The Arts House, Singapore


The Arts House

More Than Words : A Visual Playground of Chinese Characters

A serendipitous visit and a delightful room of eye-popping art.


The Hanzi characters of the Chinese language, square block and originally derived from signs and pictures, now find expression in kaleidoscope-like motifs … reminiscent of geometric abstraction. 

Millenia-old logograms (signs or characters representing a word or phrase, such as those used in shorthand and some ancient writing systems) take center stage in brilliant colour :

motif artwork from Chan’s Huàn Xíng (幻形), Sān Jiǎo (三角) and (樂) series, as well as derivative patterned artwork that his architect daughter Hikoko created in tribute to his work. Chan’s hand-painted motifs juxtapose with his daughter’s cognate patterns made with digital media and industrial methods, which forge a dialogue that reveals a special bond between the two generations. Sun and Hikoko’s works can be appreciated purely for their visual appeal, yet the embedded words engage viewers who read Chinese characters, in word-guessing games, while their exotic nature sparks curiosity and evokes imagination in others”.

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Equally arresting is the venue, the Old Parliament House, a Neo-Palladian building (with the symmetry, perspective and values of the formal classical temple architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans); a private residence, completed in 1827 for Scottish merchant J A Maxwell, then based in Java, Indonesia.

IMG_1658IMG_1589 However, before Mr Maxwell could move in, the British government took over the building for a monthly rental of 500 rupees; then a 999 year lease. It began life as a court house and the site of government offices. When the residence was auctioned in 1841, the government acquired it for $ 15,600 and the building variously (over the decades) became the Supreme Court, a storehouse, the Department of Social Welfare (after WW 2) and the Legislative Assembly of Singapore. In August 1965 it became the Parliament House and in 1992, a national monument.

In 2004, the Arts House at the Old Parliament opened as an arts and heritage centre.

And so one stumbles upon and discovers.

Thanks Wikipedia, for the history.

Photographs by A.A. Thomas


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