Theses

As part of the requirements of the MA Asian Art Histories Programme, students are required to write a 15,000 word thesis. As Asian modern and contemporary art histories are an emerging field, especially within the Southeast Asian region, the theses written by students in the programme make an original and significant contribution to the discourse of the field. If you would like to read the full thesis, please use this form to contact us, and we will get back to you as soon as possible .

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Name: Yeow Ju Li
Year: 2016
Thesis Title: Problematising the Malay Artist in Singapore: Impact of
Identity, Socio-Politics and the Art World on Art Making
Thesis Abstract
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. 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.

Name: Cecilia Ong
Year: 2016
Thesis Title:  Georgette Chen – Artist, Educator
Thesis Abstract:
The thesis extends the study of Georgette Chen to examine her role as a female artist and educator in Singapore from the 1950s to 80s. The thesis argues that while there was a possible division of art forms produced by both genders and a lower degree of recognition of female artists, studies by Western historians and Chinese art practitioners revealed otherwise. The thesis traces the development of art academies and art societies in the early twentieth century in Malaya by the early Chinese emigres and their roles in establishing artists and recognition of their work. A comparison made between Georgette Chen and Sunyee, the latter was also an experienced artist trained in a number of reputable academies in China, Japan and France, revealed that their affiliations to academies and societies offered them different degree of recognition, acknowledgement and exposure of their artworks. The thesis also studies two possible influences on Chen’s teaching philosophy. The first influence is the cultivation at the heart of education of the Chinese educated and the second being the vision presented by Mr Lim Hak Tai in 1937 when he was the principal of NAFA and the art teaching criteria put forth by Richard Walker when he was appointed an Art Master of the Government English Schools in 1923.

Name: Chin Miao Hsu
Year: 2016
Thesis Title: Contemporary Chinese Ink Artists in Singapore from the
1980s to 2015: Identity, Rejuvenation and the Nanyang Style
Thesis Abstract: 
This thesis examines how the contemporary Chinese ink artists in Singapore,
through their varying approaches, have rejuvenated Chinese ink painting from
the 1980s to 2015. By focusing on the sense of identity, attitudes towards the
medium, and consequently the artistic strategies of a number of important artists, the influence of the Nanyang artists on the contemporary ink painters is discussed as a historical reference. Case studies on second-generation Chua Ek Kay (1947–2008) and third-generation Hong Sek Chern (b. 1967) and Tay Bak Chiang (b.1973) reveal varying motivations and strategies employed by these artists. My analysis of artworks highlights significant influence from the Nanyang artists on Chua, whose struggle with issues of identity shaped his approach and strategies to art. However for Hong and Tay, the influence dissipates; they do not have the identity struggle or tension from “choosing sides” and their art practice is also informed by multiple sources of inspiration due to the forces of globalization.

Name: Christiaan Haridas
Year: 2016
Thesis Title: The LASALLE Habitus – Mapping Artistic Dispositions Within A Field of Cultural Production
Thesis Abstract
This study aims to trace the origin of artistic dispositions within the LASALLE social landscape. This is achieved by looking at LASALLE’s development through the lens of a social theory of practice, specifically Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus. The secondary aim of this research is to understand the social phenomenon of artistic legitimacy. This is achieved by adopting the theoretical assumption of the habitus as a system of transposable dispositions that derives its power (social standing) from the amount of cultural capital. Within this framework, the study examines the legitimacy of the student in relation to the extent of his/her unconscious acceptance of the dispositions. The notion of the LASALLE success and its paradigm thus presents itself as an example of how social standing is conferred to students when their practice engage the dispositions. This research primarily adopts a sociological approach to circumvent a stylistic discourse. The research takes a broad view at understanding the student and his/her practice within the grand scheme of the LASALLE School.

