The Present of Goodman Arts Centre
Goodman Arts Centre’s Open House is happening this weekend! This hidden gem nestled at the quaint Mountbatten district instantly captured our hearts when we first encountered it. The amount of energy and activity here is astounding - and past events such as Future of Imagination, Lit Up Festival (2011) and Comics Xchange (2011) have brought together both global and local artists in creative pursue here.
We have thus far only introduced hints of Goodman Arts Centre on City Nomads, including Bani Hykal of The Observatory and the Italian fine cuisine offered at the Michelin-starred La Barca Ristorante & Wine Bar. We got really interested in the aspects of art making and conceptualization usually kept behind the scenes, and ventured into some of the artists’ studios for a better insight.
Goodman Arts Centre houses 44 artists and arts groups across multiple disciplines, 2 creative businesses, a ceramic studio, and offers facilities such as a Black Box, an amphitheatre, and even dance studios. It has indeed come a long way since its days as the school campus of Tun Sri Lanang Secondary School, first built in 1962. Many of you may remember it as the previous compound for LASALLE College of the Arts and as the interim School of the Arts (SOTA).
The old-school charm of this place has thankfully retained throughout the decades of changes. Main buildings and icons still remain recognizable from their days in LASELLE.
“We are dealing with some serious matters” by dmr (ditchmyroutine)
Ex-students may remember the statue by Brother Joseph McNally standing tall at the open amphitheatre, gazing sternly to anyone crossing over the large space. He is still here, his gaze as steady, now with tall plants and sharp star-like leaves accompanying him faithfully as he towers above the buildings.
John Baptist De La Selle (1995) by Brother Joseph McNally
Block B now situates most of the visual artists’ studios in addition to facilities such as a gallery space and props-making room. The biggest and tallest building in Goodman Art Centre is built in a gentle curve, allowing one to fully take five floors of pastel-colored doors stacked in neat rows.
It may initially be difficult to imagine art studios behind these doors. A walk down the corridors, however, reveals characteristics of artists that spill out of their studios. Past exhibition posters adorn some doors while towering plants threaten to drown others out of sight – and one door is especially eye-catching with a succinctly worded welcome.
Wong Lip Chin’s studio door
Visiting each studio gives us a feeling similar to unwrapping Christmas presents. Every door opens up to reveal new worlds where artists create, develop, exhibit, store, and even sleep. Each studio also offers insight into artists’ characters and working styles.
Justin Lee, a visual artist whose terra-cotta warriors and various artworks you may have seen in our national museums and the Esplanade, welcomes visitors with a diverse collection of wooden chairs and a water dispenser sitting beside a coin-operated horse ride machine.
Justin Lee’s studio
On asked about his thoughts on the space, Lee shares, “Goodman Arts Centre contains more sentimental than commercial value as a space. All kinds of creative people are under one roof here, ranging from fine art and painters to comic artists, theatre practitioners and sculptors, and there can be collaboration and learning.
Art to me is about sharing, both within artists and the community, and Goodman Arts Centre offers the opportunity to do that, to communicate, which helps to improve the creative standard here in Singapore.”
Wong Lip Chin, a contemporary artist based both in Singapore and New York, similarly enjoys the unique atmosphere of the place.
Wong Lip Chin
"Goodman Arts Centre is very much a laid back environment, relaxed and nothing urban. The architecture has a sense of nostalgia, partially because of its historical context. The beauty about it is although the facet seems monotonous, each studio is like a cabinet of wonder."
Ryf Zaini, a visual artist whose light installations have been most recently featured in i Light Marina Bay (2012) and the ongoing Night Lights festival, returned to the same studio where he used to do work as a LASALLE student.
“The studio is my own personal retreat. It’s a place to contemplate, experiment and create works as an integral part of an artist’s development. It’s an especially exceptional experience for me because I managed to work in the exact same studio I was studying in. Nostalgia undoubtedly brings about another level of productivity and energy within the space.”
A peep into Ryf’s studio
“We used to sneak into class late at night to finish up on assignments. Doors would be closed and we had to remain stealthy because the guards would be making their rounds and they would lock all the doors. But now I don’t have to sneak around to stay late…because the key is with me!”
It becomes difficult to imagine these studios once being dull classrooms ruled by square tables and chairs on grey concrete. One of the tenants, Kamal’s Artshop, brings us back to schooling days with the use of said tables and chairs to display and create their vibrant batik artworks.
Indeed, seeing all the different studios makes it difficult to imagine them once being dull classrooms ruled by square tables and chairs on grey concrete. However, Kamal’s Artshop keeps this old-school nostalgia with their use of the same furniture (including metal filing cabinets of schools) to display and create vibrant batik artworks.
The opportunity to experience the personalities and quirkiness concealed behind the doors certainly left us marvelling at the wonder brewing in the other 40-odd studios. With time, perhaps we will be lucky enough to meet more of the many creators.
Inside one of the Project Studios
Our experience in exploring Goodman Arts Centre reminds us of meanders around artist villages and lanes in other parts of the world. This arts space is especially precious at a time when places like Old School and TAPAC have closed down, and will remain permanently on our radar as it continues to develop and evolve.
This weekend is your chance to embark on your own adventure at Goodman Arts Centre. The second year of their Open House on September 1 and 2 offers more than 150 programmes by about 200 artists and arts groups in two days – and admission is free for all to enjoy. We strongly encourage you City Nomaders to come down on both days for the full experience of this celebration!
More information on the various programmes can be found online here.
Pictures of Wong Lip Chin, Ryf Zaini at work and of Ryf Zaini’s studio are provided by the artists. All other images by the writer.
Written by TweedlingdumPosted in: Theatre Culture Art
Call 6342 5790 for reservations
90 Goodman Rd, Singapore 439053.
Opening hours Sunday - Saturday 10am-10pm
For more information see their website at http://www.goodmanartscentre.sg/.