The Art of Batak

April 11, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment

Itchyfingers were delighted to find another interesting exhibit at the Asian Civilisation Museum (ACM) when we were there visiting the “Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda” exhibition. This is an exhibition about the Batak, a group of six communities related by language and culture from the mountainous interior of northern Sumatra. Over 80 works in wood, stone, and bronze on loan are on show, 20 of which have been donated to the ACM.

Coincidentally, Tisu Boy had a company trip to Lake Toba not too long ago….

The Batak were greatly feared by their coastal neighbours as headhunters and sorcerers….Wow…makes you think of black magic….and something on the dark side….But maybe because all the artefacts were already cleaned up and now displayed nicely in museum, Itchyfingers think they are actually very cool pieces of art….very graphical and stylised…

The magic staff is the most important tool of the priest. This one, called tungkot malehat, is in the form of a human figure riding a singa, or a mythical lion-like beast. He is usually surrounded by smaller figures with their hands pressed together, possibly as a sign of respect or deference

The other form of the magic staff is the totem pole-like tunggal panaluan, with many figures and animals atop one another….This one looks very comical….

Some used strings….Not sure if the white stuff were bones….

Palm fibre was used for many of these magic staffs….Looks like real hair!

This magic staff is topped by a horse and rider surmounting small squatting figures with hands clasped over their knees…Can’t see them here cos all the artefacts were displayed behind glass and there were so much reflection from the surrounding windows. Also, since most of the pieces were dark in color, photographing them with proper exposure was a real challenge.. The magic staffs are also so long, so most of our photos show just close-ups or parts of the magic staff…

The star of this medicine container is the stopper with this regal figure riding a singa. The Batak probably learned of lions from Malay or other sources but had little concept of what it looked like. Hence, the depiction of the beast often combined elements of a horse and a naga (mythical serpent), and often have an almost human face

Another medicine container. The figure seemed to be riding a dog? Quite cute… :p

This one looked either like a chicken, or a warrior with helmet…Wahahahah….

The medicine horn is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a Batak priest’s arsenal

Guardian figure like this one were meant to look fierce to ward off evil…But why the smile leh…hahahah….The hair was fashioned from palm fibre and the bright red eyes were seeds of the saga tree….Remember the hug pile of saga seeds at the recent Singapore Biennale? The metal plate nailed to its chest seals a cavity that would have held pupuk, a substance that was believed to animate and give power to the figure…Wow! So he could move?! That’s quite intimidating! And I thought he looked as if he was wearing a graphical tee with a thick-lipped face…wahahahahah!!!!!!!

One of my favourite. At first glance, they looked as if they were dancing!!!! Hahahah….Each of these guardian figures has a second pair of arms attached to the shoulders, giving them a level of dynamism. It also recalls multi-armed Hindu-Buddhist figures, though such a connection has not been proved

Beginning of the Becoming: Batak Sculpture from Northern Sumatra is now on show till 1st June. Admission is free! Do spend some time there!

Also see related posts:
> Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda


Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda

April 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment
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The capital of Tang China (618-907), Chang’an (present day Xi’an), was a hub for economic and cultural exchange. One of the most revered Buddhist sites in China was the Famen Temple. But for more than 1000 years, a finger relic of the Buddha and many gold, silver, ceramic pieces from the Tang dynasty lied forgotten within an underground crypt in the temple, only to be rediscovered in 1987 when the temple pagoda was being repaired.

China at that time not only became prosperous and powerful, but also culturally diverse. This was mainly due to trade with foreign lands through the Silk Route to Central Asia. Camels were highly valuable in these arid lands, transporting goods and food

Ceramic camels excavated from Tang tombs are usually the Two-humped Bactrians, known to be resistant to cold weather. They are often accompanied by figures of foreigners

Nice horse figurine…

Tang tombs were supplied with objects thought to be of use to the deceased, with ceramic figures being a key feature

A lion tomb guardian. Pairs of guardian beasts were typically placed outside the tomb chamber or in niches along the entrance passageway

Figures dating to the earlier Tang period are generally simpler in form, and one of the pair often has a clearly distinguishable human face…Wow…this looks a bit scary and forbidding….more so than the lion….It actually reminded me of the Egyptian Sphinx…

An interesting set of figurines depicting the 12 zodiac animals….but some of them a bit tough to decipher…wahahah….