Name: Christine Han
Year: 2016
Thesis Title: Singapore Abstract Art and the Experience of Modernity 1950s – 1980s
Thesis Abstract:
This study examines the cultural, historical and intellectual context of Singapore abstract art from the 1950s to the 1980s and to arrive at a deeper level of understanding of the work itself. The study ponders if the work of abstract artists, by its nature of freedom and inventiveness, is but a complex response to the broader experience of modernity. The artists’ work were often perceived as purely formal as they experimented with different styles including Cubism, Expressionism and Abstraction, appearing on the surface as responding only to the physical qualities of art such as colour, line, form, texture and so on. However, the ideas, meaning and content of Singapore’s abstract artists, as shown through their writings and statements, proved that their art and thought were inextricably linked to personal expressions, everyday experience and modern life.

Name: Odile Calla-Simon
Year: 2016
Thesis Title: Contemporary Southeast Asian art exhibitions, narratives of
region-ness /Case study: The Singapore Biennale
Thesis Abstract:
This thesis explores the interfaces between contemporary Southeast Asian art exhibitions and the notion of region-ness in Southeast Asia. It reflects upon the drive by regional contemporary art exhibitions to foster a sense of region-ness in in the region’s contemporary art landscape. To address this question of region-ness, this study first reviews how regional exhibitions have been a major entry point to approach the representation, interpretation and circulation of Southeast Asian contemporary art. Considering the Singapore Biennale as a case study, the thesis then examines and evaluates the opportunities and the challenges the biennale encountered in its drive to foster a sense of region-ness in Southeast Asian contemporary art.

Name: Paramita Leertouwer Gupta
Year: 2016
Thesis Title: I, Witness: Agency of Change And Women Artists In Indonesian Contemporary Art
Thesis Abstract:
This thesis explores the relationship between female artists as agents of change in a patriarchal society and the visual arts in Indonesia. The thesis uses the case study of President Suharto’s New Order regime (1966-1998) to understand the mechanics of the construction of gender ideology, how it became inherent as a social norm in society and the tools used by the New Order to limit resistance and exert to its authority. Given the nature of this oppressive environment, the thesis sets out to explore the artworks of three selected female Indonesian artists; Dolorosa Sinaga, Mella Jaarsma and Octora Chan. Through interview, observations, contextual and visual analysis, the thesis provides a framework to understand how each of the artists have created a form of agency, in an Indonesian context, that exposes women’s conditions under a dominant patriarchal culture. By looking beyond the New Order Regime, the three selected artists have asserted their agency to begin the process of bringing about change in society either by means of inspiration, good cause, creation of new narratives, shifting perceptions and moreover, questioning the unspeakable.

Name: Lucia Cordeschi
Year: 2015
Thesis Title: Roberto Chabet’s Influence in Philippine Contemporary Art
Thesis Abstract
Conceptual artist Roberto Chabet has been a pivotal figure in the transition from modern to contemporary art in the Philippines. He was also a curator and for over thirty years he taught and mentored hundreds of aspiring artists, providing them with an alternative way of thinking of art and art making to the prevalent social realism or traditional figurative art. This study aims to understand his teaching methodology and assess its positive and negative impact over the artistic practice of his former students. In the process it proposes ways to conceptualize artistic influence when this does not translate into a distinctive technical style.

Name: Samantha Anne Segar
Year: 2015
Thesis Title: The Singapore Art Ecosystem: Conditions of Production and Evolution Toward a New Public Sphere
Thesis Abstract
This study looks at the conditions of production for contemporary visual art in Singapore in the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century in an effort to identify the salient public and private structures, issues, opinions, and tensions that have shaped and continue to influence the creation of art in the city-state. Privileging the transitional generation of local artists, i.e. artists born in the 1970s and early 1980s, the research will address the relationship between the artist and state, the artist and community, and consider recent exhibitions and artwork as exemplary. The analysis will consider how power is manifested and employed by both the artist and the state in the former’s on-going negotiation for autonomy, and strategies artists engage as they strive to actualise a new public sphere in Singapore.

