Spirituality in Modern Art: The Case of Malay/ Muslim Artists in Singapore

Syed Muhammad Hafiz

National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

For a city-state proud of its multi-cultural society, it is a curious fact that one rarely encounters scholarship on Islamic art, or exhibitions on the same topic in Singapore’s art world. Besides the visibility of public mosques and the presence of the Islamic Art permanent gallery in the ethnographic Asian Civilizations Museum, there is little to suggest that there were Singaporean artists who engaged with Islamic art at all. Perhaps when compared to neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia – with their significant Muslim populations – it might seem inevitable to make such an assumption; however, this paper aims to present a few examples of Malay/ Muslim artists who have managed to articulate their Muslim identity or explored notions of spirituality in their works, despite the circumstances.  While much discourse on the visual arts in Singapore have revolved around institutional settings or the mainstream English media, there were other initiatives and collective efforts that fell outside these conventions. Hence, this presentation aims to expand the scholarship on Singapore’s art history by contextualising the artists’ practices against the burgeoning state support of the arts in the 1980s-90s period. In addition, their case studies might also provide compelling aesthetic strategies when compared to their regional neighbours.

Biography: To come


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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