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Raffles Place (莱佛士坊), 2002, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 60 cm
As an artist, Koeh Sia Yong has always been very much about documenting the local landscape, charting the island’s development throughout the years. Much of his work is focused on capturing the Singapore of the past, which makes this 2002 painting of Raffles Place a refreshing surprise. Tall glass-clad skyscrapers dominate the frame, looming over the office workers scurrying down below in the square. In the background, the white roof of the Raffles Place MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station can be seen, firmly miring this scene in modern Singapore. Never forgetting Koeh’s background as a social realist, the impressive yet intimidating bulk of the skyscrapers seem to suffocate the viewer, showcasing the benefits and consequences of Singapore’s frantic rush into modernity. The barely visible silvers of sky are a far cry from the open skies of the rural scenes the artist paints in other works, reinforcing this idea. Strokes are restrained here, with little of the impressionistic style seen in this piece. Nature is controlled here, the carefully mowed lawns being the only bits of nature imagery amidst the concrete jungle. The viewer indeed learns much from this landscape study.
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