"Another Initial Impetus" | Session One: Violet Oon
Good morning everyone, my name is jillian, and i work in the curatorial, programs, team here at the gallery. Our curatorial, programs. Aim to expand, our curatorial, narratives, by creating different entry points for our audiences. Thank you for joining us this morning for today's talk with violet un. As part of our exhibition, suddenly turning visible. Art and architecture, in southeast, asia, 1969. To 1989. Which we currently find ourselves, in. Um just some housekeeping. Before we start. We're so happy that many of you have come to join us this morning, but please also be mindful, that, we're in the gallery, space. So. Do be mindful of the artworks, that are around you, the dimming of the lights um. Which just happened to go on happened every morning, at 11 11am. And it's to. Highlight. An artwork, at the back over there by thomasio. And also this work here by kim lim. So it happens. Every, morning at 11 a.m and 3 p.m in the afternoons. And also. Today. We'll get the opportunity, to look at some of the articles. That violet. Wrote in various publications. Throughout the 1970s. And 1980s. Just to note that these materials, are copyright, of singapore, press holdings. So if we could please request. Everyone, from, refraining, from taking photographs, of the materials. These are all available. For public viewing online, so perhaps, if you want to, find out more and read the articles. You can take note of the. Headlines. And then simply just do a search on, the library's, website and those will be able to come up. So, now that i've got all the borrowing stuff out of the way, please let me hand over to today's moderator. Today's moderator, is tamara's, goal who's the head of our curatorial, programs, team here at the gallery. And i'll hand over now, to her so that she can introduce, us to the staff of today's show violet roon. Thank you for coming on a saturday, morning. And, um. Yeah we're soaking up in the atmosphere, of the dim light, so i can't really, um. I'll. Try my best to read. The. I'll introduce the exhibition, just a little bit before we start. Okay, suddenly, turning visible, art in architecture, in southeast, asia. Examines. A period. Between. 1969. To, 1989. Where the curators, of this exhibition. Set forth to establish, exciting. Connections. Seeking, comparisons. In a moment. In history. A period, where there was a kind of, i would say. Frenziness. In the air. Things were not. Very clear. It was post-independent. I mean post-colonial. You know people were fighting, for this notion, of what's, independence. There was rapid, urbanization. Things were kind of desperate. Many things. Eagerly. Contesting. Or wanting to. Supersede. An old, cell. Energy. There was tension. And, the tension made it a very exciting, period. For example. It was a period where the concrete. Or concrete material, was discovered, and lashing, out. Up front, as the material. Challenging, a new wave and summoning, new modes of approaches. Deliberation. And resolution. Of some sorts. Concrete. Bashed. Into all shapes and forms. Most evidently. In architecture.
It Seemed, at that moment, everyone's. Eyes. Were suddenly, plied, open. As if a newborn, baby. And their senses, provoked, as if for the very first time. The years became attuned, to new sounds. And perhaps music. An artist ray albano's. Own words, and where the title of this exhibition. Has sought inspiration. From. I quote. Where. One is made, relatively. Aware. Of an environment. Suddenly, turning, visible. It was a time where artists. Articulated. New approaches. There was freely reinvented. In tandem, with. Already known. International. Art movements. But. Importantly. In dialogue. With folk and vernacular, traditions. Happening, here. In the world. The curators, of this exhibition. Chiang jia yoon, jolin, low. Sing eugene, and shabir hussein. Mustafa. Carefully, chose three regional, institutions. The cultural center of the philippines. 1966. To the present. Alpha gallery. Here in singapore. 1971. To 1988. And barassi, institute, of modern art from 1974. To 1988. As a way to. Re-assemble. Reconfigure. And, you know. To reconnect. Pivoting, to its. Inevitable. Kind of energy. Or kind of essence. Needed. In the making, of this period. What constitute. Of this making. We are here to unravel. Now. Today. We are here to discuss. With, a very special guest. She would be able to bear testimony. To the art scene here. And specifically, to speak about alpha gallery, in singapore. Actually our guest here needs no introduction. She's a brand name in her own right. She's a chef. Co-owner, of restaurants, and food writer for cookbooks, and columns, on piranha. Cuisine. Food career, began when she penned her first food column. In 1974. For new nation. She would, go on to become, a dominant, voice in singapore's, food scene. Authoring, popular cookbooks. Including, piranha, cooking. And, singapore, family cookbook. I told her, last week, i have the singapore, family cookbook. Somewhere. She was eventually, dumped singapore's, food ambassador, in 1988. But the singapore. Is on board. And was awarded. Lifetime, achievement, award. For outstanding. Contribution, to tourism, at the tourism, aboard, awards, last year. But what is lesson known about our guest here today, is that before her foray into food. She started her career, as a culture, critique. An important, voice, in the 1970s. Her art reviews. From that time included, many exhibitions. On many artists. And many exhibitions. And spaces, including the alpha gallery. Some of the reproductions. Of her articles. Are featured. In this exhibition, here. May we put our hands together to welcome, miss violet un. Good morning. Thanks for being here uh those of you who are behind. Please be very artistic, and sit on the floor in front. This is an art space after all, but not on beyond that black line because we're protecting, our art please, please come and sit down do you want the children when they come and sit down okay. Yeah. Don't stand, just sit in front here thank you. I'd like to congratulate. You. About to the. Lifetime. You know contribution, awards, last year, yeah. On this note you know, i would like to ask you. What was your proudest, achievement. Okay.