Name: Harmeet Singh
Year: 2015
Thesis Title: The Issue of Lesbian Visibility in Contemporary Indian Cinema: A Comparative Study of Transnational & Mainstream Cinema
Thesis Abstract
Contemporary Indian cinema has undergone substantial changes over the last couple of decades. Many Bollywood movies have explored various social issues such as child marriage, polygamy, dowry system, caste system and terrorism. However, homosexuality, a taboo subject in Indian society and religion, has yet not been fully explored in Bollywood. Within the realm of homosexuality, lesbianism and not male homosexuality, has been the primary focus. The issues of women visibility are not clear in the mainstream cinema. In an attempt to circumvent this societal taboo, a more active exploration of this subject has been done in transnational Indian films. These films are hybrid films that straddle two dominant genres of cinema, namely Hollywood and Bollywood.

Name: Stephanie Xatart
Year: 2015
Thesis Title: The Materiality of the Art of Sopheap Pich: A Matter of Authenticity
Thesis Abstract
By focusing on the materiality of the art of Sopheap Pich, this study examines issues
surrounding the negotiation of fluid identities and proposes to reappraise materiality as a salient art historical concept. In particular the study discusses the various ways materiality can be envisaged and reappraised as a cogent tool for the art historian interested in the art produced today and in the recent past in Southeast Asia. It examines materials, artistic processes and aesthetics as generative of meaning as well as strategic tools for the artist to subvert and defy overly simplified categorisation. A critical reading of materiality questions the notion of authenticity, to produce multiple subjectivities by slipping between the categories of tradition, national, global and the authentic.

Name: Carrie Chia
Year: 2015
Thesis Title: Women Artists Group Exhibitions in Singapore (Terms and Conditions May Apply)
Thesis Abstract
This study aims to examine how different ‘terms and conditions’ impact why and how group exhibitions by women artists were organised in Singapore, particularly through the case studies of three women artist-initiated platforms/group exhibitions which were held from 1996 to 2014. The research will look into a chronological view of key events which have set the backdrop on how selected women artist group exhibitions were established; and take a feminist approach to uncover social/cultural perceptions of women which led to certain strategies and artistic expressions being adopted and surfaced in these group exhibitions.

Name: Woo Fook Wah
Year: 2014
Thesis Title: “I Paint What I See.” Looking at the Art of Wee Shoo Leong from a Nanyang Perspective and Beyond
Thesis Abstract
This thesis analyses the art of Wee Shoo Leong produced between 1990 and 2011. It focuses on his still life paintings and traces the evolution of his art as works that mirror the Nanyang style and its development beyond this genre. These developments have both philosophical and technical foundations. This research highlights the influence of his education in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and examines the influence of Nanyang style artists on the technical and philosophical development of the artist. However, Wee has departed from his early influences an outcome of his constant experiments with technical and conceptual approaches to art.

Name: Vedrenne Mol Marie-Pierre
Year: 2014
Thesis Title: Contemporary Women Artists in Myanmar Issues in Gender, Motherhood and Nation in the Work of Phyu Mon, Chaw Ei Thein, ma Ei and Nge lay
Thesis Abstract
Myanmar’s opening to the outside world represents an opportunity to better assess the evolution of her contemporary art since the mid-1990s and how women have contributed to it. This thesis focuses on a group of women artists who have in common to place gender issues at the center of their practice and artworks to address social and political issues. Myanmar women artists have used art to address social and political issues, and to create a space for themselves. Contemporary forms of expression, such as performance art, installations and photography were fast adopted by women artists since the mid 1990s. Inspired by some international vanguard practices, Myanmar women artists have chosen to use a visual vocabulary deeply anchored in local tradition and cultureThe objective of this thesis is to investigate the conceptual and visual strategy of these artists. Based on the intersection of personal and national history, on collaborative approaches with the community and on the slippage between genres, this strategy is used to address three recurring themes: the traditional role of women in the household, motherhood and lack of freedom. Although the artworks created by these women artists were not inspired by a feminist agenda, the leitmotif of their themes justifies considering them as a group.