I like these four miniature Buddhist figures made with gilded bronze…

These collections of small statues were very likely buried to save them from being melted down during the intermittent periods of Buddhist persecutions during the Northern Dynasties and Tang periods….

I find this cute…hahahah…

The third one

Wow, he has three more little figures above him..nice…hahaha

But this has to be my favourite piece….It was what attracted me to the exhibition…. :p

A beautiful turtle-shaped container! This is featured on the promotional leaflet…The shell is the lid and it is probably used to store tea powder

Oh while you are at the gallery hall, do pick up this activity sheet and try embossing the various designs on it…I love the turtle one! So much details! :) Oh, remember to press hard enough to get the full picture…hahaha

The most beautiful feature of this pitcher is the tortoise-shaped rivet on the handle, which rotates…

A coffin-shaped reliquary carved from a single block of jade. It is thought to have held the genuine finger bone relic of the Buddha. Er, that’s up to you to believe…but I thought only a grasshopper or cricket can fit into the little casket …so small….wahahahah…. :D There is another made from bronze on exhibit

I find this jug with faces unique. The silk routes brought traders, pilgrims and envoys from near and far. The Chang’an capital during the Tang dynasty became a cosmopolitan city. “This cast bronze jug is one of the most enigmatic objects excavated in China in recent years. It relates to pottery of Iran and of Khotan, a city in southwestern China. Both areas were on the Silk Route, connecting Tang China to Central Asian and beyond.”

The fanciful and complex hairdos of Tang women often involved the use of wigs, which made hairpins a vital accessory. Hairpins also served as status symbols. So the higher one social’s rank, the more hairpins one was entitled to wear….Er, of course lah, poor people how to buy so many gold hairpins like this? Wahahahahah….

Ahhh…the Tang beauty….er…no hairpin leh!?! Wahahah….But there is this tiny hole on her bun which might be where the hairpin was supposed to be….

Tang women are so lucky….they are considered beauties when they are so chubby with slits for eyes and look of a certain Asia leader…wahahah….This looks like the bee-hive hairstyle from the 60s…hahhaah….

Some women have double bun….

She looks like she has a snake head on her….hahah….

You can pick up a paper fan and doll up your own Tang beauty! Wahahah….

The Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda – Treasures from Famen Temple and the Tang Court is ongoing at the Asian Cilivisation Museum until the 4 May. Admission is $8.

Also see related post:
Tales from the Tomb – Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy

ilight Marina Bay

March 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | 1 Comment
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Any night this week if you have the time, do pop down to the Marina Bay area for your last chance to catch the Bi-annual iLight Festival, “Asia’s only sustainable light art festival that showcases innovative content, the intelligent use of lighting as well as an international line-up of creative talents….To promote an environmentally responsible behaviour for a sustainable future, the participating artists have incorporated the use of recyclable materials and adopted energy-efficient lighting technologies in the creation of their stunning light art installations. Every aspect of the festival will adopt a more effective and efficient management of resources to meet this commitment to the environment.”

I think to many layperson, the iLight Festival is just an event where you can view many beautifully lit-up art installations…hahah…Here are just some installations that Itchyfingers found more interesting…

Itchyfingers started our walk from the Esplanade area. Once there, you would be attracted to this one…

Titled, “Cloud”, it looked exactly like a piece of cloud from far…

Formed by energy-efficient bulbs, CLOUD invites strangers to come together beneath a dazzling raincloud and play

Viewers are encouraged to participate in this installation by pulling the switch. This is to “trigger a quantifiable shift within the greater aesthetic of CLOUD, visually highlighting the power of an individual’s ability to impact progress and achieve significant change.” 