This. Um. Brochure, here this post uh this um, sort of program is my proudest achievement. Because, you cannot put your picture next to mickey mouse they'll sue you for millions. The only time you can put your picture next to mickey mouse, is when disney does it. And i was very proud. When i was asked to give a talk, last year. On just, on anything. For, disney people. And um, that i'm put next to walt disney. So this is like very proud right you know. And, um. It was a storytelling. Workshop. Bootcamp. By disney in singapore and little did i know that oscar. Oscar winners were here. But i think. Maybe. Most important. That everything, starts, with once upon a time. Every story. And everything, in life is a story. And if that's how i've been approaching, you know things in life. And maybe. Uh before i talk about the music, and the art and everything, i actually studied sociology, and political, science. And geography. And i do not use the gps, because i really want to know my. Place. In space. That from outer space i know exactly. Which part of the red dot i'm in. And i think um. People have so much. Space, in, sort of facebook, et cetera but they don't know their real space, in the world. Where they are physical space. Yeah so, this was quite fun. So once upon a time. We want to. Um, our curators, here managed to unearth, some. Treasures, i would say. Um. That really. Importantly. Led to, the research. Of what happened during this period. And violet, really contributed, so let's take let's take a look at your. Your. Career, maybe we can. Talk about these moments. Okay this one was when i started 1971. As a journalist. And when i look back nothing is planned, you know. You just make sure you have lots of fun. But you make sure that you be the best you could possibly, be. And i think that's. Uh, maybe the mantra from my father. He was lee kuan yew's cohort, i mean one gen one year above. And comes from a generation, of, people. Uh men and women who are, very. Dynamic, innovative. Thinking, of uh you know very deep things like freedom. Uh you know in independence. Um, and. And so. He brought me up to think that you know you you have to do the best you could possibly, be. And that when you are gifted. That's what it means. It's a gift, it's not yours. It doesn't belong to you, but it's gifted, by somebody, else you know you think god but you know you're gifted. So you have to, you have to fulfill, those gifts. It's a duty. To fulfill, the gifts otherwise what's the gift for. And that. I think he brought me up never to be i'm not competitive, with other people.
I'm Competitive, for myself. And you know and and i. I just saw a tribute to kobe bryant. And that's exactly i mean he was very competitive, to other people but he was competitive, with himself, his whole life. He practice and practice, to reach, his idea of perfection. He doesn't care what other people's idea of perfection, is. And this one was i i sang as a hobby. And the other thing is that i tell people that you know yeah this is me. Don't ask me why i don't look like that now a lot of people do that. That was, 1973. In king and i princess, toptim. It was an amazing, production. So i think it's important to know, that there was. An amazing, life. And that life did not start, like now. You know which a lot of creative people are going to share there's a lot of creative people. Think that life started with. Them. And there was it's an amazing it was amazing production. It was by the young musicians, society. Ministry of education, which meant it had lots of money. And the cost of thousands because they could use all the slaves from school, you know children dancing. And. And we had amazing, costumes. I think wing young. And who became. Now i remember his name suddenly he became. The. Window dresser. In tanks which had the most amazing, windows. For 20 to 30 years. And he created the costumes, and the jewelry. And that statue, was actually brought, from, thailand, i think maybe in those days they allowed it. And it had, amazing. Cars amazing. And it was. Amateur, in that people were not paid. But it was professional, otherwise. Okay so this is king and i, and this is me dancing, okay i did once learn, balinese, dance and my fingers could. Go like that okay. And, you just have to. Uh. Learn everything you can if you're interested, in and not whether it's going to give you a profession, or not. And and actually all. All my working, lives, started off from my hobbies. So what i studied, and i think another good piece of advice from my father was that when i went to university, in 1968. I asked him, what should i study. He said it doesn't matter what you study. Because a lot of people study what's what's like going to give them the best jobs, by the time they graduate, everybody's, there. You know like they're ten thousand people for three best jobs. And you mustn't, base on that, you just study what you want, because you go to university to learn how to think. It doesn't matter, so choose anything you want and i think that was a very good piece of advice. Because a lot of people now i think a lot of young people are so lucky, what they're studying what they're doing, are two totally different things. And it's not a, mismatch. You know it's just. How you want how you want to progress with the next part of your life. So that was me dancing. So i think. You danced, yeah you know. I hear you sing, too. I used to sing i had a stroke five and a half years ago so my voice has, sort of gone. Uh, hopefully it'll come back sooner or later, it splits. Um. Just a vote of hands would you like to hear violet sing. Okay. This was. Interesting. Oh. Is. Is. That was last year i was asked. To take part in the army, video. For national, day song. And then i said, i can sing i need training and this the army will send you a trainer. So i couldn't argue right so they sent me a trainer.
