Last December, ReDot Fine Art Gallery hosted an exhibition of over 400 works. On display were the collaborative works of students from the Singapore American School, ranging in age from 5-10 year old. The student population comes from the Americas, Europe and Asia. But for the past few weeks, these students were painting Aboriginal. Their work, were displayed on movable panels in the centre of the gallery.
The paintings were inspired by the narratives found in the work of Aboriginal artist Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, one of the artists who began the Aboriginal art movement in his desert community in Yuendumu, Australia. Ten year old student and participating artist Colten states, “His work was really cool. The artist was really good at making designs that look like it popping out of the paper.” Nine year old student and participating artist Suhani saw a bigger purpose to the art, “I think they make the aboriginal people feel good because he represented them.” Paintings by several professional aboriginal artists covered the surrounding walls of the gallery.
Paddy Stewart’s work, also on display at the gallery, uses symbols and dots to tell Dreamtime stories about the wild life, landscape, hunting practices and the creation of the world around him. The bright colors and clean shapes were very appealing to the students, who could easily “read” Paddy Stewart’s painting and incorporate it into their own work. Nine-year-old student and participating artist Alya says, “Our story is about ants in an ant chamber, I added some fruit and foot tracks like they were eating. Others painted the pond where ducks go and ant chambers.” Teaching Assistant Stella states “The kids could really understand the concept and theme. They had a good knowledge of the story.”
Central to this project was the need to work as a team. Each final painting consists of 4 or 5 panels that a group of 4 or 5 students were in charge of completing. When asked about the collaborative nature of this work, students were quick to answer. Isabelle, 9, states, “I feel really good about working with each others because we get to share our ideas and we learn from other people. “ Gabrielle, 10, felt the pinch when it came to completing the work, “It was hard because one of my partners wasn’t here.” It is apparent in the work that there was a lot of thought and effort put into each panel so they work together as a final piece. Alya, 9, said “It took us a long time and we had to do a lot of planning. Sometimes we had some arguments so we had to agree to disagree.”
Paintings finished and off to the gallery, these young artists knew what was happening. When Kenneth, 10, was finished he said “Oh, I’m finally finished!! I worked very hard on it.” The joy was mixed with fear for some students. Maggie, 9, “I felt nervous because if it was bad, then people would not like the art.” Ten-year-old Quinn, on the other had, can’t wait to see her work on display, “It is exciting that other people get to see your work. You worked really hard on it, and it makes you feel proud.” Pride of work and the chance to do something important seems to be a common statement. Katherine, 9, who brought her mom, dad, sister, and brother to see her work, “I’m proud of my work because I feel I did a good job drawing. Usually, I’m not very good at drawing. “
Like other artists with deadlines, collaborators, fears and excitement, these young ones have gotten a taste of what it is like to be a real artist. They have also delivered an exhibition of work that is well thought out and executed.
ReDot Fine Art Gallery
Tanjong Pagar Distripark
39 Keppel Road, Unit #02-06
Tel: +65 6222 1039
by Erin Caskey.
Editor’s Note: Moving to Singapore in 2006 from New Orleans, USA, Erin writes about, makes and teaches art and is currently producing a graphic novel, “Erin the Great”.