A new series of paintings by local artist Shen Jiaqi captures the sense of loss that follows when a familiar space is changed for good.
The timing of her exhibition, on view at Cuturi Gallery, couldn’t be more apt. The local arts scene is now experiencing that very feeling with the news that The Substation, which livened Armenian Street with music, art and theatre performances for three decades, is shutting down for good.
Recognisable by its proud, columned façade, the building that houses The Substation’s theatre, studios and art gallery will soon be transformed with the arrival of several tenants. The last form that the building took, before The Substation was established in 1990, was that of a derelict power station.
What does it say about Singapore that it couldn’t preserve its first independent arts space, which was instrumental to the success of many of our acclaimed artists? Perhaps it’s to be expected; after all, this is the same country that cleared away multiple hectares of forested land, along with its flora and fauna, “by mistake.” In the name of development, something as vital as nature or art becomes disposable.
In her paintings, Jiaqi expresses that yearning that us Singaporeans no doubt share — that longing for a place that will stay, unchanged and unharmed. Something permanent.
At Sundaram Gallery, for example, you can see a couple of Hiroshi Senju paintings that were commissioned to mark the 1,200th anniversary of a Japanese temple. The staggering age of the monastery is unthinkable of any building here, but it’s natural in Japan, a country that balances modernity with heritage.
Perhaps that’s something that we will learn to do in the years to come. For now, as you visit our list of must-see art exhibitions this March, cherish the places that showcase them. Change may be inevitable, but let’s never take for granted those remaining spaces that still tell our stories.
Header photo credit: Art Agenda, S.E.A.