How a man’s life and practice is as artful as the food he creates

“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” was nominated for the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival in Lower Manhattan.

“What is delicious?”

The 81-minute documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” directed by David Gelb, on one of Japan’s most esteemed sushi chefs, Jiro Ono, starts with this question.

“What is beautiful?” “What is good art?” “What is good music?” These are subconscious judgments of taste that we constantly encounter in daily life but seldom stop to define. The film explores this simple question that has driven the fascinating career of 85-year-old Jiro, who was crowned one of the oldest living three star Michelin chef, and one of Japan’s “living treasures” – a term for those individuals certified as “Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties”.

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How art textbooks have evolved in Singapore

Two art textbooks I’m reviewing: Art Starts: Art Design for Upper Secondary (1999) (C) and Artworks: Art for Upper Secondary (2006) (L)

My pet project of 2012 (more of that later) has been pushing me into the direction of researching about Singapore’s art education system. What are students learning today? How has the art curriculum changed since I was a student back in the early 2000s? Why are there changes? Will art for the masses truly be less of a miracle?  I was curious to find out.

I made some discoveries after a brief study comparing art textbooks used for Secondary level students (from the age of 12-16) over the past 7-10 years. The books that I will be reviewing are (right to left): Artworks: Art for Upper Secondary (2006), Art starts: Art & Design for Upper Secondary (1999) and Eye for Art: Visual Arts for Secondary One (2007).

Their similarities and differences not only reflect profound changes in the focus of art pedagogy in Singapore but also symbolic of paradigmatic shifts in the State’s emphasis and value on nurturing visual arts.

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What good music does for the soul

Guest conductor Hu Bing Xu, one of the most outstanding conductors in the Chinese music fraternity

It makes you want to cry. It makes you smile. It makes you want to quickly record down your thoughts about it before memories become fuzzy. It makes you feel younger by at least 10 years. These are the effects of good music, and today I was fortunate to hear one.  “Capriccio” (时空随想) was truly one of the best performances I have heard in a long while from the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO).

Conducted by guest conductor Hu Bing Xu (胡炳旭), the music director and principal conductor of the Guangdong Chinese Orchestra, the 100-minute concert featured a meaty offering of six songs. This was my first time watching Conductor Hu work his magic, but he makes such a difference to the performance of the orchestra as compared to SCO’s music director Tsung Yeh (叶聪).
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The world’s rollercoaster ride through tumultuous upheavals in economy and finance, international security and politics has largely bypassed the mountainous fortress of Tibet. But a quake reminds us why the alpine nation shouldn’t be so easily forgotten.

One of the many solar panels seen in Tibet. Tibet has abundant solar energy resources, with an average of 3,000 hours of solar radiation annually, or about 6,000 to 8,000 megajoules per square meter.

Hours into the early September 18, 2011 morning after I boarded my flight from Kunming, Yunnan province’s biggest city in southwest China, the earth started to rumble. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake was about to strike the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, with tremors rippling across neighbouring Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. My flight from Kunming was a conclusion to a week-long vacation to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). It was delayed for three hours and no clear explanation was offered by the airline. I only knew what happened after arriving back in Singapore and receiving text messages from friends asking if I was safe and saying an earthquake had occurred around the Himalayan region near the time of my departure.

My initial sense of relief from the close shave was soon overtaken by worry.
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Seeking hope with Jia Aili

The artist posing with a gas mask

The artist posing with a gas mask

Schooled in consummate western classical painting technique, Jia Aili (賈藹)is a Chinese artist capable of weaving wonderfully sublime and transient narratives on canvas. Yet when it comes to talking about his work in an hour-long session after his opening show at the Singapore Art Museum, the 33-year-old comes across as reservedly guarded and cryptic.

His latest solo exhibition “Seeker of Hope” features laconic and desolate dreamscapes of abandoned industrial spaces, bogs and plane crashes conceived from an intermix of reality and imagination. The paintings, pregnant with western romanticism and Caravaggio-lesque drama, reflect dualities of birth and destruction, hope and despair.

When asked by an attendee how ‘real’ these depictions are, he says :” I have no power to link my paintings to reality. What is real to me and what is reality is different and separate. In fact everyone has their own perception of reality.” There always seemed to be a sense of something left unsaid or unresolved in his answers. Nothing is over explained, in fact the more he elaborates the more questions emerge. It doesn’t help when almost three quarters of Jia’s artworks exhibited are untitled. The reason being, as he good naturedly owned up (to a wave of chuckles in the room), that most of the time, he honestly has no idea what to name them. Hence, most of his works have been left open to interpretation.
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an art teacher in China

Writings about those moments of curiosity

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