Name: Francis Choo
Year: 2014
Thesis Title: Social Realism in Singaporean Art: Its Beginnings, Practice and Subsequent Decline
Thesis Abstract
This thesis discusses the social, political, economic and cultural that influenced the emergence and subsequent decline of social realist art in Singapore. Although social realist art originated from Europe, Chinese immigrant artists and those who were Chinese educated dominated its practice in Singapore. The influence of Communist ideology from China as well as racial communalism was also associated with the rise of social realist art in Singapore.Artists such as Koeh Sia Yong, Lee Boon Wan, Ong Tian Soo and Chua Mia Tee were pioneer social realist artists of Singapore. They organised art societies that drove the social realist art movement which was active in the 1950s and early 1960s. However the conditions for the rise and fall of this form of art were dependent on the political motivations of ruling parties. The art form reached its peak in the 1950s but declined in the 1960s due to certain political actions.

Name: Derelyn Chua
Year: 2014
Thesis Title: The Contributions of Post-Independence Singapore Malay Artists: Some Problems and Issues
Thesis Abstract
This thesis attempts to locate the contributions of the post-independence Malay artists, to put forward an alternative history to the better-known Singapore Story. The approach involves a consideration of the importance of art as a form of Malay cultural heritage to the Malay community and the wider Singapore society, to underscore the motivations underlying the Singapore Story that had submerged the voices of the Malay artists’. Also, it has taken into account other contributory factors that have caused the Malay artists to be marginalised, such as the lack of consistent patronage; the Malay community’s concept of art as opposed to understanding of art which is entrenched in Western discourses; and the artists’ mediums of expressions that are not conventionally regarded as fine art. This thesis seeks to make a contribution to the historiography of Singapore art, and to the ongoing debates about Singapore’s past.

Name: Rachel Choo
Year: 2013
Thesis Title: Unlocking the Art of War: Prisoner-of-War Art in World War II in Singapore
Thesis Abstract
This thesis is an overview study of the little-known field of prisoner-of-war art from World War II Singapore. It argues that the art is worth studying for its value as art. This approach, which is applied in this study and involves the understanding of the art through the analysis of its subject-matter, form, iconography, style and meaning, can not only help to establish its status as a genre of Singapore’s art history, but also enhance its value as historical artifacts and sources of information about wartime internment. This thesis introduces a number of known internee artists, all of whom were Westerners marched by Singapore’s Japanese conquerors into appalling conditions of captivity. It describes the conditions in wartime internment, which were highly influential in encouraging the making of art, and shaping the forms it took. Ultimately, this thesis argues that Singapore’s prisoner-of-war art is of ample quality, diversity and yet unity to be recognised as a genre – hitherto overlooked – in Singapore’s art history.

Name: Joseph Tham
Year: 2013
Thesis Title: Merzbow – The Art of Noise in Japan
Thesis Abstract
The rise of Japanese Noise or Japanoise in the late 1970s and the emergence of one of its icons, Merzbow, were to prove pivotal in placing Noise as a creative art form into sound art by the end of the 1990s. Masami Akita, the main artist behind Merzbow, drew from his Western art school education of his university years and his deep love for the experimental and the weird in sound and forge a sonic art form which is abstract, outré and yet very much Japanese in its conceptual underpinnings. This thesis aims to examine deep into the background of Akita to understand where the origins of his Noise comes from by first taking a critical survey of the history of Noise in the arts and music in the twentieth century to position Merzbow’s art in context.

Name: Lee Wee Yan
Year: 2013
Thesis Title: A Psychoanalytic Investigation of Symbolism as Visual Subterfuge in Jimmy Ong’s Drawings: Negotiating Subjectivity in Heteronormative Singapore
Thesis Abstract
The aim of this dissertation is to contextualise, theorise and analyse Jimmy Ong’s drawings as actively expressing a strong autobiographical narrative, both implicitly through his psyche as well as explicitly through the form and content of his drawings. This dissertation proposes that the selected figurative images from Ong’s exhibition “Ancestors on the Beach” bespoke Ong’s crisis with his subjectivity and his attempts to resolve it. They also perform as surrogate images reflecting or mirroring the artist’s gender-sexual politics, desires and aspirations in the context of heteronoramative Singapore. Figurative images, especially the male nude, have been a hall mark of Ong’s works since the 1980s. A declared homosexual, Ong’s mastery of the subject as a critical visual trope and device is of significance to this study which integrates and synthesizes contributions from psychoanalytic theory, art history and criticism, sociological and semiotic theories. The study will explicate the process of sublimation by analyzing the pictorial symbolism in Ong’s drawings as the visual trope of subterfuge. This dissertation asserts that the visual trope of subterfuge is an unconscious incorporeal psychical drive of sublimation informing the process or act of symbolisation that produces the pictorial configurations in Ong’s figurative narratives.