And These are the things i did. And you know you you just you know. I was quite surprised. And this whole. Uh, talk is me suddenly, turning visible, right you know, in a different way. Yeah. So, that was quite. Fun. We, we, will come back to the um. A bit about. Singing. Um later, because i think there is indeed, quite a big link. To acoustics. During that period, you know what we think of acoustics. Um. But then um. You know then later, on i remembered. As a girl, i read a lot of violet's, article. I think that was, probably formative, in how i learned about art, you know and how i subsequently, am here you know sitting. Um so i, made an impact. I would say thank you really, how did you enter, into, your career as a journalist. Graduated, in, 1971. You must remember, that. There are a lot of my cohorts, here, irene hall is a. Writer. Irene ho. And. That we, we women like us. Uh they grew up we grew up in women's, lib. When i went to university in 1968. Must remember there were the student riots. In paris. And we were inspired. And there was you know and women like us make love not war. Burn the bra. And, um. You know mini skirts. And we actually. Followed those trends. And you know and and one of the trends was that. Uh the reason i cook is that i was brought up to be. Non-sexist. So it didn't matter. The women of my generation. Were not only burning the bra they threw away the. Walk. Because it was a sign of bondage. For the women. And that's why i'm, one of the few people who cook. Because, at that time. Women were expected. To, cater for the men in their lives. And, i remember, that you know i mean i'm a pranakan, girl. That. We lived a very jane austen, life you know the father comes home, you're there taking off his slippers you meet the quay, and then he's sitting down, and after dinner you're playing the piano and it's true it happened in homes in malacca, which i i grew up part of my, childhood malacca, and there'll be a if you have four children it's a quartet, you know. Yeah somebody, loves the piano, it's true. Somebody, learns, the the, guitar, and you know something let's not guitar is like it was too low class, you know some released a violin viola, cello, and double bass, and really after dinner the children entertained, the father. And, there was one friend in my generation. Who was sent to england. To learn in those days that women only learned, piano, ballet, or nursing, or, teaching. When they went to england and it's true. And she was sent to london so that she could look after she could cook for her brother. And, she had such resentment. And anger and i couldn't understand, it at all because that wasn't how i was brought up, but that. That shows why women refused to cook. Because it was bondage. You know if, if i and and so i was one of the few women, but what i'm amazed now is like my daughter's generation, here, they're all now earth mothers. You know they cook they do all these things because, they were not expected, to. And so, i i came from, generation. And i became a journalist, because, of space of, of a place and time i didn't want to work in jurong. It was a new, place it was like a boondocks, in the middle of nowhere. And it was like a, new industrial. And i didn't want to work in the shanton way area because it was so secretary-ish. So i stayed at home and did nothing my father asked me finally isn't it about time you found a job. Because. And we lived in cain hill, because isn't it about time you gave your mother some money. Right. So it's okay. Uncle thanks soon is edited straight signs why don't you ask him. And i never, thought i could write so that's how i asked him and i got a job, now in those days, we were not brought up to think that we are creative. So i never knew i could write because that's a creative, process. We're brought up to believe that we're interpretive. As a singer i'm saying somebody else's so so, i never thought i could write that way and, none of us were brought up to think we're creative. You know we would interpret, other people's music, other people's, you know plays. All other people's things, and that was really, how we were brought up, and so i became a journalist, and discovered. And actually i started and and i became an art writer and i know there are some art historians, here who did, uh who's done who've done their masters. Because, in england, in school i was in england in 61, to 63. Which was when the beatles burst on the scene, and it was i was so unaware, because i was into beethoven, instead. And i only discovered the beatles who my children grew up you know and then, and um. So. And and, i was in england and i was studying there, and you know i came back, in um 1963.. Now what was i going to say a senior moment, for god doesn't matter, i should just go on, and um. You know it's like. I was in school there and then. My my father gave me a choice i started, singing because i had you know my, um i could i had a voice, from young.
And. My mother marched down to the royal academy of music we stayed in wimpole street. And she went to the janitor, i mean the dorm and say okay, i want my daughter to learn a piano, can you find a student that can teach her, and i want her to learn singing can we find a student. And then. Uh she's, learning theory, i'll finally learn theory from the professor, of. Theory, on the fifth floor on the on the ethic. And my singing teacher became a professional, singer, and my piano teacher became the top. Um. Examiner, who came to examine in singapore. So you know she had that daring. Which which i think i i learned from her, that you know you just go and ask like you know the most is people say no right, you know that's the, that's that's the thing, and so i came back and i became a journalist. And, okay i studied art in school as a subject. Which i think is very important. Because not all of us can be artists a lot of people study art as you must draw and paint. You know i study music you must. Actually play something. But i studied art, um. As a subject, and because of that i became the art critic believe it or not. From the age of 11 to 13. There were no masters in art, but i think. In in europe when you did that in england it opened your eyes, because, you know you were studying the masters. And so i became the art critic. And then i became the music critic because. I learned singing. And i learned piano. But to me it was such an. Amazing. Job. Because. It, i was thinking wow music critic two free tickets, in the front don't have to pay 50, each, you know. And then as an art, and, i sort of. It was such an opportunity, without realizing, it because you got windows. To the world. Of people who are creative. And that's how i started, but at the same time i was. A. Writer on social. Issues. A sad, um. Sad, um. Sort of thing of our times now when i said that somebody thought it was tattler, you know. I said no, social, men social, issues. But people in singapore, now think it's tattler, or you know writing on parties. So, it's like social issues on women. On, those subjects, and to me it was such a amazing, opportunity. To be in that time and place. And when i started as an art critic. And, actually. Um. The most important i've always felt as a journalist. Then. No media i mean no, no social media, no internet. That you are the window, to the world, for your reader. And to me, that was my most, important. Um. Task, to be the window to the world, so i, i wasn't a journalist. In the way i would, want to be a career, develop a career, or you know think that way, but, that was my, my my task. It was you know you couldn't deviate to that and what window, are you providing. To the world. Of your reader. That you must be, as honest as okay and this one, you must be as honest as possible. In. Providing, them the window. That they will be able to see. What, that world, is trying to say so the good thing about journalists, is that you actually don't put yourself in. Front. Your support, you, you you take the background. And you have to. Um. Sort of. Put yourself in the back and it was to me so important, that you captured, the other persons. What what what the other person, was trying to say and do. And uh and and what was like happening. And, today i went to look up something. Google is amazing. I love agatha christie's, i love murder mysteries. My taste in books is very shallow. You know i don't like anything deep, but anyway. Um. And she had this. And i i was looking for the title and this was lovely, she was married to a, archaeologist. And i'm sure that colored. The way she wrote. And she went on a dick in syria. And the title of the book, is. Come and tell me how you live. And then. I thought that was the most amazing. Title. Come and tell me how you live. You know and you'll see later, what i mean, and then, um. Yeah. I think i think she'd give me a look to shut up. Okay. Um, the, you said that you know writing is a very, noble, profession, as well, you know, um, we have, in the in the, in this slide, um earlier on you see that. Um. Violet was. Yeah she was called the. Singapore. Answer, to barbara, walters. In the u.s. I think. Some of you may know, barbara walters. Um. Is. Yeah and then um. Yeah. And then, and then you mentioned that you do not know whether to squeal, with the light or squirm with horror. Yeah i wasn't sure, and then also you're given a chance to interview. The president, as well, yeah yeah. Yeah yeah so there are all these um, opportunities, but i think, um. The spirit. You mentioned, as well that it was. It was a, you know windows. Um. You know as a journalist you provided, the window. To many issues. Um, and therefore it's a very noble, profession.
