Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Story of the Image – Absolutely ‘Awe Inspiring’

Last Sunday offered me the rare experience of viewing some of the most awe-inspiring works of art that I have ever seen in my lifetime. As a part of an invited group of OMY bloggers, I attended a guided tour of the exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore, “A Story of the Image: Old & New Masters From Antwerp”.

Many experts propose that to truly appreciate art, we need to use a combination of left and right brain. As a somewhat ‘logical’ thinker, I had never appreciated the importance of this until Saturday, although I am no novice when it comes to attendance at art exhibitions.

The (exhibition) curator of the Museum, Ms Szan Tan did a wonderful job, and began by asking the tour group to ‘think for ourselves’… I think this was a very fundamental and important key piece of advice.

“A Story of the Image: Old & New Masters From Antwerp is an ambitious exhibition which surveys historical and contemporary works of art to look at the evolution of the image and its commercialisation.” National Museum of Singapore.

Many of the works left me pondering, many left me emotionally charged or moved. But without a doubt, a couple of pieces in particular will stay with me for a long time, etched in my memory.

I will not even begin to try and put in words the impact of 150 works from artistic geniuses, however I will hone in on some of the highlights in my mind.

Firstly, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)… when one thinks of the term ‘rubenesque’, the literal definition is what comes to mind – “Plump or fleshy and voluptuous. Used of a woman”, but after viewing his masterpiece Lamentation over the Dead Christ, I prefer now to think of the secondary definition, “Of, relating to, or in the style of painting of Peter Paul Rubens” – as was explained by Ms Tan, Rubens was the master of painting human flesh… the greying or dying tones of Christ’s skin is truly remarkable – although this can only be seen in real life – internet photographs would never be able to do it justice. This was one of the pieces that truly moved me.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640): Lamentation over the Dead Christ
Oil on panel, 56 x 75,5 cm
Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp

Here Rubens reveals himself as a master in the evocation and build-up of drama with adept brush marks. Although it is a Christian subject, non-believers also can feel the emotional charge of this scene


One of the very first paintings that we saw, was Adriaen Brouwer’s Old man in a pub… it wasn’t until the intent of the artist and the presumption of the subjects in the painting were divulged to us, that I really “got it”… one drunk man, his wife and her lover, a peeping Tom…

Adriaen Brouwer (c. 1605-1638): Old man in a pub
Oil on canvas, 34,9 x 28 cm
Flemish Community

In his limited oeuvre dealing with societal hierarchy, he opts for the trivial: pub scenes with an erotic hint. He had the audacity to hold up a mirror of the everyday. Through his painterly virtuosity, he does however transcend the banal moralising depictions of the everyday of the painters in his time. This painting is, as it were, a key moment in the story of the image, since it represents the shift from the depiction of an idealised world to a radical, yet still a subtle, reflection of everyday reality.


Although some of the works were confronting (and perhaps even controversial), there is something about seeing life size horses with no eyes or mouths (specifically no eyes) that is very haunting – I suspect I will revisit this work again on many occasions (in the dark corners of my nightmares)… once again, words or photographs can not explain the impact of this – I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.

Berlinde de Bruyckere – In Flanders’ Fields (2000)

“Because this is an installation that takes up a fairly large space, it has roused more interest and would have made more memories than some of the other works. Here de Bruyckere represents a World War I newspaper photograph of dead horses on a battlefield she came across during her residency. The substantial bodies of the horses suspended permanently in their writhing lifeless state is intended to evoke our responses. By not moulding the horses their eyes, mouths, noses – sensory organs – de Bruyckere cuts off the channels of communication. She leaves the image of the horses’ bodies to say what is to be said about our relationship with them through history (hunting them for food, farming them, riding them for pleasure and prestige, and charging into war and death with them). If horses – strong, proud, magnificent creatures – are distorted into featureless carcasses what more can be said of the human body?” Pictures and Description courtesy of Cultjunk.com


Thankyou again to the OMY team for the invitation to a very wonderful, awe-inspiring and provocative exhibition. This is a ‘must see’ even for those who are not ‘art buffs’ – just attend, open your mind and your souls, and enjoy the mastery, the memory and the imagination it will evoke in you.

Click for more information on the works...

“This exhibition of 150 works features 13 paintings by old Flemish masters from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp (KMSKA), 25 prints from the Museum of Plantin-Moretus/Printroom and 112 contemporary Flemish artworks from the Museum of Contemporary Art (MuHKA). Rare masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) will be shown in Singapore for the first time. Works by top contemporary art moghuls such as Luc Tuymans, David Claerbout, Francis Alys, Marlene Dumas and Berlinde de Bruyckere will also add to this unique exhibition experience” National Museum of Singapore.

S$8 Adult
S$4 Senior (above 60 years old) & NSF
Free for all students with a student pass.
Free admission for children 6 years and under.
Free entry to all galleries for seniors (locals and PR's), everyday.
Free entry to all galleries for seniors (tourists), every Monday.

10% discount for groups of more than 20 people (prior booking required).

Counter Sales
Stamford Visitor Services Counter: 10am - 7.30pm daily
For enquiries, please call +65 6332 3659 / +65 6332 5642

From Sat 22 Aug 2009
Meeting point: Entrance of Exhibition Galleries 1 & 2 (Basement), admission fee to exhibition applies.
Limited to 15 participants per session, on a first come, first served basis.
Duration: 60 mins

Mondays & Thursdays 1.30pm
Saturdays & Sundays 2.30pm & 4.00pm

Saturdays 1.30pm

Tuesdays & Thursdays 10.30am


Anonymous said...

Agree!! Truly inspiring!!

Tony H said...

Can pay by credit card? will take family this weekend. thnks for info.

OMY Blog Awards said...

"A Story of The Image" exhibition @ The National Museum of Singapore


SANDY said...

Visiting my fellow travel bloggers this am from the widget, and here I am. Wow, some of these pictures are amazing. I'm not into the dead looking animals, but the others are awesome, truly awesome. Thanks for sharing.

Hope you'll swing by for a visit, the welcome mats always out.