Name: Durriya Dohadwala
Year: 2013
Thesis Title: The Agency of International Exhibitions and Curatorial Projects in the Positioning of Pakistan’s Contemporary Miniature Art
Thesis Abstract
Miniature art is an important component of the Pakistani art canon. From a traditional technique of copying old masters, symbolic of the nation’s glorious Muslim heritage and identity, contemporary miniature has now become a genre that investigates technique, form and content often through subversion and the use of new media. The international positioning of Pakistani contemporary miniature art is unique – it is almost always a part of Pakistani contemporary art exhibitions but there have also been a number of exhibitions that solely exhibit contemporary miniature which signals its special place in the Pakistani contemporary canon. This study evaluates four major international exhibitions and projects namely; Manoeuvering Miniatures 2001, Contemporary Miniature Paintings from Pakistan 2004, Karkhana: A Contemporary Collaboration 2005 and Beyond the Page: Contemporary Art from Pakistan 2006/2010 to investigate the dominant positioning of contemporary miniature art within the realm of Pakistani art internationally. By critically evaluating the nature of these exhibitions, their curatorial strategy and their themes this study seeks to determine whether this positioning is the result of the agency of these international exhibitions and curators. This thesis also briefly considers the role of mega exhibitions in the construction of contemporary miniature’s location as the prime art of Pakistan.

Name: Sally Clarke
Year: 2013
Thesis Title: Exploring the Dynamics Informing Chinese New Media Artists Through Miao Xiaochun
Thesis Abstract
The histories of Asian art are full of controversies and China’s is no exception. While it is obvious that government changes in policy and leadership impact the lives of a country’s citizens, what is remarkable in China is the pace of change. Artists working in Beijing have responded to the transformation occurring in their urban environment, from the 1990s to the present day through a multitude of mediums. This thesis takes the practices of new media artists and contrasts them with the work of Miao Xiaochun who is well-respected in China and abroad for his digital photography and 3D computer animations. Miao Xiaochun’s work is complex given his extensive engagement with European Renaissance paintings, use of allegory, intertwining of Chinese aesthetics and philosophies. Employing the theoretical background of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s works in metaphysics and epistemology, this thesis undertakes an analysis of Miao’s Renaissance inspired C-Print and 3D computer animations works, and unravels some of the dynamics informing one of his more complex works Microcosm.

Name: Augustine Wong
Year: 2013
Thesis Title: Imagining Other Worlds: Heterotopias and Third Spaces in Contemporary Singapore Art and Film
Thesis Abstract
This study attempts to examine the multifold ways in which spatial imaginings imbued with heterotopic and Third Space potentialities might have been conceived and given expression in the multidisciplinary works of selected Singaporean artists and filmmakers. Additionally, it seeks to elucidate the array of sociocultural and socio-political issues and implications that might be critically encoded in these selfsame spatial imaginings. Chapter One of this study establishes the justification and the necessary theoretical underpinnings for this study, situating it within the context of an increasing intersection between critical theory, cultural geography, film and visual art as a methodological approach for the study of contemporary visual culture. Chapter Two proceeds, then, to examine the specific ways in which disparate heterotopian imaginings replete with inversionary possibilities might have been realised in the works of selected Singaporean practitioners, underscored, in turn, by the diverse range of historical, sociocultural and socio-political concerns that might be crucially embedded in these works. Chapter Three furthers the discussion via an analysis of the ways in which various Third Space imaginings as the counterpart of heterotopic terrains might have been embodied and expressed in the works of selected practitioners, complemented, in turn, by a critical exploration of the possible sociocultural and socio-political effects engendered via a presentation of such liminal sites and spatial terrains. This study concludes by positing salient affinities and confluences between heterotopic and Third Space imaginings as a point for further reflection.