Yeah, Your, window to the world. So being frank was very, important. Um being frank, being you know being able to. Just. To charge with. You know, you have to be quite courageous, as well. Um there were issues. Such as women issues. That you were you know campaigning, for so maybe we can talk a little bit actually actually, it didn't. I wasn't, even. Going with the noble intent. It was nothing about being frank it was nothing about being noble. And um. And i think that's part of. What's wrong, when people go out intending to be noble. Or intending, to have, another, motive. I was just intending. To, come and show me how you live. Come and show me what you are. And then, so. But because of my upbringing. You know i had very liberated, parents. Uh, who actually when i was born in 1949. And they told me this, that they decided, to have only one child whether it's a girl or a boy. And nobody in 1949, decided, that. And they only wanted one child, because they wanted to give this child every opportunity. And, they did not mean money they meant, education. Looking at things and i've been in four kindergartens, and seven schools. And none of which i was expelled, from. Okay. And then. Um. And i was put in the i was i was i mean, i was put always with adults. And i was i never remember my children. My parents calling me a child. You know, i was a person. I do not remember all children do this or children do that. And then, uh you know and, and um, being brought up that way. And my mother. Was actually a secretary, she was a top secretary, in those days, men were secretaries, you know. And, she, um. She had to give up and she had to be a corporate wife because my father was in shell. She had to be, a wonderful, corporate wife like hillary clinton had to be a corporate wife to bill clinton. And, she resented, it her whole life. That she did not have her own profession. And she did not earn her own money. And that was so important to her, and and so i had a very different upbringing. From the rest of my generation, i think. I i know i went on my first plane when i was two years old, i still had pictures at kalani airport my first cruise. When i was two. And and so, these experiences. Sort of uh gave you. Uh. You don't even know that you have these experiences. Right, and then, but i've always been brought up to. Fight for what you believe in my father said even if you don't agree with your mother but if you believe in it's okay. You know so as. So it was never. Uh, it was never a noble thing it was never anything like it was just, natural. That you be frank. You know you tell it as it is. But you. And then, when i did social, issues, as a you know working mother. And giving birth. And then, very even till now. I will. I actually, do. If i'm going to advocate, something i actually believe, in it. Myself. So when when i interviewed, professor, wong hornbun. When i was, on breastfeeding. I really believed he was correct and in those days every woman had bottle fed her. And to the point, where my daughter is here she doesn't, she doesn't know this but when my son, her brother was born five and a half years later when my son was born. And i was writing about breastfeeding, and so i breastfed, both of them. But i took it as a fact but i was not obsessive, like in women now like so obsessive, and then, going you know don't make it a religion. Like you know they will. Pump the brass and do all that i was like very natural, like a village woman like you know i'm saying that, and um.
If I'm going to go out i started you know i would feed them the bottles i would wean them off. And i i brought my son at five months old in a moses, basket to alexander, hospital. To demonstrate, breastfeeding. To women to show how easy it was. But i wasn't the one, to be so um. Caused about it to expose my breasts in public and gwen, feed so, so i, you know i wasn't that way, it was more that it was professor, wong's. Um. Mission that i believed, in. And i thought that i should support his mission. And you know working mothers, it was like, these are, actual experiences. That they went through. So even today when some people tell me about you know social media is also everything is holding that left right and center. That, uh oh people are not happy i said let me find out. I want to go and actually speak to people. That you are talking about. You know, i want to know. And let me go and find out. So um. Yesterday. I mean i had some opinion about the. Conference hall. And yesterday i actually went to visit it to see whether my opinion was correct. So sometimes. If you want to um, really be. Uh. In depth you have to put a lot of work into it, you know, like i i will i will tell, people who are cooking. I said don't tell me there's no tau gay. Unless you've been to 400 supermarkets. Don't tell me there isn't anything. If a man can put somebody on the moon in 1960, something. Anything, is possible. Right now i must show this one so i wrote on women's issues, pathetic. The singapore, women, seen but never heard. Look at the other headlines. You know the filipino, women. The the the malaysian, women were so dynamic, and she's still around raphida, assist. And you know, uh. The the the thai women they were behind the husbands they were the businessmen. And the one they were missing is the indonesian women freedom fighters they actually fought and singapore, women pathetic. And it's true. And it was. Uh it was. The the. The political, norm then now you know, and i think still pathetic, you know let's, go on, so i'm frank. But i think, you cannot be. Cruel. So when i wrote my reviews i was very frank. But you're very frank. To be. Honestly, portraying. What, that person is doing. You're not being frank. To score points for yourself. Which i think happens, a lot, yeah, and this was maybe go back to music because you had. You know, very trained, um years, you know. Um, and and what was your experience, because you spoke about conference, hall earlier. Okay. Uh conference hall, was the most amazing. You know, and and, people don't know you know. And i think sad that people don't know. That you must know. You cannot only know today and you cannot only know like four centuries, ago. 20 30 40 50 years ago you must know and it's not and it's not vintage, it's not old-fashioned. It is, you must know. You know, and so, i was a critic and i went to the this is new york philharmonic. In the national stadium, believe it or not also been meta. We had people like that, and. Uh you know and and i i could hardly, realize, that it must have been amplified, and i didn't realize so i praised. I, just gave one sentence. That, you know, must have been done it was so artfully, done. And, you know you you have to, acknowledge, the work of everybody. And not just the musician. And, this. Uh, interesting, when the when the national stadium was coming down i got a. Phone call from the. Uh us uh the sports people. Will you come, and talk about national stadium coming down it's the most hilarious, because i'm the least. Sport person in the whole wide world. I do not exercise. At all and i'm trying now. And, in 1970s. I found a reason for not exercising. I saw a program on arthritis. And every. Dancer. Associate. Everybody. However. Wonderful, they are when they're young when they're older like that. Okay. Their limbs have gone there that's johnson, so i said okay i found the one beautiful reason why the reason why i'm not exercising. I'm preserving, my joints for my old, age. Okay. So i went there, and they set me there and i talked about this and that i was thinking i'm the least sports person. But that sound engineer. Remembered, what i wrote, so as a writer. You don't even realize the impact you have on somebody else's, life.
