Hirst's First in Doha, Qatar - RELICS

(right) Unmistakable candy dots covering the exterior facade of Al Riwaq defines Relics and sets it apart from all other surrounding buildings. (left) One of Hirst's many dot paintings; each named after drugs.
It's easy to see why repeat rebel British art offender Damien Hirst commands the public's attention be it through thousands of flawlessly executed colored dots or in the most morbid production of animal carcasses floating within a formaldehyde tank. Hirst, the world's richest living artist, shows off 93 of his pieces in his first ever exhibition in the oil-rich Gulf country of Qatar. The "Relics" show located at the Al Riwaq space was unveiled with much pomp and pageantry in October 2013; attracting a crowd of who’s who of the art world including Jeffery Deitch, the former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Los Angeles; and Alberto Mugrabi - notable dealer and collector whose family owns some 110 Hirsts. At first glance, the new uninitiated art visitor who has yet heard of Hirst might be led astray to assume that "Relics" is a show of vibrant positivity with the exterior of the Al Riwaq space plastered in aesthetically pleasing colored dots. But nothing is quite as simple as it seems.


Sealine Symposium

Welcome board at the entrance of the Wyndham Hotel
The artists at the Sealine camp. Image credited to Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel.
There’s something about being at the beach where the artistic creation takes hold. Maybe it’s the ingrained notion that the sight of the sea conjure up thoughts of holidaying, exploration, building gratifying castles of crude dimensions in the sand or your ever present bikini-clad babe. Maybe being away from the hustle and bustle of city life awakens the sleepy artist within us. Whatever the motivations or reasons for that jolt of inspiration, there’s no denying that the creative juices are pumped up and heightened when we are by the sea.

The recent first edition Al Asmakh Fine Art Symposium; a week-long cultural excursion/workshop/brainstorming session held from the 16-21 of March has those sealine inspirations right by immersing its participants in a wholly creative setting at the south of Qatar where the Sealine Beach meets the dazzling Arabian Sea. The symposium concluded on 21 March with a culmination of pieces by its 22 participants - contemporary artists from 14 countries including Qatar, Iraq, Italy, Sudan, Sweden, the Netherlands, India, Bahrain and Morocco. The 40 works of art are now on permanent display at the Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel in Doha, Qatar.

A visitor peruses through the official brochure complete with artists' profiles and backgrounds
We arrived just as about the awards were being given out and the ballroom was abuzz with excitement. Seemingly one of the first of its kind, and hopefully the start of many more like it, the international art symposium attracted a fair number of media attention as well as a generous turnout of guests. Not to be confused with the concurrently running art events such as Art Dubai and the Sharjah Biennial, Al Asmakh serves not a commercial art fair but instead a cultural and art appreciation symposium with the main aim of establishing Qatar as a viable global art platform.


Pleasing Your Palate @ the Qatar International Food Festival

The International Zone. Sample four and five star cuisines from some of Doha's top hotels as you dine picnic-style atop a soft bed of grass. Sure beats sitting on bare sand!
Happy picnicking!
After much anticipation, the 4th Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) opened with much pomp and pageantry at the Museum of Islamic Art Park on Thursday, 28 March. This year's four day festival sits perfectly among lush greenery and panoramic views of the waterfront; a welcome change from its previous venue outside the Doha Exhibition Centre. There's a certain air of organic relaxation as my family and I dined against the stunning backdrop of the Museum of Islamic Art. In an effort to promote healthy eating, the prevailing theme for this year's event is Healthy Food for a Healthy Lifestyle.

Sunday, 31 March is the final day of the QIFF. Opening hours are from 2pm to 10pm.

Some handy tips:

1) The Qatar Museums Authority site  stipulates that shuttle buses will be made available at Al Aqsa Street - opposite the Airport Marriott Hotel and adjacent to the Ministry of Interior on the corniche.


Learning Through Hearing: The Beating of Drums

Zaki's big white tent during the day @SAM's Front Lawn. Picture credit: SAM facebook. 
Drums. Conga. Africa. The Caribbean.
The beats that move us.

Today marks Lesson Two in Zaki Razak's performance-lecture series as part of his work in the President's Young Talent exhibition - Revising Art: The Ten Year Series - here at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). The pitter-patter of rain couldn't have made this class cosier as we sat on large pillows sheltered within a specially erected tent out on the front lawn of the museum. In fact the drumming of the rain made for an appropriate setting for today's lesson. This evening, we tackle the subject of Non-syllabus Education: Learning Through Hearing.

Hearing as we know it is a complicated process. Conversation goes in one end but not every word heard is retained nor listened to. Taken for granted, hearing is a passive, automatic activity whereby we take in sounds without paying much attention to what we have just heard. What we need to do is to convert that hearing into active listening.

This time around, Zaki has invited his uncle, Saifuddin Abd Rahman and percussions instructor Muhammad Arif who hails from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to illustrate through some participative exercises the role of hearing in a learning environment. Saifuddin's contribution to the class has been invaluable at allowing us an insight into his heighten state of hearing as a result of his blindness. The way our bodies evolve to accommodate the loss of one sense creates or super-intensifies the others is certainly a topic of much fascination.

