UOB POY 2012 Results

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UOB Paintings Of The Year

Just Let Me Sleep by Esmond Loh Fah Rong
UOB POY 2012 (Singapore)
Just Let Me Sleep is an emotive artwork that depicts the strangled feelings of the youthful 17-year-old artist. It speaks of the relentless pressures and work that confront us daily.

Rough, unfettered strokes of oil and acrylic swirl across the primed canvas. These short, energetic strokes stem from repeated, somewhat savage stabbing movements. The sepia color palette was brought to life with contesting strokes of white, blue and red.

As with all other recent winners, this UOB POY is a controversial win. Many artists - including previous UOB POY winner Gong Yao Min, established local artists Jeremy Sharma and Yeo Shih Yun - have criticised it. The expressive nature of the work was deemed to be a facade for the artist's lack of skill and was seen as not being original enough.

What do you think? Hmm...

School Hymns by Y. Indra Wahyu
UOB POY 2012 (Indonesia)
Grand Regional Prize
The above piece by Y. Indra Wahyu is brilliant. It shows a wonderful combination of abstraction and realism, wit and sobriety. The juxtaposition of warm red and orange with cool blue and black creates a compelling visual narrative.

The unusual composition captures the difficulty of trying to get a choir to sing in harmony. 

Ah Long by Mohd Azri bin Abdullah
UOB POY 2012 (Malaysia)
Faith by Imrom Yunu
UOB POY 2012 (Thailand)

Platinum Awards
The Melancholy of Departure #01, #03, #08
by Kieran Kum Chee-Kin
The Melancholy of Departure #01, #03 and #08 is a stark representation of the rapid changes in Singapore's urban landscape. It delves into the loss of our past and collective memories as we steamroll into the glittering future.

The past is neglected. Ignored and forsaken. It is sometimes excised with scientific detachment. 

Buildings are destroyed, and along with this destruction, memories. What a pity.

Wandering Cloud by Liu Quandai

Growing Up by Eugene Tan Wei Jie
Don't Rush Into Growing Up by Lu Yun Ru
Highly Commended Awards (Open)

Animal's Kingdom by Andrea Yap En Rui
Still Life by Alvin Ong Liang Jie
HOR2SIE, 2012 by Boedi Widjaja

Most Promising Young Artist
Alone And Unwanted by Sherilyn Shaan Veera

Highly Commended Awards (Youth)

I said, Hello, I said, Is Anybody There by Chia Yu Xuan
Soliloquy by William Batara Jeremiah Samosir
Time Brought Forward by Ge Xiao Cong
All in all, this UOB POY 2012 was an exhibition with some particularly noteworthy pieces.

The furor over the winning piece, Just Let Me Sleep, throws up polarising questions on the nature of painting.

What makes a good painting worthy of the $30,000 prize money? Technical skill? Depth of thought? Age and experience of the artist?

There is a lingering suspicion that the debacle has been intense mainly because of the generous, attending prize money. If this is so, what does it reflect about our Singapore society?

UOB Painting Of the Year. It isn't merely an art competition.

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Upfront! with Tan Kai Soon, Person Moving On!

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Picture of a person (not Kai Soon) who suffers from muscular dystrophy.
Sometimes, we don’t recognize that what we’ve is precious. Studying may be a daily chore. Walking briskly from one point to another is easy. Taking a bath doesn’t require much effort. We take for granted what we should treasure.

When I first heard of Kai Soon’s academic journey, I wanted to speak to him, to know what he had been through. I wished to find out how an EM3 student eventually achieved an NTU degree despite suffering from progressive muscular dystrophy.

What I found out was more – much more – than what I intended to or imagined would. Thanks, Kai Soon, for sharing your story:

I’m so sorry about this, Kai Soon, but I’m not really sure what the symptoms of muscular dystrophy are. Can you please explain it?

It means that my muscles are wasting away over the years.

When I was younger, I didn’t know that I’ve a muscular disorder. My primary school teacher thought that I had flat foot. I struggled for the NAFA test. I was always tipping and falling for no good reason. Some classmates laughed at me because I took a long time to stand up.

It was hurtful, especially since I had no idea why.

Nowadays, I can thankfully still bathe myself. Ten years down the road, as my body grows weaker, I may not be able to do so.

When did you first realise that you’ve progressive muscular dystrophy?