He Told them, to interview, me. For the national stadium coming down because of one line i wrote that. The summers have been good. So you know you when you're honest. And um. You you are acknowledging, somebody else's, work, you never realize, the impact it has on them forever. So you you must also, realize that when you're critical, you must also be very careful. The criticism, has to improve them. You know and not to make them feel bad, so so that was how i. Critiqued. You know as as a food critic. As a, music critic, as an art critic as well. And and that was very important. The, the. So back to conference, hall, so, um, okay it was amazing, the the acoustics. Yeah by. The mac. Apparently, i i went yesterday, and i read apparently, it was the first building. That, was really, um acoustics, properly, and done by lim chongqiye. Who. I i came to this talk irene whom my friend brought me because his lime junket, is going to be talking, and i was thinking, wow i'm so amazed. That, the gallery, can unearth, chunky. Who. Is one of the i think impetus, for i mean he created the alpha gallery. And i came to the talk and i said, actually, chonky, is a renaissance. Man. And he was already, still to now he's a, amazing, fine figure of a man. Just to tell you. All the women of my generation, were lasting after him. You know and it's any any and he still looks lustable. He's in his 80s, how old is he, 90s. Right if you see a picture. He's got such energy, and dynamism. He actually, um, but he admired. Other people, he created alpha gallery. I i got to know him because he found out i sang so he, just hijacked, me, and he had clavicle. Harpsichord, in his house. In star point in pasipanjan. Which was a, mecca. Uh sort of, artistic, people went there, he discovered, the balinese, school and you can see it there. And he's an architect, and he, you know he went to um. Create conference hall he and he i think he got obsessed with acoustics, he went to mit he's malaysian, by the way still in penang up the hill. Um and he. Uh i think, did this haul with the best acoustics, and i heard victoria de los angeles singing there. And you know we had the top. Musicians, and the top artists coming to town. I heard, ravi shankar. And another, concert, hall was.
The Shangri-la, ballroom. Because there were not enough there was no esplanade. But, it was, um. Such a dynamic, period. You know i mean i started writing 71. And i think i stopped writing. Full time maybe in the mid 80s. But it was such a, period of, dynamism. Excitement. When you were in, music. In the arts we had amazing. Impresarios. And the word is hardly used. I think a lot of us remember donald moore. He was, one of the british who came and he brought. You know he had a gallery. He brought. Royal belly i think, i saw, margot. Fontaine. And um you know and and, to me i was so fortunate. To be able. To meet these people. And to go wow, i don't know how many music critics do they do that. Because, you're in the presence. Of a great talent. You know, and and how many music critics are critiqued, as a job. Which i think is sad. Because there's nothing. More exciting, than to be in the presence of a great talent. And then to to sort of admire. And i think admiration, is so important. Would you like to show my, my painting of arthur yup with this thing. And you know and i met and i met singapore, artists. And you know there was uh, i. Thomas, yo anthony, poon. And, you are so excited. Because, these are people who actually create, stuff, now this is a wedding gift. I, requested, from my friends, there was a wedding registry, and, and i was so stupid i never collected anybody's, art which i could have been, very. Standing on a fortune, now but. I was just admiring, it you said it didn't occur to me that i could buy it you know. And then so this is a lovely painting and i admired, arthur because. He was a school teacher. Who wrote. Poems. And. Created, art, and it's you know and this painting disappeared, for about 15 years i'm not joking. I couldn't find it. In my flat, and i'm suddenly, moved at the end of last it suddenly turned visible it was hidden somewhere. And that's why, the colors, are so. Intact. Because, it never saw sunlight. You know, and, it's so powerful. But he's this gentle. Gentle person when i interviewed, and, i loved it that he wrote poetry. You know and and i think, in that in those days where you are brought up to admire, people who create. Like you you are just mesmerized. I mean we have a great play right here who says who's, who's this sulaiman. And i'm still in admiration, of his work. You know and and i think a lot of people, who are creative. Even now. Do not know how to admire somebody else's work. So chunky, admired, and you know he was amazing, he started alpha gallery, he was impetus. And. He he started. Multi-millionaires. To collect, art. He he interested, ritual. In art and that's how the. Uob. Started his art collection, that's how you will be. Had a um. Artist of the year, so you don't have to be. A powerful, person. To have an impact. Or a very rich person, you can have the impact on the rich person. You know he started. That. It was so at that time when i wrote about art it was so exciting. The artists, were. Not painting to be collected, and then they were not painting to be hopefully.
Doing Well at auction. They were painting. To express, themselves. And maybe you, you said that it's painting, to, um. Whereas, new new um. New horizons. A new a new uh, beginning. Uh. Belonging, as a nation, as a people. Because most people were immigrants. My great great great grandfather's, grave is 1895. In bucket brown, humongous. Grave now very few people have great great great grandfathers, who are here. You know we are we are sort of city of immigrants. And, it was such, a. Amazing, scene. And i'm so happy that it's, brought to life, but how many artists, today. Know about that time. And it's very sad. Maybe you can um um. You mentioned, that you put together an event, uh. Yeah so you can also influence. People to look at art um, so maybe you can. Speak about okay. Well in, after i stopped writing. And i mean but to me i'm still a journalist. Uh, in 1986. Okay the other thing to be is that when you're brought up in my generation. Is that you're just very daring you know or not daring just anything also can i you know i mean it was a big deal. So, i was asked by this. My friends, in. A company here that. Would i do. That the pr company in hong kong, wanted to do a. Bond dealers conference, in 1986, before the market crashed. And goldman sachs. Wanted to have, like the, best, um. Hold on. Sorry. I wanted to have, a. Uh. Best party of this conference. And you know banks are competitive. Right. So they, they gave a magic, word that they don't mind they wanted in the sultan of johors palace. And they were willing, to donate. Money for his cause. Number one i'm very singaporean. I'm i'm not going to have any money go to your house but i'm come here. Secondly. So i told, i i told government say you cannot go to stockholm with your house palace because, you can't have liquor. So that was the end of the party. Okay. You must always give the exact. Correct, now but you want somebody not to do something you must find the exact correct sentence. That convinces, them no need to have a long argument. You know, you can't have liquor. And then there's going to be this gem, they couldn't care but can't have liquor so goldman sachs cannot have a party with no liquor so i said why don't you come to the national. Museum. So i went to at that time, i had been writing. Uh and and i was very in touch with the you know um. This building, resonates, with me the other side a city hall, where i would interview. Ministers. And you know uh for example. So i went to i think palm permsack.