Name: Gerald Tan
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: Buddhist Art and the Development of Neo-traditionalism in Thailand
Thesis Abstract
This thesis sets out to chart the development of traditional Buddhist art through the course of Thai history to the contemporary period. It aims to show how the original didactic practice of Buddhist art has deviated into neo-traditionalism, where Buddhism is used in art to assert Thai identity, critique society and the political structures of the country via diverse methods and art forms. Using James Elkins’ “On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art” as the basis of its argument, the aim of this thesis is to assert that art in Thailand still maintains a connectivity between the Buddhist religion and contemporary art. Through neo-traditionalism, Thai contemporary art has actually exemplified the influence of Buddhism through different levels of significance and complexities

Name: Rachel Oren
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: The Reappearance of Animistic Symbols In Southeast Asian Art
Thesis Abstract
The aim of this thesis is to investigate the paradoxical reappearance of animist and mythology symbols within the art production of selected four Southeast Asian artists from three countries. By incorporating spiritual, and mythological icons in their artworks, these artists have managed to create an experimental artistic language concerned with the relation between power, history and cultures, secularism and collective memories, in a globalised world. This thesis draws from anthropological perspectives to show the strong influence of animistic and mythological culture on Southeast Asian artists, and to assess how the artists have managed to create unique voices of their own. Thirty artworks have been investigated and interviews with two artists were conducted to show the level of incorporation of the animist symbols, as well as the similarities and differences among the four artists.

Name: Loredana Paracciani
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: The Role of Art Education in Bangkok And its Relevance On Twenty-First Century Thai Art Practices
Thesis Abstract:
This is a study of twenty-first century art education in Thailand and the role it plays on the contemporary art scene. Scholarly focus on contemporary Thai art, in English, is relatively recent and mostly conducted within a regional framework whereby Thai art is approached as part of the wider Southeast Asian region. This thesis extends the study of Thai art towards local investigation, that is, focusing on the educational training and background of young and emerging Thai artists in order to examine two critical links: first, the link between art education and emerging art practitioners; second, the link between contemporary art practice and common themes and methodologies fostered among young artists.

Name: Peggy Wang Ying
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: Wu Dayu: A Forgotten Star
Thesis Abstract: 
Wu Dayu was an artist whose students include seminal figures like Wu Guangzhong, Zhu Dequn and Zhao Wuji. These great artists have praised his genius and his philosophical ideals. The few works of Wu’s that remain convey both breadth of vision and the artist’s exceptional success in exploring abstract lines and rich colour in the oil medium.

Name: Paul Khoo
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: The Trials of Indonesian Conceptualism
Thesis Abstract:
This thesis aims to develop a different definition of conceptual art in Indonesia using a theory of Latin American conceptualism. This study traces its development to the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru movement and its offshoots; contrast it with activist art; and study its transformation by nineties generation artists.

Name: Krisstel Martin
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: The Women of Hendra Gunawan’s Paintings
Thesis Abstract:
Women are often portrayed in Hendra Gunawan’s works; they play a key role in expressing his thoughts and ideas of his country at that time in history. This thesis also explores how much of his representation of women was based on observation and how much was based on his idealisation of women.

Name: Daniela Beltrani
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: The Concept of Art and Artist in the Oeuvre of Heri Dono
Thesis Abstract:
This thesis proposes a concept of art and artist from within an Indonesian context. The process adopted will involve, on the one hand, an analysis of a theoretical frame within Indonesian art discourse and, on the other, an analysis of a selection of works from the diverse artistic practice of Heri Dono.

