Museum Musings: Gallery Children’s Biennale 2019 – Embracing Wonder at the National Gallery Singapore
After its inaugural edition held in 2017 the National Gallery Singapore’s Children’s Biennale is back for a second edition this May! Committed to inspire young, curious minds through art, this edition will feature 11 interactive and multi-dimensional artworks by 13 Singapore and Southeast Asian artists, aiming to spark curiosity in our young visitors about the world around them, encourage openness to discover diversity, and imagine new possibilities.
For this year’s theme of ‘Embracing Wonder’, the Gallery has chosen to highlight the power of imaginative play to use art as a means to articulate the power of acceptance, belonging and openness. One is then encouraged to rely on one’s own imagination and the innocence of a child to learn to once again embrace all things new, with works to activate and reignite our sense of curiosity, excitement and wonder.
Husband-wife artist duo Milenko & Delia Prvački then encapsulates this spirit of embrace with the aptly named BIG HUG, an installation with over 30 interactive and educational activities across four main spaces to stimulate imagination and enable discovery. Visitors can look up the starry night or peer through a telescope to discover the universe and be reminded that the world is a perpetual embrace, or embrace the future by imagining ourselves in different professions.
The ongoing bridge installation by Mark Justiniani enters its third edition with Stardust: Soaring Through the Sky’s Embrace, where visitors can peer down into what looks like an endless rock formation that glimmers and glows as they cross the 16 metre long bridge. Meanwhile, Singaporean artists Hazel Lim-Schlegel and Andreas Schlegel awaken the sensory in all of us with The Oort Cloud and the Blue Mountain, which features a 3D motion-activated wall-relief artwork with LED lights, sounds, handmade objects and sensors inspired by landscapes and objects from the cosmos.
Donna Ong launches her new work In Every World, taking visitors on a journey through five magical landscapes, from English to Tropical gardens, to worlds of the cactus, mushroom, underwater, and the underground. Individually put together using hundreds of paper cut-outs in five frosted domes, visitors can enter each intricate world to experience the magic.
Regional artists will also be featured as part of the Biennale, with Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho’s Kenangan Kunang-Kunang (Memories of Fireflies) centring on six traditional paper lanterns depicting scenes from everyday Javanese life. Visitors are invited to explore the lanterns by engaging in different interactive actions that transform the room with light, shadows, colours and shapes.
Meanwhile, Burmese artists Nge Lay and Aung Ko present The Other Wall, giving visitors a rare glimpse into a typical Burmese childhood. Young visitors are invited to enter two traditional Burmese homes, painted in gold, where they are introduced to a selection of the country’s folktales presented as hand-carved woodcuts, and narrated voiceovers (in English and Burmese). Visitors can even make their own recording of these stories using traditional methods like frottage on the woodcuts and stamping, using Burmese and Roman characters provided.
Sound artist Song-Ming Ang’s Chance Operations is set to inspire visitors to create unexpected sounds with a colourful formation of wind chimes and balls. In this work, Song-Ming Ang (also Singapore’s representative at the 2019 Venice Biennale), encourages children to discover music in a fun way, as they throw balls at the various wind chimes to produce different sound effects, and create a sense of wonder and joy in all who participate. Meanwhile Singapore writer, Lorraine Tan and illustrator, Eric Wong, will bring their book, Karung Guni Boy to life with The Story of Karung Guni Boy, where young visitors put on their ‘tinkering caps’ to create new inventions out of recycled materials.
The gallery’s own Keppel Centre for Art Education will also see three reimagined spaces to introduce children to art at an early age and spark new ways of learning. Walking in, one feels as if one has walked into a workshop, and it’s nice to see everything nicely labelled and ready to play with. Of these, Dayung Sampan by Singaporean sculptor Zainudin Samsuri allows visitors to become captain on their own deck, as visitors come on board and interact with sculptures such as large propellers, a giant foot resembling a sampan, and a birdcage with a view of limitless imagination. Finally, in conjunction with the Gallery Children’s Biennale, there will be a series of films presented in collaboration with Singapore International Children’s Film Festival, alongside other exciting tours and artist-led workshops.
Says Ms Suenne Megan Tan, Director, Audience Development & Engagement, National Gallery Singapore: “The Gallery strongly believes that art plays a huge role in the development of our future generations. Art is a place for children to learn about themselves, trust their ideas, and explore what is possible, all of which are important in enabling children to become confident, independent thinkers. Hence, we are always looking at innovative ways to engage with young learners to nurture an early interest in art by showcasing how it can be fun, inspirational and educational. Through the Gallery Children’s Biennale, we hope to create a platform where younger visitors together with their parents, can come together and be inspired by what art has to offer.”
The Gallery Children’s Biennale 2019 runs from 25th May to 29th December 2019. For more information, visit their website here