Mr Lee why cop. So i said okay why do we have this party at the museum, because i had such an admiration, of art, and people who created, that to me the most. Best party in the world, and the most high-class parties in the museum. Look at the metropolitan. Museum, party till today. And so that never had a party in the museum before. And then i said okay mr lee, uh, can we have the museum. And you know the that basically, is very people's association, type if you know what i mean. You know it's very straight, so i said mr leah can we have the national museum. But you must, but first of all mr lee do you want fifty thousand dollars, that's a very important lie right. Because, apparently, and and irene who had written about this party. That, uh, the whole. Acquisition, budget for the whole of singapore was thirty thousand dollars. For the year. 1985.. So, the most important, mr lee do you want fifty thousand dollars or not, for the for for the museum. Uh but you have to give me the national museum for two days. And. Uh. I can get you the donation. So then i went back to goldman sachs and goldman sachs's can he be, five thousand dollars they cannot get i cannot because. I can see, i can see fifty thousand dollars, in headlines, on the front page i cannot see twenty five thousand dollars. And then, uh fifty thousand dollars you can get a minister. 25 cannot, very very. So okay. So you know. You know you hear this malaysian, horse trading going on i was doing that la 1986. Okay, so okay, so i said mr lee can we have it but i need it for two nights. So i said we're not going to give a check it's so it's so low class, we're going to buy the uh so is it okay, we don't have enough. Singapore, masters. So, uh we need so i said okay let's have, which are the three masters. Lyokan. And so it was great fun for me to follow. The the curators, i think conditions. To visit artists. And to you know. Select their works and i think that was very high price for them fifty thousand dollars among three artists. Hopefully. Hopefully pa did not keep half of it but. People's association. Anyway. So i said no no we cannot have a check it's very very, very, very low class you know so we must have the three artworks. Presented. And so the adwords were presented, and then there was a beautiful story. Do we have it in. Sunday times. That. Uh. Not yet maybe before that huh. Just now that. Uh, i showed the three artworks, in front of the national museum. And then, like my client had the. Had the no not this one. No this one not this one not this one another one. I had the at the party. It was like the best party ever hundred thousand dollars in 1986. Is like maybe 10 million dollars now right. And before the crash. And then, so, uh you know we, we when. I had a baller you know when it went to uh like, sushi. It was the old drama center the food came there, ten thousand orchids. You know just be very big, but all that wasn't worth it if there was no art, and, exactly, because of the art, the actual, party, itself. In the. In their own banking magazine, was the only one that got a mention. So, you know it's like so that was fun, i think it's really, like what we said you know um, i mean i quote, prof chun hing chi as well, she said that, you know, um really it's for us to set the horizon. Um during this pyramid, you know we had a conversation, this morning that. Really. No one was there to set the.
Uh Example, because a lot of things were, unprecedented. During that time as well. So it was really that you set a certain benchmark, and i think, you know it was kind of influencing. As well. How. You know a certain, lifestyle could be achieved. And i think you have to be about a bit outrageous, you know. And have fun that's part of it and and i think, uh, so, the the, artists, then. You know had had fun creating. Um. I don't know who bought their works but there was the nan young school and there was this you know, the singapore, school and a lot of contemporary, art, and i think, when you see this exhibition, there's, singapore. Philippines, and malaysia. And you know. I have a, staff member here i brought her to manila. And this is telling, of our time, of, people now. Social media is so immediate but you don't know anything else. And i was in manila as we passed the cultures i saw my god the culture center philippines, is still here, it's still such a relevant, building. She never heard about it in her life. Which is very sad. So today she went to the exhibition, she was oh my goodness philippines, was so great you know but, so unless you know this history, about yourself. You have no idea. And and i think, uh, you know, you you don't create an impact. Unless you know what was before, you. You know and and um. I saw kobe bryant's. Um. Tribute, beginning of this, this week. Now. And. We have like, musicians, artists. But who knows what who painted 30 40 years ago i'm not sure how many, are they studying it maybe they are. But. Um. You we had alicia, keys. Who, and, um. What's the other one. Uh christian. And they are like pop pop pop like cutting edge right, but alicia, keys, played beethoven's, moonlight sonata. Which means she admired, his work. Before. And i think christina, aguilera, sang ave maria which i sang. And with such, depth of feeling. You know. That you must know, you must back to the front you must understand, your past. To create, and to understand the future. Otherwise you cannot. And you have no admiration. And and you know it's like. How many, of our, i said if you if you go to uh, let's say america, why is it still creating. Huge, amazing, pop music. Or britain. Because everybody, still references, the beatles. Maybe. Violet you said that you were given a choice. To stay in britain. Or to come home your father gave you a choice. And yeah, it was 1963. And. I was studying music so my music, teacher said, to my parents can she stay here, because she's got potential, like you know, and then or. Uh. You know rather than going home, now in those days when you went it was by boat, and every when you go by you don't go back for holiday every three months which people do now. And you know and. Although we flew, so my father, told me okay, you can stay here. And we will you know support you. But just remember you'll never have a. Country. You know or you can come home. So i said i'm going home. But he gave me that choice. But he gave he explained to me what that choice meant not that you're going to have a great career. That's not the point the point is what does it actually mean. And in those days before internationalism. Which happened, only recently. People didn't have because he saw so many of his friends who went to make their homes in england. Didn't belong. And you cannot go home. They didn't belong either way, so i said okay i'm coming coming home, and i was so happy i made the choice to come home. And and um, maybe part of, the. Part of. People, like me. Or like, a lot of us who feel, so much. For a country and a culture. Is that we've been somewhere else. And we've been somewhere else long enough that you miss it i mean i remember that i said, uh you know i missed the food, i could practice smell, the wonton, me, and you know and and i missed that their whole life in singapore. And that. When i came home. I did this video, last year when i got this tribute thingy. Uh that. When, when i tasted the food it was like a reunion with a lover. You know, because, and so, it's like. Wow you're so aware, and i got aware, of being. Uh national. Because when i was in england, we were still. At the end of colonial, time, i would know the maple dance you know the english dance and i would know, what's worse and i would know how to sing, uh you know. London real. Then they ask people about your songs, and i look at them blank. And then. The sense of identity, comes in. Because nobody is going to respect you for knowing them but not.