Name of student: Vidya Gnana Gouresan
Year: 2011
Thesis Title: A Cultural Biography of the Nataraja Image
Thesis Abstract:
The thesis traces the cultural biography of the image of the Nataraja (a god in Hindu mythology and culture), and investigates the manner(s) in which the image of the Nataraja is appropriated, re-contextualised and commoditised in Indian modern and contemporary art.

Name: Kong Yen Lin
Year: 2012
Thesis Title:  Rise of Modernism in Singapore Photography, 1950s to 1980s: Aesthetic Negotiation through an Ethnic and National Identity Prism
Thesis Abstract:
This thesis traces the development of modern photography in Singapore alongside the crucial decades of socio-political and economic growth of the nation ever since attaining self-governance in 1959 till the 1980s. Given that most photographers active during that period were Chinese, this research would attempt to investigate how photographic representation or negotiation of Chinese ethnicity, against the backdrop of state policies and ideological control, contributed to the rise of modernism in Singapore photography. Case studies were conducted on the seminal works and practices of five photographers who clinched the Cultural Medallion award: Yip Cheong Fun, Lee Lim, Chua Soo Bin, Foo Tee Jun and Tan Lip Seng. A key finding is how the emphasis of traditional Chinese aesthetic values on visual harmony favoured a compatibility with the practice of pictorialism circulating in Euroamerican photo salons, which also revolved around the depiction of beauty and sentimentality. Adopting this pictorial language, Singaporean photographers hybridized it with their ethnic inflections and local iconographies while engaging with the experience of modernity. This cross fertilization of eastern and western influences, encouraged by the Chinese aesthetic values of openness, resulted in the derivation of unique modern photographic visions.

Name: Lim Yan Ling, Jase
Year: 2012
Thesis Title:  Notion of Void and Solid in Chua Ek Kay’s Chinese Ink Paintings
Thesis Abstract:
This essay investigates the visual language in Singaporean Chinese ink painter, Chua Ek Kay’s (1947-2008) paintings. This study strives to develop an ‘eye’ in observation for Chinese ink paintings; to be able to read the nuances of things by seeing beyond surfaces and obvious appearances. What appear as lines, dot or dashes may be embedded with in-depth connotations waiting to be excavated. Chua’s visual language, poems, inscriptions on the paintings and statements from interviews project nuances of influences by Chinese philosophy and traditions of painting. Motivated by the belief that the more one knows about art, the more one will appreciate it, this study attempts to read Chua’s inner messages encoded within his paintings with the ultimate aim to provide a link between the viewer and Chua’s artistic realm.

Name: Anette Pusch
Year: 2012
Thesis Title: Ai Weiwei: Art of Irony
Thesis Abstract:
Ai Weiwei is a leading representative of Chinese contemporary art and creative genius of the twenty-first century working in an international context. His art practice includes all manifestations, from performance to installation and even architecture. As such, his conceptual art extends beyond its simple form to critically reflect on China’s cultural history and relation to itself. The main features of his signature style include the extreme reduction to elementary geometric forms, their deformation or serial arrangement as well as the use of traditional materials. It is his way of criticising the selling out of culture, and thereby redefining cultural heritage. Hence, Ai’s art depends in considerable measure on irony. The essential feature of his irony is an indirect presentation of a contradiction between an artistic expression or action and the context in which it occurs. This thesis avoids being radical or definitive as it aspires to open up a critical consciousness of artistic conventions, historical conditions and new perception. Through a contextual approach, and by using ‘critical theories’ as a framework, this paper will critically analyse Ai’s art in a Chinese context and the inherent use of irony, in his body of works.

