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Visual Art Trip to Penang

The Secondary 3 Art Elective Programme (AEP) students went on their first overseas learning trip to Penang from 6 to 9 June 2016. The Visual Art Trip to Penang was the first academic trip since the commencement of AEP@ZHSS. This learning trip served as an opportunity for students to be exposed to the different art practices and culture in Penang, Malaysia. 

The students went around George Town to view and discuss the beautiful street murals and wire installations along the streets. They attended an Urban Sketching workshop conducted by Mr. Ch’ng Kiah Kiean, a renowned Malaysian Urban Sketcher. 

The students also had the chance to converse with Mr. Chuah Siew Teng and Mr. Choy Siew Kek while viewing their work. They also got to view work by the late Dato Chuah Thean Teng, who was also known as the Father of Batik Painting in the art realm, during their visit to Yahong Gallery. The students took a tram ride up to the top of Penang Hill and participated in a hands-on session of Batik painting. 

Before the students concluded their trip, they paid a visit to Hin Bus Depot Art Centre and Made in Penang Interactive Museums. The Secondary 3 AEP students also forged strong bonds among themselves and applied their learning back in class. 

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During the trip, I broadened my knowledge on the different types of art and discovered many new techniques to create an art piece. For example, through the workshop conducted by Malaysian artist, Ch’ng Kiah Kiean, I learnt that we could replace brushes by using twigs and paint with black ink. That experience taught me to step out of my comfort zone and explore different material and techniques other than the using the usual combination of graphite on paper or paint on canvas. I realised that I could create soulful and creative art through the inventive use of twigs and ink. 

At Yahong Art Gallery, I felt very inspired to see Mr Chuah Thean Teng’s artworks. He incorporates his Malaysian culture in almost all his artworks. Through his works, I gained more insight to his life and the culture he was brought up in. I would like to create art pieces using inspirations from my personal experiences and culture.

Lastly, I have learnt that the spaces where I choose to present my artworks are extremely important as it should complete the mood and message of my artworks. I have also learnt that one can make use of the space as part of the artwork and allow the audience to interact with the artworks within the space. For example, we observed numerous street murals along the streets of Penang. One striking artwork that caught my attention was of two children reaching their hands out of a gated window in a bid to reach out to the dumplings from a cart that was placed right outside the window. Interestingly, this mural was located next to a shop selling Penang treats. It was a really fitting artwork to be placed just beside a food stall.

I am inspired to incorporate certain styles of art by the various artists that I have gotten to know of in my future artworks. 
Tan Huang Lee, 3E4

This year, the Secondary 3 AEP students were given the golden opportunity to visit Penang. They got to experience the art culture of Penang, which they realised was starkly different from Singapore's art culture.

This trip was an eye opener for most of us as we had never seen wall murals which Penang is famous for. Through looking at the wall murals, I learnt that we can make use of our surroundings as spaces for us to exhibit our artworks. I have also found that art can be seen even on the streets - from lamp posts to drains and pipes. A good piece of artwork is one that is not only aesthetically pleasing and conceptually sound, it must be one that evokes emotions in its viewers. Many wall murals in the streets of Penang were very interactive – we could always pose along with the murals. For example, “Brother and Sister on a Swing" allows people to climb onto the swing and be part of the art presentation.

We also got to meet the children of one of the SOVA artists, Chuah Thean Teng when we visited the Yahong Art Gallery. They are also bona fide artists themselves. It was an honour to meet them and talk to them about their own creativity processes and their father’s. We learnt interesting nuggets of information about Mr Chuah Thean Teng that we could not find online, such as his inspirations and why he embarked on batik painting and how he became a leading artist in Batik painting. We tried on batik painting along with our teachers. We found it quite difficult as there were many steps involved in the creation of just one small piece of Batik Painting. However, the time and effort spent was all worth it.

We also learnt urban sketching from one of the urban sketchers in Penang. Instead of using pens or pencils to sketch, we used sharpened tree branches and dipped them in ink to draw. This experience of using branches to draw changed my entire perspective of art because I had never thought of using unconventional items for drawing. When we went to the outdoor Spice Garden for sketching, we drew using our branches. It was not as easy as it seemed. As I held the branch, the difficulty of control was palpable. The lines would either be too thick or too thin with just a small turn of the branch. It was a very frustrating process because I did not know what to expect when using the branch as the results were always unexpected. 

I had to abandon all my previous knowledge of drawing with pencil so that I could better manage my strokes while using the branch to draw. After many attempts, I finally managed to create my own artwork. Some of us even experimented with other seemingly nondescript objects such as rocks and leaves found on the ground to create more textures on our artworks. It was very fun to look at our friends’ final artworks when we had a mini "exhibition". We could admire each other's artworks and be further inspired. 

All in all, this trip was amazing! We not only got to learn about art and be exposed to new art forms  which we had never seen before. More importantly, we got to bond together as like-minded art students. It was truly an experience that I will carry with me through the rest of my life.

Lau Ai Shan, 3E2