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Art What!: Two new outdoor artworks to be featured around Singapore Art Museum

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Finbarr Fallon, ‘Sub/merged’, 2020; image courtesy of the Artist

Singapore Art Museum (SAM) presents two larger-than-life artworks by artists Finbarr Fallon, and Darel Seow with Lee Xin Li for the latest presentation on the hoardings surrounding the museum buildings. SAM’s location in the city centre is central to the artists’ artworks, with each responding to the urban landscape in their own way. As sitespecific installations, Finbarr Fallon’s Sub/merged imagines a subterranean city of the future, while An Unnatural History by Darel Seow with Lee Xin Li, explores the struggle between man and nature. Both newly commissioned pieces will offer viewers the opportunity to engage more intimately with the artworks online through interactive elements. The artworks are part of SAM’s on-going collaboration with Singapore-based artists to present contemporary art in public spaces while the buildings undergo redevelopment and will be on display from 18th December 2020 until 6th June 2021.

Darel Seow with Lee Xin Li, ‘An Unnatural History’, 2020; image courtesy of the artists

SAM’s Assistant Curator Andrea Fam, who curated these commissioned works, elaborates, “As SAM undergoes redevelopment, we saw an opportunity to engage and grow relationships with arts practitioners we had not yet worked with in a concerted manner. Being trained in architecture, Finbarr brings his considerations of the future of urban planning and building design to the hoarding at SAM’s main building, transforming a familiar and well-trodden pavement into a surprisingly unexplored corridor. As illustrators, Darel’s affinity to flora and fauna, and Xin Li’s interest in architecture are well known. They are collaborating for the first time to exhibit a charming presentation of stories of the natural and built history of Queen Street and its surroundings. Both works consider how Singapore and our society has adapted over time and will continue to evolve in the future.”

Finbarr Fallon. Photo Credit: Claire Goh

Presented as a mural on the hoarding around the SAM building along Bras Basah Road, Sub/merged by Finbarr Fallon responds to the site of SAM and draws inspiration from the history of the area to imagine a subterranean city of the future. This hypothetical city is a reaction to the numerous plot and development regulations in the Bras Basah.Bugis Precinct, including restrictions on building heights due to the many national monuments in the area. Fallon, who is also an architectural photographer and trained as an architect, builds on the network of subsurface passages and transit corridors surrounding the site of SAM, and presents a thoughtful and compelling argument for developing Singapore’s underground as the next frontier for urban verticality. For this SAM commission, the artist has also drawn on the earlier world-building in his 2017 animated film Subterranean Singapore 2065, which proposes large scale underground living in land scarce Singapore.

Sub/merged is a work that projects into the future, confronting the challenges of land scarcity in Singapore. In collapsing the past, present and future of the Singapore Art Museum buildings into a single artwork, my aim is for us to reflect upon the larger issue of urban development and alternative solutions in land scarce Singapore and how we can purposefully address the usage of the island’s underground spaces,” says Fallon about his commissioned artwork. The artist invites viewers into his subterranean world via an interactive aspect of his work where the public can experience the subterranean warrens through three AR (Augmented Reality) portals located on the mural. The experience is also accessible at the Sub/merged website from 18th December (best experienced via desktop).

Darel Seow. Photo Credit: Chris Lim Mu Yao

Presented on the hoarding around SAM at 8Q along Queen Street, An Unnatural History by Darel Seow with Lee Xin Li is a site-specific mural that draws on imagination and heritage to question the histories surrounding the area and reflects on the museum’s role as a re-teller of official narratives. It explores the struggle between man and nature within the heart of Singapore. The mural is complemented by a website, an ever-growing, living archive with contributions from local interest groups and experts, which serves to expand the exchange of knowledge about the area. Viewers are invited to engage with the work by scanning a QR code that will take them to the An Unnatural History website (available from 18th December), where they can participate in an art activity and learn about Singapore’s natural and built environment through a series of video conversations and text contributions by collaborators.

Lee Xin Li. Photo Credit: Koh Meng Kwang Jotham Photography

The work is a combination of Seow’s passion for natural history and storytelling, and Lee’s interest in heritage and architecture. By capturing Singapore’s cultural and natural history, the work challenges the viewer to consider what heritage means to them. Discussing their work, Seow and Lee say, “An Unnatural History draws attention to the various layers that exist around the Singapore Art Museum site. The mural layers local culture and nature together with the history and architecture of this area. The hoarding forms the perfect canvas to question the authenticity of this presented version of heritage.”

Sub/merged and An Unnatural History will be on display on the hoardings around the SAM building along Bras Basah Road and SAM at 8Q along Queen Street from 18th December 2020 to 6th June 2021, as part of SAM’s exhibition programming that will continue throughout the period of the museum’s redevelopment. 

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