By Richard Horstman
Images courtesy of STPI
During Singapore Art Week earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI). Located in the Arts and Heritage district of Singapore, the STPI is a state-of-the-art printmaking workshop, paper mill and contemporary art gallery, located in a restored 1921 warehouse, perched riverside in the dining enclave of Robertson Quay.
Passing through doors labelled Staff Only, I was escorted along a corridor into an elevator. My stomach dropped as the elevator suddenly began its descent and a sense of mystery overcame me as I plunged into the inner sanctums of the STPI. The next 30 minutes were some of the most memorable of that five-day sojourn to Singapore.
Bubbling with anticipation, I marched into the massive STPI print workshop and my sensory perception kicked into overdrive as I entered another world. This is a world foreign to the intimacy of the gallery, where mechanical, technical and creative precision reigns supreme. At a glance, the workshop was clinical, yet the semi industrial landscape conjured up thoughts of infinite, creative possibilities. I was already familiar with the ambience within an artist’s studio, so while my curiosity and excitement levels were high, inside the workshop I was within a realm completely alien to me.
“The STPI is a non-profit institution that has evolved into a cutting-edge experimental art retreat committed to the pursuit of technical and innovative printmaking excellence,” says Emi Eu, who first joined STPI in 2001 and has been at the helm as Director since 2009.
Lecturer of Art History and Appreciation at the Singapore Management University and a member of the Joint Committee for Art Basel, the world’s leading art fair, Eu and the STPI board of directors are some of the most respected art and cultural administrative figures in Singapore. Collectively their efforts have been responsible for STPI’s global journey of development while establishing it as a revolutionary force in the Asian region.
STPI’s exposure to the global audience via its participation in strategically selected international art fairs connects it with artists, curators, collectors and museum directors from Europe, Asia, Singapore and South East Asia. While both the gallery and the workshop have gained international stature here, the conventions of print media are being reimagined and aligned with the future.
“I first visited STPI in 2002 and was really excited and dreamed that one day I would be invited to work there,” says Indonesian international artist Entang Wiharso. “Just being there sparked an explosion of creative ideas.”
“The Visiting Artist Program (VAP) lies at the heart of STPI’s programmes and consists of an artist residency, which is usually carried out in two phases and culminating in an exhibition,” says Eu.“As he is one of S.E Asia’s foremost artists, it was an obvious choice to invite Entang to our artist in residency programme.” Wiharso lives and works in Rhode Island ,USA and Yogyakarta, Central Java, and his residency involved three sessions, totalling collectively two months. The results are to be showcased in ‘Never Say No’ from 21 April – 30 May in the STPI gallery.
While Wiharso is known for political, socio-economic, cultural and emotionally-laced themes, ‘Never Say No’ is an exploration into a new and dynamic environment that features 25 mixed media works in yarn, silkscreen on mirror and plexiglass, lithography, laser cut metal, caste paper, digital print and pencil. “During the course of the programme, artists are invited to give public talks, providing them an interactive platform to share their experiences and pass on some expertise and inspiration,” Eu says.
“In the beginning of the residency you don’t know what the outcome will be, and then all the aspects come together and integrate harmoniously – concept, technique and aesthetics. During the residency I was involved in a very different technical process that brought me back to my roots in drawing and painting,” Wiharso says.
“The STPI’s history, its lineage of excellent international residency artists, the state-of-the-art printing workshop, along with the professional team, was at times intimidating for me. I felt pressure, and I wanted to create something significant and meaningful,” says Wiharso, adding, “I like to get out of my comfort zone as an artist, to have different experiences and to challenge myself.”
“Through STPI’s extensive range of education and public programmes, we offer an exclusive array of carefully curated programs to a wide audience,” Eu says. “We seek to engage while broadening our visitors understanding and experience of contemporary art practice by hosting guest workshops, guided tours, print and paper making workshops, artists talks, annual open house and school programmes.”
“I loved the excitement of working at STPI. I was experimenting with a new found and playful freedom, in a new and dynamic venue and with an equally exciting new team. I enjoyed feeling that I had no limits and I was driven to create new meanings to my works,” Wiharso recalls. “My energy level was so high that I was sleeping only a few hours a night then waking early each morning and rushing into the workshop to continue my work.”
Entang Wiharso – “Never Say No” 21 April – 30 May 2015
STPI open to the public
Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm
Saturdays: 9am – 6pm, Complimentary guided tours at 2.30pm
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
Admission is free.
Located within walking distance to Suntec City mall and convention