Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Li Ling

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Besides working hard and fast in their cubicles, our interns have travelled to Bandung and Malacca, organised symposiums, waded through tons of historical research and pitched in during exhibition installations. If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!

This summer, we have a total of 9 interns at the museum! Each intern will be taking it in turns to contribute an article to the Museum Blog every other week. For daily (or even hourly!) sneak peeks at what they are doing, visit the Museum's Twitter account (@nusmuseum). 


Li Ling will be a third-year History major at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She is one of three interns working on the Lee Kong Chian Collection, and assisting with curatorial research for the forthcoming exhibition based on the book A Brief History of Malayan Art by Marco Hsu.

Being surrounded by Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh newspapers 

This is my second week as a curatorial intern at the NUS Museum and I am beginning to glimpse the work of a curator. Working on both the Lee Kong Chian Collection and the upcoming exhibition based on Marco Hsu’s book A Brief History of Malayan Art, I had the opportunity to experience the work that goes on “behind-the-scenes” for maintaining a permanent gallery and planning a new exhibition. 

The most exciting moment so far came when I viewed the Museum’s collection of Chinese paintings with Ms Chang Yueh Siang, my internship supervisor, and Mr Tan Teo Kwang, a prominent local artist. When we opened a scroll, a beautiful piece from master painter Qi Baishi unfolded before our eyes. The shrimps painted by Qi were so lifelike and vivid that I was amazed by the beauty of this painting. Mr Tan’s sharing on how to differentiate a masterpiece from a forgery was extremely interesting. Using Qi’s painting as an example, Mr Tan showed us that some of the indicators of an authentic painting are the strength and consistency of the strokes, as well as the quality of the calligraphy and the seal. 

Doing research for the upcoming Marco Hsu exhibition has allowed me to appreciate the often-overlooked preparation work behind the successful organization of an exhibition. Siang tasked me to look for photographs that showed art works exhibited in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as pictures that show the exhibition arrangement. Initially I was puzzled why photographs of exhibition layouts were necessary. After a short chat with Siang, I understood why. The upcoming exhibition is not just about showing paintings from the era; it is also about creating a similar ambience to the exhibitions that took place in those two decades. It is our hope that when viewers visit the exhibition, they will feel that they are being brought back to the 50s and 60s.

The book that the exhibition is based on.
Besides looking for photographs, I also looked through local English and Chinese newspaper reports on past exhibitions. As I read the reviews of the exhibitions, I became aware of how the public from these two decades perceived art works and art exhibitions. More importantly, I became more cognizant of the role of art perceived by artists, art societies and officials in a period of time when Singapore and Malaya were going through great transformations. Learning about the debates in art (art for art’s sake or service to the public), as well as the artistic direction of the 50-60s also allowed me to appreciate the dynamic and politicized art scene in those two decades in Singapore.

Reading the Nanyang Siang Pau and highlighting relevant information
I recently had the chance to share briefly about my internship experience for this year’s NUS FASS Open House Day with a group of prospective students. As I interacted with them, I found out that many were pleasantly surprised by the presence of a museum on campus. In addition, some of the students I talked to expressed interest in visiting the museum. Their favourable responses were very encouraging to me.
Sharing about being an NUS Museum intern at FASS Open House
The past two weeks at the Museum has been meaningful and at the same time thought-provoking. I look forward to more rewarding moments with the Museum in the subsequent weeks!

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