When I was studying in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), I was diagnosed with this disease. The doctor recommended surgery so that I could walk better.

However, due to my muscle condition after the surgery, I am unable to walk as before and have to rely on the wheelchair to move about now.

For a while, I stayed at home and excluded myself from all social activities.

Thankfully, I’ve very supportive friends and lecturers from ITE.

So, Kai Soon, how had your education journey unfolded?

It was a long journey. EM3, Normal (Technical), ITE (known as Nitec and Higher Nitec after recent curriculum changes), Polytechnic, NTU.

In primary school, I was from the EM3 stream. In secondary school, I was placed in a Normal (Technical) class. I then moved on to achieve an ITE Nitec in Computer Technology and Higher Nitec in Electronics Engineering. Halfway through my Higher Nitec course, I was diagnosed with progressive muscular dystrophy, went for that life-altering surgery and became wheelchair-bound. For a while, I was really upset.

Thankfully, my friends supported me. One lecturer kindly drove me to and fro school for the remaining six months of the Higher Nitec course.

During my ITE days, I discovered the best way to study –

Really? What’s the best way?

There’s no shortcut. Flip through the pages. Study consistently. Spend every moment wisely.

Sorry for interrupting. What about the ITE?

Well, I studied Boodlean algebra then. That topic gave me the courage to believe in myself. If I could solve such algebra questions, I should be able to solve questions on easier topics. From then on, I found studying more manageable.

With my ITE grades, I qualified for a Singapore Polytechnic diploma course. I then moved on to complete an honours degree in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), majoring in Electronics and Electrical Engineering.

Just for interest, why NTU though?

NTU was the first school to offer me a place and, considering that it is more accessible for wheelchair users, I accepted it immediately.

So, after graduating, where did you work?

I applied for work at DSTA and did not manage to get it due to the physical requirement of the job. Actually, I wanted to serve National Service but was turned down as well. In the U.S., they have support such that even physically handicapped people can contribute. How I wish that this is the case too in Singapore.

In any case, I worked for a call center for eight months before I was hired by Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA) as part of the support staff.

AWWA has been very helpful. They sponsored a significant portion of my university education loan under the bond-free Be With Me Scholarship. This relieved my financial burden. Currently, AWWA provides me with free physiotherapy once a week – as an employee benefit – to delay my muscular degeneration. Hopefully, it can stretch the period during which I have some form of control over my hands.

Kai Soon, there are so many students who don’t know why they’re studying. They sit in the classrooms – physically there but aren’t really there. They’re tired early in the morning, after assembly, tired before recess, tired after recess, tired before lunch, tired after lunch and tired before going home. In fact, they are listless the entire day! It’s such a shame that the students don’t recognize how precious an education is, the doors that education opens and the opportunities it provides. Do you have any advice for them?

Usually, people with my background would have been out of the education system quite early on. I’m thankful for the chance to get a university education.

And I understand why they feel this way. They’ve no reason motivating them to put in effort. In some ways, no future they can look forward to.

I’ve friends who now tell me that they regret not putting in more effort for their studies. It may sound overused but people do regret not studying harder when they could.

In our lives, opportunities present themselves. Quite often, I didn’t know whether I could make it or not but I wanted to try. When I applied for my polytechnic and university courses, I didn’t know if I could get in. I tried – put in effort and really tried. In the end, I managed to.

Students should believe in themselves, cherish what they’ve and strive for what they want.

Last question – were you ever angry about your condition?

Yes, I was once resentful – how could I not be? Over time, I’ve gotten used to the staring though. I am who I am. You are who you are.

We’re all responsible for our future. What we do now will affect what that will occur. To be honest, I always envisioned myself as an F1 driver. There are many junctions in life. The routes are long and winding. However, along these journeys, opportunities will present themselves. What we need to do is to treasure them.

Thanks, Kai Soon, for sharing. Really appreciate this candid chat.


I reached out to Kai Soon and realized that we couldn’t shake hands. I could only thank him profusely with words and hope that words would suffice.

I had set out to learn more from Kai Soon, to discover lessons that I can share with some students who need help. During the chat, I was humbled and understood more about what that should be important.

Often, we sacrifice what we’ve most willingly, as though it doesn’t matter. We give away what that is precious – our time, our energy, opportunities to study or work or serve national service. We take what we have for granted as though we couldn’t care less.

