Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/155620
Title: IMAGINED IDENTITIES: ART, AESTHETICS, AND NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS IN SINGAPORE, 1950-1975
Authors: NG YU QUAN, ROY
Keywords: Equator Art Society
Modern Art Society
social realism
abstraction
national consciousness
Issue Date: 22-Apr-2019
Citation: NG YU QUAN, ROY (2019-04-22). IMAGINED IDENTITIES: ART, AESTHETICS, AND NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS IN SINGAPORE, 1950-1975. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Far from existing as discrete entities, the discourses of art and identity interweave one another within a symbiotic relationship. Even more so for Singapore, where Equator Art Society (EAS) promoted a socially-oriented vision of “Malayan” consciousness, contrary to the experimental genres practised by the Modern Art Society (MAS). The origin of a “national consciousness” in Singapore art can be traced to the turbulent years of the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s. While the British sought to create a “Malayan” artistic platform congruent with their aspirations for Merger under a “Grand Design,” Chinese left-leaning activists turned instead towards an anti-colonial assertion of merdeka. Concurrently, members of the EAS adopted social realism in hopes of fostering an art that encapsulated a common ethos of social justice and political emancipation. Under a collaboration between the EAS and the government led by the People’s Action Party (PAP), social realism became augmented as a cultural fortress for the state as it sought to instigate an identity rooted in the dignity of the working class. However, the government’s perception of social realism made a volte-face from endorsement to hostility after a subsequent systematic crackdown of leftists in the late 1960s. The purge of left-leaning artists, along with Singapore’s expulsion from Malaysia, left the nascent sovereign state with a trauma of cultural dislocation and artistic vacuity, which it sought to compensate with an internationalist identity, expressed through the heterogeneous modes of abstract art corresponding with the global trends of the 1960s and 1970s. In historicizing art, aesthetics, and national consciousness against the backdrop of pre-Merger and post-independent Singapore, this thesis thus endeavours to establish how transformations in cultural milieux ultimately shaped the ways in which artistic identities – personal, social, and national – may be imagined.
URI: https://scholarbank.nus.edu.sg/handle/10635/155620
Appears in Collections:Bachelor's Theses

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