Challenge numero uno: playing a series of beats on a drum with a blindfold. Bear in mind that none of the "students" are musicians at any level. I would like to think that I am a fast learner although I am sure we were given the most basic of beat tones. First up was familiarizing ourselves with the different tones. The open tone, the bass tone, the slap, the heel, and the finger touch. Pretty soon we were taking it out on our little drums with such force that our palms were soon turning a startling reddish pink. Rhythm making should be made a compulsory stress-reliever exercise. The beat of choice: The Calypso and the Calypso break.

Bass. Open. Bass. Open.
It bears repeating.


Art Stage Singapore the Third, 2013

Vernissage night - Yours truly and Andy Warhol. Well, his signature silkscreen ink artworks at Jablonka Galerie.
Attending art fairs has always made the silly school girl in me squeal in delight. Yes, I am one of those people who would find it utmost fascinating to roam the halls of an art museum on a weekend, ogling and spending hours allowing my imagination to travel beyond the canvas. Subjective admiration has always been attributed to art more so than any other artistic expression like that of music, books, dance, theatre, fashion or poetry. Where art is concerned, its value is relative to the celebrity element such as statuses of certain masterclass pieces (Hopper, Matisse, Picasso), art criticism, speculation, promotion, hype and conversations.  Arguably, art is priceless. Its worth is as much as we the beholders perceive it to be regardless of whoever painted, photographed, sculptured or installed it.

On the left, ARNDT Gallery from Berlin. They have a gallery at Gillman Barracks here in Singapore if you wanna check them out.
Entang Wiharso, Expanded Dreams (sculpture), 2011 set against his Rejected Landscape (painting), 2012. The correlating sculpture and oil canvas painting gives off an unearthy tone, almost terrifying and mysterious. Indonesian artist Wiharso is known for his vivid depictions of 'personal disclosure"between man's inner dialogues and the world in which he inhabits.  
I had the opportunity to visit the third edition of Art Stage Singapore on its Vernissage on 23 Jan 2013 on assignment for M.O.D.A magazine’s 2nd quarter issue. Granted, I am a layman when it comes to judging the quality and value of art. My impressions upon it has nevertheless been of high-regard as when I was a child, art was clearly the choice medium of expression I found myself thoroughly involved in. I would get bored easily and soon found that transporting myself into an imaginary world through paint/crayons provided a far more sustainable form of entertainment than a game of tag. Pictures to me are worth more than a thousand words, heck, a thousand word assignment is nothing compared to the endless perspectives one graphical form provides.


It's A New Dawn

The very first sunrise of 2013 as witnessed by myself and 5 other mad hatters as we traversed across Sentosa island in the wee hours of the morning on foot on route to Harbourfront. 

Hello twenty thirteen. You are looking splendid today. To think that on this very day some 365 moon cycles ago, I was a freshly minted university student looking to embark on a intrepid journey of self-discovery, challenge, excitement and learning. I am proud to say that I've progressed  from that guileless kid I once was when I first attended orientation day to someone with a couple of battlescars and a sharper mind to conquer the bumps that might head in this direction. Watch out 2013. This girl is not taking any prisoners.

Has it been a year already? Boy did that move quickly. Bright orange walls not unlike the shade of a biohazard suit greet me with the same intensity as it did today as I strode in for the very first class of the year. Nope, I'm still not getting used to that shade orange my college building so proudly wears. I shudder each time I enter the grounds or pass it by.

When it comes to resolutions and changes, I get why people tend to opt for change at the beginning of the year. Much like opening a fresh page of a blank notebook, we start out with the mental motivation and thought of filling that space with the most beautiful illustrations and poetry known to mankind - only to find that we don't have the willpower to stick to them past February. So why do we still do it? Why resolute at all? In defence of the ever non-committal resolution, why not implement changes by increments? Tiny baby steps before the actual change. Take exercise for example. A recurring favourite of mine that makes it way into my annual top five. Before the new year, I had taken the initiative to embark on a daily routine of workouts despite the fact that I woke up late or had errands piled up. Allotting a mere 20-30 minutes a day was not going to throw me off my routine and I was right. It did not. I was more energized throughout the day and no longer was I aching for a nap during classes. By the time January came into view, I was more than certain I could accomplish my exercise goals. I made sure that I was either jogging, doing yoga, or pilates three times a week. In between, I would try some basic stretches. Not such a mammoth task after all.

As I cross out my absent-minded handwritten date of 2012 instead of 2013 on my new coursework profile handout, I am saying goodbye to a wonderful year of momentous change and lessons learnt. I've made new friends. Lost some. I saw a side of me that I didn't appreciate and that I still have much growing up to do. 2012 was on the overall, a remarkable year marked by me taking on Singapore by its Merlion mane and looking it in the eyes. Look mummy, I survived! And now I am going to do so much better. Welcome 2013.


7 for All Mankind: Going Hollywood

A good pair of jeans fits well and goes the distance. A great pair is like second skin. It flows and moulds into you. Flushed with champagne, canap├ęs, and chocolates, the 7 for All Mankind Fall/Winter 2012 Collection took on a Hollywood-esque theme at the Marina Bay Sands on the 13th of December 2012. The night started out on an adorable note with kid models taking the catwalk immediately grabbing the guests attention before progressing into the women’s and men’s line of contemporary fits and clean-cut classic basics.

The clear show-stoppers or scene-stealers were the pocket-sized models who were certainly popular with the guests who lost no time at staging a pose or two with them. Aye, I was one of those guests who could not resist a photo op with these tiny models. See how they're already experts at smizing.