Yourself. What about your songs well i said huh, you know. I didn't know anything that maybe. Not enough but you know a lot so so that may be, fostered, in us in those days because before internationalism. A sense of identity. Of self of wanting to be, where you're from. Which may be and so when you see these artists, on the walls, right, uh the three countries. It's very much of. Themselves. And in that time, the filipino, art is very arresting, is very revolutionary. Because they were going through this period. 69, to 89.. Um, you can, just at the other room right you should have a look. Where there's this um. Sandpit, on the floor, which you know they recreate, an artist's. Work where you're supposed to step and you know footprints. Make a difference. And i think nine artists recreated. A scene right, of revolution. Of torture. Of pain. And i saw a lovely one, of farmers, i think. Thailand. Where you really understand that the poor farmer is actually at the bottom of the food chain. So when i buy something so cheap i said what does the farmer actually get to get, so i will tell myself, i cannot waste this vegetable, you know because somebody, has. Blood sweat and tears for this vegetable. You know you just realize that so i i was lovely there's a painting here about the farmer as a, like a skeleton, or something, right. And then, okay, then artists, and food maybe. And and so. I think for us we should realize, that, art or anything is not on its own it's not that you see this person's, work on the wall, and that's enough. In your mind you have to say, come tell me how you live. So gobeinkwan. Is one of the artists i admire. So and you must have conversations, with people. And listen to what they say. And then i found out he's a foodie. So okay and they say okay i built these hawkers and so i said okay, then because you know and in those days mrt, was a novel to novelty in 1986.. This is a magazine that started on my own called the food paper. Because i wanted to. Uh you know. I felt i had a lot to say still in food. Then, um, so i said okay bitcoin say oh this mrt station that's super quick you don't get excited i it because why don't we just, uh, you show us where to eat in mrt, stops. And then i i was with karen hoisington. Uh a great, artist in her own right and whose father is vincent. Who i interviewed. Who was another. Of our artists. And i said okay we go on wheels and you go on tracks. And so i did an interview you know, and bangko and showed us where to eat, so that's how he he lives, because an artist is not just. The person. What the work you see on the wall or you know like, on the floor installation. What is this artist. And i think the one when i did the asean one was interesting, can we just see that one. You know. These were i i persuaded, the tourism boards of. Asean countries, and i am very, very, i'm very. Uh. Good girl i believe in asean, and. So. I said, can you send me, to your so you have to persuade people like you know send me to your countries. So i went to four you know as singapore. Malaysia. Thailand, indonesia. Philippines. And you get me. Two homes. I want only artists, architects. And collectors, i'm not interested in other people. So. On the left. And i and, you can see it's painting on a wall, it's jose hoya's, home. And. It's so exciting to see an artist. In his own, home. You know how does he interpret, his life. And i posed him. Uh on it with the easel. As well he's looking at a self-portrait, of himself. And i think when i showed the the, museum this they were so amazed because they only have his painting on the wall. And then i wrote about. To him. The arrangement, of leaves. In his home. Was as important, as the art he painted. So this is interpreting, that person, i'm trying to find out how he lives right, then, there was uh this indonesian. Interior, designer. Who. Very indonesian, looking right, and then, uh, but the house is by luxem. Who's one of the top architects, in those days. And. On the on the, on the left is this amazing. Uh thai. Artist, called, duchenne. Uh, and. I you know these people i encountered them once and that's it right, but apparently he's very you know and one of our artists here. Was inspired, by him, and and he's. Very into uh to me savagery. Because, he did wonderful, pointless, and his. His decor. Reflected, that.
