16—19 January, 2020
Gillman Barracks, Singapore

Exhibition: Imaging a Nation: Loke Hong Seng and Post-Independence Singapore

15 December 201928 January 2020

15 December 2019 - 28 January 2020

Red Eye Smokehouse
1 Cavan Rd, Singapore 209842

“ … photography … demands a vigorous keeping up with the times, rapid adaptation to fast-changing technology, and an innovative approach to new equipment and usage. It was at the process of this turning point that I witnessed the growth of Singapore and the gradual  settlement of its people.”

So observes Loke Hong Seng, one of the pioneers of street photography in Singapore. His black-and-white images, which depict the industrialization and urban transformation that we now coyly refer to as the nation-building era, seem, from the vantage point of the twenty-first century, irremediably steeped in nostalgic sentiment. The intersection of history and technology, however, that underpins Loke’s practice perhaps also suggests broader tensions at work in his otherwise wistful tableaus of everyday life in the 1960s and 70s: kampung and waterborne communities giving way to the abstract contours of the soon-to-be ubiquitous HDB housing estate; fast disappearing forms of labour, such as that of bumboat coolies and samsui women, viewed against the backdrop of the evolving urban fabric of the island; pastoral and agricultural landscapes juxtaposed against scenes of extensive land clearance and construction. What the oneiric mood of these social portraits belie, then, is the contested terrain of a young nation-state in flux, of lifeworlds caught in the interstices between one historical zeitgeist and the next.

Loke Hong Seng (b. 1943, Singapore) is renowned for his images of Singapore from the 1960s to 1980s. He began taking photographs after joining the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation as an announcer in 1965. In 1973, he received the Golden Award from the Singapore Photo Art Photography Society and, in 1974, was the recipient of the One World for All UNESCO Award. He also exhibited at the Unesco Headquarters in Paris in 1975. Selected exhibitions include group presentations at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (2015) and solo exhibitions at Yeo Workshop (2015) and at the UOB Art Gallery (2015).

This project is part of Twenty Twenty by the Singapore Arts Club held at 2 Cavan Road, Singapore 209843  to activate the Jalan Besar neighbourhood with the arts.