The Singapore government’s relationship with the local arts scene has had plenty of ups and downs – but a shining star among the PAP’s positive contributions is surely the establishment of the Singapore Tyler Print Institute in 2002, which is now internationally known for its innovative residency programme and world-class printmaking facilities.
In its ten years of operation, STPI has emerged as a major brand in itself, attracting some of the world’s best artists to the studio while also spotlighting many local and regional artists, and fulfilling its role as an active workshop to foster innovation and create unique artworks. Following the philosophies of their namesake, the influential master printer Ken Tyler, STPI has pushed collaborative art practices and innovations in printmaking, encouraging artists to try making their art through a variety of print techniques – many of which are often new to the artists themselves.
To help set up the facility, Singapore acquired printmaking machines directly from Tyler’s New York studio, which were shipped in and specially installed at STPI – a continuation of the city’s plan for reinvigorating the local contemporary arts scene, which began with the formation of the National Arts Council in 1991. Millions of dollars were invested into the arts, starting with institutions like the Singapore Art Museum (first opened as the Fine Arts Museum in 1996) and the creation of a national collection; STPI was later launched as an active, work-producing counterpoint to the museums.
Now, in celebration of its anniversary, STPI is showing ‘Ten Years and Counting’, which not only features the best works created during STPI’s residencies throughout the years, but also a heavy-hitting selection of rarely seen prints that were acquired by the city in 2002, and are now part of the SAM collection. These include iconic ’60s-era print works made in Tyler’s studio by American masters such as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Joan Mitchell and more. Here, STPI’s head of marketing Nor Jumaiyah picks out some of the highlights of the residency programme.
Donald Sultan, USA
At the Institute: 2002
‘Sultan was STPI’s first resident artist, and worked directly with STPI founder Ken Tyler in March 2002. Together, they sought to translate Sultan’s iconic tar paintings into two-dimensional prints, using a technique with black flocking – a synthetic, velvety fibre – to convey the vivid contrasts of Sultan’s “Flowers and Oranges on Branches” paintings.’
Lin Tianmiao, China
At the Institute: 2007
‘Here, the Chinese installation artist subverted conventional printmaking by embedding unconventional materials – thread, needles and Styrofoam – into paper to tell the story of urbanising China in her “Focus” series, produced at STPI in 2008. Several editions of Lin’s STPI works have been acquired by the Modern of Museum Art (MoMA) in New York and the Singapore Art Museum.’
Thukral & Tagra, India
At the Institute: 2009
‘The series of works created here by the New Delhi-based duo – such as “Home Delivery (Six Days a Week)?” (2010) – incorporates the lenticular [lens-shaped] printing that was popularised in the ’60s, and commonly seen in the prizes from Cracker Jack snack boxes that showed flip and animation effects such as winking eyes. Its tongue-incheek commentary on overblown contemporary lifestyles re-creates Eastern and Western pop motifs with lenticular prints that animate with digital moving parts.’
At the Institute: 2009
‘Tabaimo is internationally renowned for her video work, and during her residency at STPI in 2009 she really pushed the boundaries of STPI’s print- and paper-making capabilities to build up layers upon layers of stories, embodied in bizarre, textured paper evocative of bruised skin, insect bodies and lacerated wallpaper. The works Tabaimo created at STPI are in the permanant collections of MoMA in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.’
Do Ho Suh, Korea/USA/UK
At the Institute: 2010
‘A prolific Korean artist, Suh’s intensive collaboration with STPI’s workshop team channelled the re-creation of his architectural and figurative forms into sublime and beautiful compositions using handmade printing and paper. These ephemeral thread drawings first started as stitched sketches, which were then carefully extracted from fabric and meticulously set into freshly handmade paper.’
‘Ten Years and Counting’ is at STPI until 30 Jun.