Art What! Arts Film National Gallery Singapore

Art What!: Painting with Light 2021 at National Gallery Singapore

National Gallery Singapore’s festival of international films on art, Painting with Light, returns for its fourth edition with both on-site and online offerings. From 2nd to 25th July 2021, audiences can look forward to a robust line-up of over 50 award-winning and premiering films, and enjoy the hybrid film festival from home or at the Gallery. The festival also introduces a slew of firsts, including its first-ever 3D film showcase, screenings under the beautiful glass canopy of the Supreme Court Terrace, and a special film anthology commission responding to the exhibition Something New Must Turn Up: Six Singaporean Artists After 1965.

Inspired by the theme “origin stories”, this edition of the festival celebrates the spirit of experimentation in artmaking. Painting with Light 2021 explores how the impulse to create 2 something new opens up more possibilities for artistic practices through a diverse selection of films and programmes. In many ways, this impulse to recreate cultural narratives is driven by a collective desire to find new ways of navigating the complexities of the day.

“We are proud to bring the festival to more audiences this year in a hybrid format that fits the new world we live in. Painting with Light is our tribute to the creative impulse to adapt and reinvent, which is present not only among filmmakers and artists, but also in all of us as we navigate this volatile period. We hope this year’s programme inspires audiences to keep expanding their perspectives and embracing their creativity to emerge stronger as a society.”

– Ms. Suenne Megan Tan, Director for Audience Development and Engagement at Gallery.

In the spirit of its thematic focus for the year, Painting with Light presents a series of exciting firsts, granting audiences new ways of accessing the festival. At the forefront of their experience is an all-new microsite, where they will be able to access more information on the festival’s entire run of films, plan their visit and get tickets, and enjoy film screenings wherever they are.

Talking the Pictures. Photo Credit: Kazuyoshi Shimomura

Painting with Light will also expand its presence within the Gallery, welcoming audiences to screenings at more locations. A distinct highlight of this year’s line-up is the introduction of evening film screenings under the glass canopy of the Supreme Court Terrace—part of a new film section titled Evenings on the Terrace that will bookend the festival. Centred around the nature of possibilities offered by constant innovation in artmaking, the section will include the festival’s opening film—Talking the Pictures by Suo Masayuki—a coming-of-age comedy about a petty their who dreams of becoming a famous katsudo shashin benshi (“motion picture speaker” in Japanese). Before the advent of “talking pictures”, these vocal performers provided live narration to silent films; the festival starts with a joyful tribute to these artists.


Meanwhile, filmgoers seeking a more immersive experience can also look forward to the festival’s first-ever 3D showcase, Cunningham by Alla Kovgan, a documentary which traces the artistic development of renowned choreographer Merce Cunningham over three decades. The film presents some of Cunningham’s most iconic performances and collaborations with artists such as John Cage and Andy Warhol.

One after another by Chew Chia Shao Min

Making a return this year is the Special Focus section. Specially during the closing weekend of the festival, audiences can look forward to a newly commissioned film anthology, titled ABSTRACTIONS: Filmic Readings of the Something New Must Turn Up Exhibition. It comprises six filmic readings by Singapore filmmakers on works within its namesake exhibition, which is currently ongoing at the Gallery. The project seeks to capture the artists’ progressive spirit and lifelong artistic experimentation, and show how their spirit continues to inspire new creations in the present.

wanderings by Gladys Ng and Ng Hui Hsien

The filmmakers, selected for their experimental approach to film, are: Ryan Benjamin Lee, Chew Chia Shao Min, Chong Lii, Toh Hun Ping, Russell Morton, and Gladys Ng and Ng Hui Hsien. Each will present an experimental film that responds to the six artists featured within the exhibition.

Knust, The Pioneers of Riso Print by Ivana Smudja

Dedicated to art and its possibilities, Painting with Light offers a diverse array of works that spotlight the significance and impact of art on society through film. From captivating human stories intertwined with art to insightful filmic explorations into the world of art and its institutions, each of the seven sections of the festival grants the opportunity to uncover new perspectives.

Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer by Andrey A. Tarkovsky

All films will be screened on-site, and a selection from the Evenings on the Terrace and Southeast Asian Shorts sections will also be made available for viewing online at the festival microsite by Singapore-based audiences. In addition to film screenings, festival-goers will also be able to participate in a selection of on-site dialogues with filmmakers and Gallery curators.

Painting with Light runs from 2nd to 25th July 2021. More information available here.

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