Problematising the Malay artist in Singapore : impact of identity, socio-politics and the art world on art making

Yeow, Ju Li (2016) Problematising the Malay artist in Singapore : impact of identity, socio-politics and the art world on art making. Masters thesis, LASALLE College of the Arts.

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Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: Problematising the Malay artist in Singapore : impact of identity, socio-politics and the art world on art making

The contribution of Chinese artists to the Singapore art scene is well-documented. Apart from the Chinese, Malays in Singapore – forming the nation-state’s second largest ethnic group – have also been active contributors to the art scene. Yet, there remains a paucity of information regarding Malay artists in Singapore. This thesis seeks to re-examine the contributions of Malays, with particular focus on post-second generation practitioners, to document their practice and methodologies, and the influences behind their work.

Through four case studies as well as other examples of the work of post second generation artists, this research adopts a two-pronged approach to study Malay artists in Singapore. Firstly, it examines the influence of identity and socio-political considerations on the artists’ practice. Secondly, it examines how the artists negotiate and respond to the forces of the art ecosystem in which they operate, not only in terms of art production but also presentation.

The research will illustrate how identity as well as socio-politics both play a significant role in the works of Malay artists in Singapore. There is no singular defining characteristic of their art, as they respond to the complexities of their multifaceted identities, influenced by their family backgrounds, spiritual beliefs, and the peculiarities surrounding Malay identity in Singapore. The work of Malay artists in Singapore also reflect their views on local, regional and international issues. Their art provided socio-political commentary on a wide range of topics, such as Singapore’s pace of progress and efforts at promoting multiculturalism, as well as more universal concerns, including poverty, AIDS, societal perceptions of women, and even notions of what constitutes art.

Apart from identity and socio-politics, the art world in which Malay artists in Singapore operate has also impacted their work and how their art is distributed. Their minority status in Singapore prompted Malay artists to respond, through their art and choice of medium, for instance, through adopting street art as a visible yet underground mode of expression. While subject to Chinese hegemony in Singapore, Malay artists enjoy close ties with the surrounding Malay Archipelago, which they tap on the produce and present their art. Although Malay artists in Singapore had opportunities to be featured in national art institutions and platforms, they organised numerous exhibitions and collaborations on their own to present themselves in independent art spaces both locally and in the region.

This research thus highlights the unique artistic and curatorial practice of Malay artists in Singapore, which demonstrate great diversity peculiar to their background, status and lived experiences. As this thesis is but a modest effort examining selected artists, there is much scope for further research. It is hoped that a better understanding of this community will prompt a re-think of Singapore’s art discourse, to eventually situate Malay artists within Singapore art history.

Subjects: Art History > Art Singaporean influence
Divisions: Faculty of Fine Arts > Master - Asian Art Histories
Depositing User: Ms Ashalatha Krishnan
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2016 11:49
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2016 12:21

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