The Creation exhibition was part of events to launch a guidebook on the old Bras Basah campus
A layered oil painting portrays Jesus nailed to the cross. Superimposed on the image are spray-painted, small crosses in neon green and yellow.
The artwork, Today, the Perseverance of Faith, was one of several prominent pieces displayed at an exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), organised by St Joseph’s Institution (SJI).
Speaking to CatholicNews about his painting, SJI old boy Lim Jun Hong, 21, explained that his colour choice for the spray painted crosses was inspired by pop art.
He explained that he was making a statement about how people these days “tend to trivialise the symbol of a cross” and that it has “become a fashion and pop icon”.
Lim, a Christian, said that his work was also a comment on alleged corruption within a church, which has dominated local news headlines.
A total of 12 young SJI alumni had their artworks featured in the exhibition, titled Creation, and which ran from Sept 3-6.
The exhibition, together with guided tours of the former SJI, now the Singapore Art Museum, were part of events held to launch a guide book on the iconic building on Sept 3.
The 14-page book, titled SJI Heritage@Singapore Art Museum, features information and photos of the old school compound, including the main courtyard, school hall and chapel.
About 60 old boys, SJI staff and La Salle Brothers attended the launch of the book, which was compiled by recent SJI graduates and teachers, and which is to be given free to museum visitors.
According to Ms Eliza Lim, SJI’s manager of corporate communications and external relations, the event was to commemorate 25 years since the school moved out of its Bras Basah compound to its present location at Malcolm Road.
Commenting on the art exhibition, 25-year-old Alvin Ong, curator of the exhibition and one of the artists whose works were exhibited, said having the display at SJI’s former premises made it “more meaningful”.
All the exhibitors had taken part in the special Talent Art Programme when they were studying in the school.
According to the organisers, the exhibition aimed to showcase the works of graduates who have continued their artistic pursuits, while serving as a platform for alumni to come together and present their artistic and cultural expressions in public.
Two of the artists – Esmond Loh and Alvin Ong – had previously won the UOB Painting of the Year award.
The exhibition also aimed to “showcase the school’s rich history” and “make it meaningful for old boys”, said another artist, 23-year-old Michael Ee.
The artworks were displayed in the museum’s Chapel, with the space divided into three sections: Creation, Journey and Freedom.
Creation showcased works featuring a Josephian’s journey in and after SJI. This area also featured four artefacts from the former school – an angel stoup (basin for holy water) that used to stand at the entrance of the old SJI chapel, an altar crucifix, a monstrance and a stone sculpture by the late La Salle Br Joseph McNally titled Soul Counsellor II.
The Journey section appeared somewhat darker, featuring the struggles ex-students face as they leave their alma mater. The main pieces displayed here are works by 20-year-old Glen Heng, portraying a person swimming in rough waters before emerging in what appears to be an atmosphere of peace.
The Freedom section showcased works expressing a sense of liberation, of Josephians relooking their identity and what they have achieved thus far.
One of the more prominent pieces here was 21-year-old Bryan Tan’s oil painting of a colourful hot air balloon flying into the sky.
The Sept 3 event also saw SJI teachers who were former students of the school taking guests on a tour of the museum.
One of them was Mr Bernard Teo, 53, who graduated in 1976.
He shared stories about himself and the school, such as how the soccer field opposite the school, where the Singapore Management University now stands, was the favourite place for the then-rugby player.
The left side of the chapel used to be a “Catholic library with an organ” where former old boy, jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro, “would play his pieces”, Mr Teo recounted.
He also pointed out a tall altar with the inscribed words “St Joseph Ora Pro Nobis” (Latin for St Joseph Pray For Us).
The school had not known it existed then. It was only when SAM took over the building and started renovations that it came to light.
By Clara Lai