Moving on, we saw a field illuminated by lamps…

Do they remind you of dandelions? Giant ones, of course…hahah

Titled, “Giant Dendelions”, viewers can walk freely through the 90 illuminated lamps, or light flowers…These “dandelions” were made from “close to 9,000 recycled water bottles that were cut and connected to one another by a nylon weave. Each flower was lit by an energy-efficient bulb in order to create intensity variations within the forest”. Actually the use of recycled bottled to make lamp is not new, and I think I have seen something like this before on the internet. But the artist’s idea is to use the exaggerated scale of the lamps as dandelions to create “an interesting landscape of light, and through the creative re-using of the discarded plastic bottles to send out a bigger message of inspiration and hope to the less-privileged.”

Just two weeks ago, Singapore experienced the worse drought since decades. So with a field of giant dandelions, I think some help would be needed to make sure they don’t dry out…hahah….

So we have these giant water pots to come to the rescue! :D

And if watering is still not enough, try jumping into the pool to cool down! :D

Titled, “The Pool”, this installation consists of  “a group of giant, concentric circles created from interactive circular pads. By entering The Pool, visitors enter a world where play and collaborative movement create swirling effects of light and color. Imagine a giant canvas where you can paint and splash light collaboratively. This installation is best enjoyed and is most beautiful when a group of people play with the different pads together.”

So you see Tisu Girl also joining in the fun!

From far you wouldn’t know what this collection of lighted cones and domes were. But walk to the other end, you would realise it was actually a crocodile! :D There were “warning signs” to alert people of the biting crocodile….hahahah

Can’t seem to find any information of this piece. This was one of the two huge inverted dishes with flashing LED lights inside. The effect was quite nice but it seemed to be taking too long to change colours and there were always some people standing under it for photos or selfies, thus preventing others from taking unblocked photos…I kind of lose patience and decided to move on…

There were many people crowding around the Helix Bridge, waiting for something to happen…It didn’t take long for us to find out what it was…

Ahhhh….light projection of local artists’ work on the Art Science Museum….But the image stayed for so long and nothing else happened…wondered why…

This looked like some flower or tree…Actually it was inspired by Golden Wattle, Australia’s floral emblem. Titled, “Digital Wattle”, the changing colours represented “the new mix of cultures residing in the city”. Well, whatever it was meant to be, it just looked very pretty with the changing colours…hahah…

Then while shooting the Digital Wattle, the projection on the Art Science Museum turned alive! So, this was what kept people waiting!

Titled, “Celebration of Life”, this is a “playful commentary on the role and value of traditional culture in our contemporary society. Through the use of Pop-art as a playful medium in this work, this installation celebrates Asian values in our modern society through a tongue-in-cheek manner”

Beautiful! If you stand further away, you could even take in the Digital Wattle as a foreground…I shot some videos, but it turned out a bit shaky….hahahah

Do check out these timing for the projection! (8.15pm – 8.30pm – 8.45pm – 9.00pm – 9.15pm – 9.45pm – 10.00pm – 10.15pm – 10.30pm – 10.45pm)

The last installation we saw at the field in front of the Floating Platform was quite breathtaking too…

A giant fish net hung above…

Titled, “1.26 Singapore”, this installation “drew inspiration from laboratory research which documented the effects of the 2010 earthquake in Chile - the historic shock resulted in the shortening of the earth’s day by 1.26 microseconds. The colorful volumetric piece takes the shape of a tsunami sweeping across the ocean.”

Walk around it to better appreciate the changing colours and form as the wind blew on it…

iLight Marina Bay is ongoing until the end of March. Do take advantage of the cooler nights now to view the many light installation by artists around the world!

Also see related posts:
iLike. iLight

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