Thursday, 5 December 2013

Presenting Portraiture Series | The Portrait Studio: Behind the Scenes

Artist unknown, Half-Length Portrait of Wee Eng Cheng, 1920, Singapore, Gouache on Photograph, 49.5 x 33.3cm
Date: 5 December 2013
Time: 7 - 9pm
Venue: NUS Museum

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The recent donation of painted and photographic Peranakan portraits to NUS Museum features some of the earliest surviving representations of Peranakans in the Malay peninsula and Indonesian archipelago. Using portraits from this collection, Behind the Scenes investigates the artistic and technical processes involved in the production of portraits during an era predating colour photography.

The advent of the camera signaled a pivotal point in the landscape of portraiture and image making. The photographic image possessed both the ability to incite fantasy and the authenticity to stand as evidence, thus providing the Peranakans with a vehicle for expression and an agency to orchestrate their legacies.

Portrait studios flourished contemporaneously with the availability of the newspaper and the rise of a literate society, heralding the emergence of novel practices of record keeping, observation and representation. The industry of commercial portraiture became one of the most lucrative trades of early 20th century Singapore. As many photographers were trained artists, many commercial studios could provide artistic services such as hand-coloured photographs and ivory miniatures.

The lives of portrait artists, their relationship with their patrons, and the biographies of lesser known portrait studios account for a largely unrecorded aspect of Singapore's history. This talk will shed new light on the industry and its patronage in colonial Singapore.

About the speaker
Daphne Ang, M.A., is presently a visiting research fellow at the NUS Museum and a PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London. Her doctoral research investigates the production of portraiture under the patronage of the Straits Chinese society in pre-independence Singapore. She has presented papers on the subject at conferences in the UK. Proud of her Baba roots, she also shares her passion through teaching and lecturing. In 2009, she co-curated the exhibition The Next Chapter: Forays into LASALLE's Permanent Collection, examining the pedagogic role of an art collection.

Presenting Portraiture Series
Presenting Portraiture is a talk series conceived in conjunction with a two-part exhibition featuring portraits of Peranakan Chinese. The first part Dressing the Baba was held at NUS Baba House till 31 July 2013, whilst the exhibition, Inherited and Salvaged: Family Portraits from the Straits Chinese Collection runs till 6 July 2014 at NUS Museum. Peranakan portraits represent an emerging area of collecting interest and this talk series explores a range of themes, concepts and ideas surrounding the making, collecting and functions of such artworks, including artistic practice and studio processes; pictorial conventions; collecting patterns; technical conservation; iconography and artefacts; and reflections on the social milieu.

Event Photos


Event video

Presenting Portraiture Series | The Portrait Studio: Behind the Scenes from nusmuseum on Vimeo.

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