This really shouldn’t be the case. Once again, thank you, Kai Soon, for sharing your journey.

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The Story on A Blind Girl

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Just came across this Facebook story on gratitude and visions. Really lovely post, thought that I should share it and archive it for future reference. 

It's a timely reminder on being grateful for what we have.

Source: A Facebook Post

There was a blind girl who hated herself just because she was blind. She hated everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She said that if she could only see the world, she would marry her boyfriend.

One day, someone donated a pair of eyes to her and then she could see everything, including her boyfriend. Her boyfriend asked her, “now that you can see the world, will you marry me?”

The girl was shocked when she saw that her boyfriend was blind too, and refused to marry him. Her boyfriend walked away in tears, and later wrote a letter to her saying:
“Just take care of my eyes, dear.”

This is how human brain changes when the status changed. Only few remember what life was before, and who’s always been there even in the most painful situations.

Life Is A Gift

Today before you think of saying an unkind word–
think of someone who can’t speak.

Before you complain about the taste of your food–
think of someone who has nothing to eat.

Before you complain about your husband or wife–
think of someone who is crying out to God for a companion.

Today before you complain about life–
think of someone who went too early to heaven.

Before you complain about your children–
think of someone who desires children but they’re barren.

Before you argue about your dirty house, someone didn’t clean or sweep–
think of the people who are living in the streets.

Before whining about the distance you drive–
think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.

And when you are tired and complain about your job–
think of the unemployed, the disabled and those who wished they had your job.

But before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another–
remember that not one of us are without sin and we all answer to one maker.

And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down–
put a smile on your face and thank God you’re alive and still around.

Life is a gift – Live it, Enjoy it, Celebrate it, and Fulfill it.

- Unknown

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Not Being Judgmental (on Healthcare)

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Seeing beyond what appears - Sharing by a healthcare professional

We had this patient once in our palliative ward. Do you know what "palliative" means? Patients who are in our palliative wards, according to medical evaluation, will die within the next three months. For them, it's not easy to live, especially since their deaths are predicted.

Our patient had severe cancer of the neck. When bandaged, it was just a large lump on his neck. In fact, he looked normal. Even before he passed away, he was mobile - walking around and moving about.

When the nurse removed his bandage, you could observe the tumor disintegrating. It was rotting and smelling, a festering boil. His mother had never seen the bare tumor - it would be just too traumatic. To look after him, his mother visited him frequently.

This patient, he had many unresolved issues. I’m not really sure if you can place yourself in his shoes and imagine his pain, confusion and turmoil. He had an unmarried partner cohabiting with him, someone whom he loved dearly. There were all sort of complicated feelings with this unmarried lady.

If you're dying – you people are still young – but, if you’re dying, there’ll be all sort of questions in your mind. Have you lived your life well? What are the regrets you have? The meaning in your life, the meaning of existing? Questions with no clear answers.

In his will, this patient left everything – all his assets, including his fully paid flat - to his partner. His mother did not receive anything.

Can you imagine how his mother felt? She was upset that she didn't receive anything and she only found this out after his son passed away.

But, please, don’t judge.

Can you imagine how he must have felt when he decided to do this? The thoughts going through his mind? How his partner felt?

Coming to such a decision wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for everyone involved.

So, please, don’t be judgmental.

Patients, when they reach our palliative wards, are usually financially and emotionally exhausted. They would have gone through the entire healthcare system. I’m not saying that it’s right for them to be rude, but it’s understandable when they are.

If a wife with a terminally ill husband wants to go on an overseas holidays for two weeks, we shouldn't judge. Maybe she is thoroughly exhausted and needs a break from looking after her husband. Maybe she needs a respite from having her life being subsumed under another’s. Caregivers need to be cared for as well.
  
Healthcare professionals cannot afford to be judgmental. Nope, we can't.

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Thoughts

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Stories that don't fit into meta-narratives.

Stories that are partially covered canvases. 

Stories that are painted with wobbly lies-like strokes.

Stories that are about power relations (including power hierarchies).

Stories that are unsaid, unclear and unhappy.

Stories that may be factual or fictional. Or, more commonly, a hybrid of fiction and fact.

Stories, stories, stories. Yours, mine, theirs. 

Stories are here, there, everywhere; 

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Not Being Judgmental (On Education)

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The student kept resting his head on the desk.

