Singapore arts center Substation will permanently close its doors this month. It was operating for 30 years as one of the most experimental and influential venues in the city-state.
The National Arts Council owns a site at 45 Armenian Street. In March, they announced they would renovate the theater and gallery space within two years before leasing it to several art groups. The site’s board declined to be a co-tenant of the site and announced its final closure with deep sadness.
In a statement, the board concluded that a loss of autonomy and a projected loss of rental income would ultimately prevent the substation from fulfilling its mission of supporting and providing a safe space for artists to innovate and experiment.
Dropping revenues during Singapore’s Covid-19 defenses and the difficulty of raising funds in a shattered economy also hit the experimental platform founded in 1990 by the late art worker, playwright, and theater director Kuo Pao Kun.
The substation has shaped a generation of the city-state’s leading cultural figures, supporting artists including Amanda Heng, Lee Wen, and Alvin Tan, as well as theater directors Go Boon Tek and Kok Heng Leung.
The closure of The Substation marked the second major loss to the Singaporean art scene this year, following the move in March of the Nanyang Technological University Center for Contemporary Art (NTU CCA) from its premises to Gillman Barracks, founded in 2013. NTU CCA Founding Director Ute Meta Bauer and some staff continue to work on research, curatorial programs, and Singapore artist residencies.
Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts center
The Singapore arts center is known for its innovative and experimental programming. The substation was founded by the late Kuo Pao Kun in 1990. Over the years, The Substation has worked with some of Singapore’s most critically acclaimed artists, writers, and intellectuals, including:
- Alvin Tan;
- Go Boon Tek
- Amanda Heng;
- Lee Wen;
- Kok Heng Leung.
Each year, The Substation presented an overarching artistic theme that informed exhibitions, programs, and initiatives for the year. Each of these programs explored in more detail the issues related to the artistic theme and the social problems associated with these issues.
Through these annual art themes, The Substation expanded, facilitated, and supported the cultural debate in Singapore, engaging the general public and revealing to them the full power of contemporary art in shaping public discourse.
The substation is the recipient of a major grant from the National Council of the Arts for the period from April 2020 to March 2023.
The Singapore arts center closed with a solo show of urban landscapes by Singaporean self-taught painter Yeo Tze Yang titled Evening, Once More (on12 July), organized by an independent non-profit, SEED The Art Space.
“Evening, Once More” at the Substation Gallery from 25 June – 12 July 2021
The self-taught, accomplished, and ambitious Singapore artist, Yeo is known for his oil paintings depicting scenes of everyday life in an urban setting. His work gives an almost cinematic perspective on quiet details of everyday life, those objects and people in our area that can easily slip away from our attention.
In this one-man show, Yeo presented his paintings with LED signs that not only accentuated the cityscapes of his paintings but also created an interesting contrast between the off-the-shelf industrial materials and his hand-painted canvases.
“Evening, Once More” depicted those quiet moments of transition between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm, when dusk falls on Singapore – the hours when most people return home from work. For the Singapore artist Yeo, “evening” means a time when people can relax, unwind, socialize, reflect and reflect at the end of a long day. “Once again” means hope and longing for another night of presence and memory, although time passes unconditionally and simultaneously turns into the present, and the future follows.
In 2016, Yeo Tze Yang was honored with the UOB Silver Painting of the Year award. Despite his young age, he has exhibited extensively in Singapore, participating in several group exhibitions and solo exhibitions at local galleries and art fairs.
His works are in private collections in Singapore, Australia, Great Britain, and the USA. The Singapore artist received his BS in Southeast Asian Studies from the National University of Singapore. Deciding to become an artist after graduation, the Singapore artist Yeo recognizes the guidance of several artist mentors, including his father, who helped shape his artistic practice.