Name: Jessica Lai
Year: 2012
Thesis Title: Contemporary Southeast Asian Portraiture: A Strategy for Socio-Political Investigation
Thesis Abstract
The art of self-portraiture is not an indigenous tradition in Southeast Asia. Artists in the West began exploring their self-images in their art around the time of the Renaissance; when the conception of the artist as an individual gained ground. When Southeast Asian artists adopted Western techniques and stylistic elements in their art-making, they also adopted the genre of self-portraiture. Artists became independent individuals with their own ideas and expressions. However, the collective frame did not disappear; and even in the depiction of the self, there exists a collective identity. The motives for depicting the self-image are also not the same. Sometimes, the self-image is merely a window through which the artist deals with his inner self. Thus, the artist is not after his physical likeness. Rather, he is on a journey to self-discovery and understanding. In contemporary Southeast Asian art, the self-image has been co-opted as a site and strategy to make commentary about society and politics. This thesis looks at how contemporary Southeast Asian artists, through questioning the self, raise questions about identity within a globalized, pluralistic, continually changing and politically charged world that is contemporary society.

Name:  Wong Hong Weng
Year: 2012
Thesis Title:  The Singapore Storied:
Issues of Politics and Society in Local Contemporary Art from 2000 Onwards
Thesis Abstract
The Singapore Story as envisaged at the state level is more often than not experienced differently by its citizens at the ground level. There appears to be some disjuncture of perceptions and realities of everyday life in Singapore as perceived from these two vantage points. This thesis takes ‘unofficial’ exhibitions in recent years which have appropriated the occasion of National Day in order to critique it as emblem of this condition. It has isolated works mainly from Valentine Willie’s Singapore Survey series which make commentary on notions of Singapore nation-state with respect to its history, identity and values. The thesis situates these studies in a larger societal context by observing how these alternative perceptions and realities are indicative of rising desire and aspiration from ground-up to partake in matters relating to ideology, space and power. The artists’ responses are symptomatic of postmodern conditions in two aspects – first, the interjecting of personal dialogues into the meta-narrative of state-constructed history; and second, the use of art as counter-measure to dislodge state hegemony.

Name: Georgina Luisa O. Jocson
Year: 2012
Thesis Title:  The Impact Of Black Artists In Asia On The Contemporary Art Of Negros Occidental And The Visayas Region, And On A Wider Scale, The Contemporary Art Narrative of The Philippines
Thesis Abstract
The social realist movement in the Philippines reached its height in the period leading up to the 1986 popular uprising which overthrew autocratic president Ferdinand Marcos. Over in the Visayas, less than an hour away by plane from the Manila, the feudal social conditions of Negros Occidental were fomenting their own version of abuse, hunger, and displacement. For over a century, vast tracts of the island had been fenced off as sugarcane haciendas (plantations) in the possession of a few hacenderos (plantation owners). The EDSA Revolution offered the promise of freedom and a new democracy, which artists in Negros took to heart. From this potent mix of political euphoria, economic devastation and social inequality rose the socially committed visual arts organization, Black Artists in Asia (BAA) in 1986. Although the group has been in existence for a quarter of a century, there is a notable lack of documented information on its activities and projects. Hence, this thesis proposed to research and record the 25-year history of the Black Artists in Asia and to evaluate its successes and failures vis-à-vis its stated goals, as well as locate and weigh its significance in contemporary Philippine art.

Name: Rohaya Mustapha
Year: 2012
Thesis Title: Collectivism in Art as Strategy
Thesis Abstract
The range of collaboration in art shows a growing exploration of art making which challenge ideas of conventional artistic autonomy. This exploration is particularly taken up by artists working in collectives who recognise and use interaction and relationships as strategies in art making. In so doing they also help to expand the field of art. Art collectives represent a very explicit form of artistic collaboration in which the individual artistic identity is subsumed by collective labour. Contemporary collectives since the 1990s also tend to be engaged with social issues and the general public instead of issues addressed to the art world. Thus discursive frameworks based on formalistic qualities of art are deficient in discussing collaborative work. The increasing visibility of collective collaboration requires other frameworks which take into account the collaborative element. The objective of the study is to try and understand the different models of collaborative labour adopted by art collectives which challenge the autonomy of art making. This thesis aims to understand the collaborative models of Singapore based collectives and attempt to provide insights into their motivations and their working processes. The research looks into possible discursive frameworks which can be used to discuss these collaborative practices in order to expand the way they can be located in our local art history.