A) about the name Idëa, Zara casually explained that it was “because we stay late and we go to Chill a lot, and ‘cause a mini-mart….has a variety and assortment of things just like our batch”, while Valerie laughed that “we were just bouncing each other’s ideas off and suddenly Idëa!” Perhaps this gives a glimpse into the character of the art batch: while being a group frenzied with individual artist development, it is also at the same time a warm, tight-knit family that is bonded through long hours, mutual suffering, but most importantly, love and trust for each other’s growth.
And because of that, maybe the art room’s vibrancy and its students’ unbelievable dedication to their craft aren’t all that incomprehensible after all.
“A lot of things have happened this year but it all made us stronger. […] We grew a lot not just as art students, but as people.”
– Valerie Lu (19S05A)