"Jason, why did you fail this quiz? Are you okay?"

"I'm okay."

"You've got to work harder if you wish to study at NTU/NUS. Got to put in more effort." The encouragement slipped out before he could consider if it was apt.

It felt a little strange, to be trusted with precious information. He had asked the few students sitting closer to him if they wanted to pursue university education. It was a simple question (at least, he thought so). They shyly shared their wishes.

Has this student even told other people about his academic aspirations? After all, he was not from the Express stream and there were fewer people expecting and encouraging him to pursue higher education. Was it insensitive to talk about this after the student received his quiz results? Was it even right to speak of what he had privately shared?

The kid certainly seemed bright. So why were his grades lacklustre? Laziness? Hmm, what a waste.

He casually mentioned the student in a conversation with more experienced teachers.

The details were revealed in pieces; each piece was a sharp fragment of coloured glass, crystalline yet cutting, refractive yet revealing.

Jason was working. He once served his teacher dinner in a restaurant. His family was in less advantaged circumstances. He was in the school's mentoring program because of certain reasons.

Note to self:

Sometimes, the problem lies not with the people, but with their situations. Judge wisely, judge slowly. Snap judgments are unfair.

Source credit: www.biggergod.com

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David Kracov's Art

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Happened to encounter David Kracov's sculptures yesterday and was drawn to the effusive joy emanating from them.

The brilliant hues dance with an unexpected weightlessness. There is this feeling of reconciling opposites: heavy metallic media with light fluttering subjects, sobriety with gaiety. 

Nowadays, artists tend to produce anguished pieces on the meaning of life. It is gratifying to see joyous artworks. To see bits of floating colours.
David Kracov's Book of Life
 In Book of Life, butterflies come alive and scatter from within a book.

There are so many ways to interpret this work. We can see this as a celebration of knowledge, a representation of the colours of knowing, a tribute to the advancement of ideas. We can see this as the fusion of animate and inanimate subjects.

If we know more about David Kracov, we will understand that butterflies are personal motifs of children's innocence, delicacy and spirit. Book of Life may stand for an effusion of young souls after the Holocaust.

Being Chemistry-trained, I noticed that Kracov used permanent markers to write scripts on the metallic pages. Any organic solvents - acetone, ethanol, n-hexane etc - will remove these writings in a jiffy. Permanence may not be that permanent.
David Kracov's Butterfly Effect
A swarm of butterflies dance together to form a peace symbol. To the artist, this is known as the Butterfly Effect.

The name of this artwork is witty and poignant with meaning. Butterfly Effect literally means that there are many butterflies. On another level, it refers to Edward Lorenz's theory - a flap of a butterfly's wings may initially cause tiny changes in the atmosphere and ultimately alter the path of a tornado, or delay, accelerate, or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another place.

This vibrant art seems to suggest the limitless potential for kindness, generosity and peace, how one decent act begets another.

It is rare to see such happy works now. David Kracov's art - an extremely satisfying visual treat. 

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Humour at Home and in Class

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"Who is cuter - me or you?" He stared at his baby cousin threateningly and his eyebrows wiggled slightly, as though suggesting you better say that I'm more cute or else.

The baby cousin, unfortunately, was not fazed. He knew the answer that he was supposed to give to avoid the otherwise impending tickles. He should simply agree that his elder cousin was smarter. He paused and looked up,"let me ask my mother."

That smart aleck just outsmarted him. Argh.
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Teacher: "So, class, who knows the answer to my question? Rayner, what do you think?"

Student: "Huh?"

Teacher: "Are you even listening to me? What did I just say?"

Student: "What did I just say." The entire class burst into laughter.

Teacher: "Come, Rayner, read this passage to the class." 

The athletic student walked up to the front and began reading from the script in a melodramatic, somewhat fierce tone. "Do you know that I was cyberbullied?" His voice softened into a sultry whisper,"do you know how hurt I was?"

The entire class -including Teacher - rocked with mirth. 

The student turned to his teacher and held his rolled script like a truncheon. He pointed his makeshift prop at Teacher. "Please do not laugh when I'm talking to my class."

It was a lesson to remember.

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Bubbling Joy In Barcelona

Sycophany/ Self-preservation

Romance of the two wisdom teeth

Art Appreciation 101