By Lara Tan (22A01B) and Shermaine Lim (22S03N)
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Flight RI Y5 Art Showcase 2022 is boarding now. We would like to invite all passengers seated in Zones 2021 to 2022 to board now. Thank you and have a marvellous day.”
You might be wondering, in these peculiar pandemic times, aren’t the days of overseas travel and boarding flights far behind us? Well, not for this group of creative Rafflesians.
You might’ve walked past their natural habitat, the Art Room, on the way to class. You might’ve seen the stunning works of their predecessors from the not-so-distant past lining the corridors. You might even know some specimens from this artistic species lurking among us less art-inclined folk.
In 2021, the Y5 (now Y6) H2 Art Batch held their very own online showcase featuring their original works of art; a year’s worth of coursework, assignments and assessments neatly featured on a singular platform.
Compiled over the span of a month, these works are featured on Gathertown, an interactive website which allows users to customise their own avatars and explore the cyberspace carefully curated by the art students. Interestingly, the layout of the online showcase space mirrors that of the art room, paralleling the exact areas each art project is kept.
Art may be a capitalised pursuit, but not in ‘raffles’, which happens to be the password to access the webpage. Upon creating your avatar, you will be redirected to a sparse mini island, with nothing but an innocuous blue tile situated in the middle of the landscape. To navigate your avatar, use the arrow buttons or WASD keys on your keyboard to move around, and click on the ‘X’ button to select. Desktops are highly recommended to maximise your viewing pleasure. To enter the showcase room, select the blue tile to enter the waiting room that opens up into: Artport.
Immediately, the burst of colours illuminating your screen provides a sharp contrast from the seemingly plain view of the sparse island. Calming sounds of crashing waves provide auditory stimulation for a more sensory experience. In the corner of the screen, you have the option to turn on your video cameras and microphones, allowing you to interact with other viewers when their avatars are close to yours. However, if you prefer to savour the art in privacy, do turn off your camera and mute yourself. Lastly, before you start exploring the area in unbridled curiosity, do make sure that you have the visitor’s guide on hand to optimise your viewing experience.
For those who have yet to visit this intergalactic showcase, Raffles Press picked out a couple of interesting exhibits to spotlight. They are:
- 4 UOB paintings
For their common test, the Y5 art batch were asked to create artworks for the 2021 UOB Painting of the Year award. This particular exhibit, which can be found in Baggage (DntT room) showcases 4 artists’ final works, ranging from surrealist to still-life.
War in Pandora by Belinda Zhang Yifan
This haunting, macabre painting was a representation of the theme of “self-conflict and contradiction”, as well as a nod to the famous Greek myth of Pandora.
Shapeshifter 9-982 by Wang Xuechun
Inspired by the serial number of the artist’s old braces, this grotesquely captivating work is centered around the theme of body dysmorphia and breaking away from arbitrary beauty standards.
Gazing, Believing by Brandon Shan
This abstract piece questions the idea of routine and familiarity by incorporating elements that at first glance seem out of place: from the oddly arranged window to the monitor lizard lurking in the corner.
Scrying by Nathan Khaw
This still-life study was the artist’s attempt to discover his true self through a “self[-]made altar” of his own belongings, “in hopes of finding and seeing his [my] own unique identity.”
- Cotton Book
One of the more interesting compilations are their cotton book projects, in which our Y5 artists curated a collection of 50 different ways of interpreting cotton into a mini book. While the idea of interpreting such an arbitrary and mundane object in 50 unique ways may seem like a mammoth task to most of us, this collection provided us a further insight into the true brilliance and creativity of the Y5 art students. Furthermore, linking each item into a cohesive story highlights the diversity of stylistic approaches and artistic perspectives. It is interesting to note how despite receiving the same task, each individual book holds its own as a distinctive reflection of their art styles.
Nur Ameera’s Cotton Book
Olivia Tan’s Cotton Book
- Installations for Promos
A quick stroll around the campus last year would’ve uncovered these installations, which were completed by the batch for their Promo exam.
Some might’ve immediately caught your eye, like Hee Ker Ru’s installation “Shame Hangs Heavy On Your Head”, featuring hanging red blobs and various items strewn across the floor representing the struggles of the deaf community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Others were more subtle, such as Pam Thanarithiporn’s installation “Pandemic box”, an unassumingly modified first-aid kit and fire extinguisher. This work intended to critique the futile presence of “safety mechanisms” during the time of the pandemic.
I even had the privilege of revisiting Jefferson Chau’s installation right outside LT4 on my way to CCA on a couple of Tuesday evenings, and was awed by the novelty and gripping display of various everyday objects. Assembled into a shopping centre-like diorama, his installation was a representation of the volatility of the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore.
Despite their ephemeral presence in our campus, there is no doubt these artworks symbolise the timeless creativity of the H2 Art students. The website also includes videos of each artist explaining their installations at Departure, so to greater appreciate the artists’ intent behind each unique installation, we recommend tuning into them.
To create art with the prospect of an empty audience during Covid times lends itself as a common source of frustration and disappointment to all artists. The Y5s have truly gone above and beyond to circumvent this issue, ensuring that regardless of external circumstances, their artworks were able to bask in the glory of an audience. Taking around a month, this inaugural digital display was fully planned, designed and coded by the students themselves. Technical battles with the novel web interface and bugs had to be resolved through thorough trial and error, while the frustrations of not having a physical showcase loomed over their hearts as they learnt to deal with and adapt to the volatile pandemic situation.
While one may say that their showcase is an undeniable success and testament to their capabilities, it was regrettable that our artists were not able to enjoy the full experience of RI’s annual art showcase. Being the first batch to hold their showcase virtually, there is a stark difference between viewing work online and offline, especially for the artist. In an audience’s perspective, where a typical showcase would require a longer viewing time due to walking distance between exhibits, this art showcase condensed into a single webpage destination shortens the time. However, to an artist, an audience’s reaction is an artist’s biggest source of feedback- unfortunately in an online showcase the artists remain blind to such reactions.
Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable showcase, and proof of not only each artist’s brilliant individualism, but also the versatility and dynamism of their batch as a whole. Despite the pandemic’s destructive effect on most arts-related activities, these students rose to the challenge and saw an opportunity in adversity, creating a fresh art-viewing experience for all. Do check out the exhibition here and support all of our artist friends around us. After all, it is only with our support and participation that the show(case) can go on.