You Know, that his home. Was um. That all these skulls are none of them human okay, but. Skulls. And then, he was. In the farm. But. Not savage but so um, in touch with the primal part of life, but there was yet a gentleness, about him. So you see how he lives. So seeing it seeing the art is not enough i think. I heard your voice. You know how we met was, through the trunkit's, talk, before the exhibition, opened, and what happened was i heard your voice and you spoke to say that, um. Trunkett. Is a renaissance, man. You know um. Polymath, he was known. Yeah so i think. This. But i think, being a, a polymath, of thoughts. Um. Going, from. You would say, career, or professions. From, one to another. It's almost. Quite natural, and fluid, um during this period of time and as i think, you encompass, that. That is not so much of a, set. Profession. Or job that you apply for, i think it was just, it happened to be and it's, it's almost seamless, and very fluid, and i think it captured. That that moment, as well, um. They they we call this ex, we call the the title of the session, another, initial, impetus. Um it was after, actually we quoted it from. Um. Arthur yap's. Writing. Another, yet another gallery under the four walls another 50 pictures in other initial impetus we found that quite inspiring. Because a lot of things seem to have started. You know and you set your own horizon, in that way, yeah so i i, i, i think that, really is an, embodiment. Of what you are. I think it's the important one of my time in a place but one final thing. I think i gave a quote. That there is no future without respect, for the past. There are two things that chonkyat, said. You know he built conference hall it was such an iconic. Groundbreaking. Building. He built the msa, building, and dbs. And the uob. And. Then i'm wondering, how come, after this it always must be award-winning, foreign. Architects. That capture the headlines. Now. Then trunkett, said that he had commissioned. Some work for the, top of the podium, garden in the dbs, building. And. Sculptures, work and don't know what happened they did it and it disappeared, okay. Then, um. Conference, which i went yesterday, it was such a dynamic. Interior. And they made it into a shishy, place. Like pretty with funny, rounded flower arrangement, which is so. So like, no idea you know i'm saying everybody's doing it. Now. And what struck me. Is that you do not blame, the owner, the building owner. You do not blame the contractor. You do not blame. The executive, in church because they don't know anything, i blame the architects. For allowing, that. If those artworks, have disappeared. What, what. It was, this architect, who did not respect. Somebody else's art. I hope i don't know who should architects, i said i'm appalled. Not at the contractor. I'm not appalled at the dbs, i'm not, i'm a architect who did not fight for the work of another architect. I'm appalled, at what happened to conference, hall, with those ming kwang, it was like the ming kwang was you know the mats on the floor. That dominated, the walls, i'm. Appalled. Unless, our creative, people. Learn to respect, the work of another creative, person. Nobody's going to respect you. And maybe this is an important message. To end the day thank you so much. I'd like to, um. Take this opportunity. To maybe open up two questions from the floor. Or someone, your questions don't have to be in the formal questions you can give a. Comment, or reflection. Over. This period as well any anyone. Irene. Fantastic, journalist. I think i think she's just. Become, my. Marketing. Agent. But but. All she does is generally, feed me now what i found very interesting, was. This was like a journey into my past. As a journalist, uh, violet was first.
There Were very few people. At that time, very few women. Who were doing. Uh in in. What has now become, singapore, press holdings. At the time it was to us, it was the straits times it was various other papers. But there was, such. What violet did was, very important, because. There were very, very few, women. Who were university. Graduates. And therefore. Sort of sikhit attas, in a way. Who did this kind of reporting. And, i remember, that when i joined, uh, when i entered, the journalism. Many years later. This was something that you know i went and looked, at all the stuff before, i had been a great reader. Um. I. I think i got to meet violet in, 1972. When she was singing at a concert. And. I just thought wow you know this is amazing, because. I'm looking, this, this hour that we have spent here, i'm looking at all this stuff on my past and thinking. We did all that. Wow. In in that time. And violence, absolutely, right, about. People, not knowing, their past. Because one of the few. The most important, things. Uh, when we started, out as journalists, back then. I don't know what they do with artists and all. I've been a journalist too long. And. Was that they gave us the editors, will just say, you're going to go and do this, and then they'll send you to the library. To look up what had happened, before. So, when violet talks about, respect. For the past. That is also, part of it you look at and say okay right, let me see what has gone before, i'm not going to be, a freshly, boiled egg and arrive there and say, oh, this is brand new. It has come, from somewhere, there's been a mother a father an uncle a godfather. Um. Like her i also. Knew chongquet. And, this was one of those things that. Yeah, i don't think i lusted, after him no violet. But, you're one of a few. But what i did was i greatly, admired. Uh, this was a very different, sort. Of man, and, uh. Anyway, he still he still is. Somebody who was very articulate. And he could sit, sit him down and he would talk about, anything. Today. I don't know very many people of that sort, but, exactly, it is because. He paid attention. To the past not only of his own past, his own family. But other people's, past. Other artists, past. And that, is something, that pays off because. You, take it in, you kind of absorb. All this stuff. And then eventually. It surfaces. In, the person that you are. Thank. You. You know. That's more a comment than anything, um. The. The title being suddenly turned visible. It's such a joy actually to hear your journey. Um. Because i think you've brought. What you've shared with us is your. How you've brought visibility. Through to expression. Through. Your voice. And then through. Your writing. Through your food. And through so many things but, not only have you done that. Yourself, but just how many people you've brought along with you. So it's been really nice to see, um this initial impedance. That you've brought in your own career and, life. And to see it turn visible, here and and to bring visibility, to so many others so it's just more of a thank you. Um, thank you for making it a very crowded room tonight, uh today. We're very happy, the, um we have one guest who's missing because you know he, chickley, as, violet. He would come only if there's quick ways. So on this question i want to ask violet is there any food. Okay i have i i maybe i should answer, long time ago i'm the first person, to have ever sung. At the, esplanade. Pat chan who is here our olympian. Our golden girl. Top fashion photographer. Our director, other renaissance. Person. Uh i said okay let's i was asked to sing for the performing arts library in the esplanade. And i said okay, pat can you come and sing with me, and then i'll have our friend andrea play the, piano. And uncle alex episode, and play the guitar. Okay. So, pat being a competitive, person like kobe bryant. You know when you've been an olympic swimmer you'll never forget that, so if i like shall we rehearse i said no need to rehearse like nobody's gonna come we just, go there and sing. And so she was asking me for, weeks, shall we i said no need. So one week before the the. Opening, i opened the newspaper. And, in full splendor, was this space we were singing i said oh my god we better rehearse. So i call her, i said but the reals like now, i'm doing scales. Then i started phoning friends i said i'm going to be singing. At the first performance, ever. At the esplanade, will you come, and what's the answer.
What Are you going to. Cook. Every person, so today. And when i was told that there was such an overwhelming, response, i thought maybe you expected, some food. Which we are not doing but all of you. All of you we are giving you a gift of a, 20, voucher, to a three of our restaurants. Uh if you spend a hundred dollars that means it's a twenty percent discount. And uh, chemin will pass it out, and we will, like you to be able to sign for it so that, it hasn't disappeared, into the midst of time, so that's the food you're getting and not the queen, thank you so much. Thank you very. Much.