To say that Singapore has a flourishing, free flowing arts scene is as good as saying fried chicken gives you abs. If you need further proof, Sonny Liew –the graphic artist of ‘The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye’ who turned National Arts Council’s (NAC) unceremonious grant withdrawal into a begrudging acknowledgement of his Eisner treble—may have a thing or two to say about that.

But last Friday, the state of the arts in Singapore seemed to be looking up –quite literally. Held at Raffles City Shopping Center, the ‘Tian Tian Xiang Shang’ (Chinese for ‘to look up every day’) art exhibition drew no few guests comprising local artistes, students and distinguished names in the regional arts industry. This ‘Tian Tian Xiang Shang’ (TTXS) art project has taken on somewhat of a viral nature, with the exhibition held across major cities internationally –we are talking the likes of Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, Vancouver, Paris, Milan and Los Angeles. Each one of these exhibitions feature a fascinating array of paintwork done on ‘Tian Tian’ figurines, a 3D blank canvas for participating artists to express their ideas, beliefs and emotions.

Now making its stop in Singapore, things are no different, except for the unique interpretations of our Singaporean entries. Danny Yung, the brainchild behind the whole TTXS idea, was in town to take us through the exhibition. He explained to us that it all began with conceptual comic strips centered around the character of Tian Tian, an excessively inquisitive student who has endless questions about everything in his environment. And this character was inspired by what he saw during a visit to China at a very young age; in front of every primary school, the four Chinese characters of ‘Tian Tian Xiang Shang’ was bound to be featured across the front gates. Apparently, it was one of Mao Zedong’s motto to fuel improvement among school going children, and that got Yung’s creative juices flowing. “I thought these four characters are really fascinating,” he said. “It fills one with possibility.”

Indeed, possibility is the operative word. From its humble beginnings as a comic strip, Tian Tian was ‘brought to life’ as a white three-dimensional body and since the year of 2007, creative individuals from all around the world have joined the inclusive TTXS project to promote cross-cultural exchanges, creativity and dialogues.

Fast forward 10 years, the TTXS exhibition has taken on a whole new significance as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China. In this Singapore exhibition, which continues to be on display at Raffles City Shopping Center, over 40 artists and 1,000 students have joined in the movement to ‘look up, every day’. Most notably, among the students, the laudable pieces from Pathlight School demonstrated that autistic children have much to offer beyond their disability.

It is the first time that the scale of a TTXS exhibition has been this big. When asked about his thoughts on the range of artworks on display, Yung said: “Artworks by adults tend to reflect their profession and concerns in life, but children’s’ imagination is limitless. There is no frame. There is so much to learn from young kids.”

At the end of the day, when it comes to art, you would have to see it to feel it. Check out the following artworks by done local celebrities, film makers, educators and students.

Actress Joanne Peh, with hubby Qi Yuwu, posing beside their respective Tian Tians. Peh’s concept, going against personal burdens to float to the skies, is inspired by Pixar’s animated film ‘Up’. Qi’s ‘money coat’ reflects his desires for his child to have a good life in the future.

 

Liu Xiaoyi, Artistic Director of ‘Emergency Stairs’. He quotes former China President Mao Zedong in his work: Surely if I lived 200 years, I’d thrash a wake of 3,000 miles. You may or may not notice it, but there is a live goldfish swimming around in his installation.

 

‘Green’, by esteemed film maker Eric Khoo.

 

Eric Yim, Chairman of Design Council of Hong Kong. The Luban lock on his Tian Tian’s head, made out of timber, marks mankind’s transition from ignorance to enlightenment.

 

Radio DJ-slash-TV host Dasmond Koh raises awareness on marine conservation and environmental friendliness through his scuba diving Tian Tian.

 

 

Art showcase by Pathlight School, fronted by student Samuel Chen’s concept: An introspective Tian Tian looks within himself to see his heart, along with the burger and fries he had for lunch.