Singapore Art Week returns for a ninth edition from 22 January 2021, taking on a new hybrid format across both physical and digital platforms this year. Under a fitting theme of “Art Takes Over”, this edition takes place at the usual art and cultural institutions such as National Gallery Singapore and arts spaces within Gillman Barracks, but also beyond.
Singapore Art Museum joins this islandwide arts initiative to present the Seniors & Contemporary Art exhibition at the Botanic Gardens. In collaboration with Society for the Aged Sick and the Agency for Integrated Care, the exhibition is the culmination of the Seniors and Contemporary Art Project, a programme that engages seniors in nursing homes through art.
Singaporean artists Justin Lee, Zulkifle Mahmod, and Tang Ling Nah had the opportunity to guide seniors from Society for the Aged Sick through a virtual art-making workshops throughout 2020 and co-create artworks that reflect the emotions and experiences of the seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The experience of creating art with seniors
TheHomeGround had the opportunity to speak with artist and independent curator, Tang Ling Nah on her experience working with senior citizens to create art.
She shares of the experience, “Such sessions allowed me to understand more of the seniors’ interest and what they did in the past”.
The art pieces conceptualised and created by the seniors gave Tang a window into their past, adding to the poignancy of each of their works. According to Tang, some of the seniors were “great storytellers” and “place planners”. With every piece mindfully created based on the seniors’ memories and imagination, each work produced had “their own poetic beauty and creative touch.” She was especially impressed that some seniors actually took into consideration colour schemes and forms to create stunning pieces.
For instance, she described one of the neighbourhood models as being a “yellow town that gives a bright and sunny feeling”; the model also featured “a playground on high ground and a see-saw created using an ice cream stick and two plastic bottle caps”—a true indication of the creative talent that these seniors had.
The meaning and purpose behind art
The Seniors and Contemporary Art Project was created specifically to engage seniors in activities within the homes. Art becomes a medium for them to interact with the staff and with fellow seniors, while thinking about the themes set out for them and using their hands to create artworks they wouldn’t normally make.
In pandemic times, this project has become especially significant. Tang believes that through this project, herself and her fellow artists were able to help “appease the feeling of isolation for the seniors who have to stay in the home with no outings and fewer guest visits”.
Additionally, this helps to keep the seniors “engaged in creative activities so as to be actively occupied physically and cognitively”, allowing them to practice active aging even if they are in an isolated environment.
Beyond engaging the seniors, the project also aims to promote inclusivity amongst visitors of all abilities. Thus, they were all created to be experienced through tactile means and will be an extension of the Singapore Art Museum’s Touch Collection.
In creating their artwork, the seniors drew inspiration from the environment and nature. Reflecting those sources, the art exhibition is rightfully located at Tanglin Green Pavilion & Nassim Gate Visitor Centre, while information on the exhibition process can be found at the People’s Gallery (Tanglin, Nassim, and Bukit Timah Gates). It is available for viewing until 28 February 2021 and admission is free.