Dream up art in online kids' fest

Local ink artist Yeo Shih Yun found herself spending nearly half a day in March painting 200 brushstrokes on a sheet of paper.

Standing on a ladder, she bent over a tray to make these marks with precision as a camera crew filmed the process.

Her painstaking work has leapt from paper to screen, as a part of an online game in which children can learn about ink painting.

In the game, participants can select a type of brush and click on the screen to make Yeo’s strokes unfurl. They can choose from four canvas backgrounds created by her.

My INK-credible Adventure is part of a range of activities in the online children’s festival #SmallBigDreamersAtHome by the National Gallery Singapore.

The festival, which started yesterday and runs until March 28 next year, is targeted at children aged six to 12. It is the second edition of the gallery’s biennial Small Big Dreamers festival, which first took place in 2018.

Yeo, 43, hopes the game will help make abstract art more accessible to children. It is also a preview of what visitors can expect later this year at an interactive installation she worked on for the gallery’s Keppel Centre for Art Education.

She says: “It is easy to describe to kids things that are realistic or representational, like an apple or a waterfall, but abstract art is profound.”

Yeo, who founded independent arts space Instinc, adds: “I hope the kids will get a sense that ink is fun, magical and beautiful, and there is a lot of energy in abstract art.”

Activities in the #SmallBigDreamersAtHome festival are inspired by Yeo’s work and that of four other artists – Singaporean artist Georgette Chen’s Tropical Fruits (1969), local artist Choy Weng Yang’s Horizontals I (1977), Malaysian artist Ruzaika Omar Basaree’s Dungun Siri II (1978) and Indonesian painter Sudjana Kerton’s Gamelan Orchestra (1960).

In one game based on Chen’s art, children can create an image by arranging pieces of fruit in a bowl and playing around with lighting. They can also learn about the artists’ backgrounds in a separate section of the website.

VIEW IT

#SMALLBIG DREAMERSATHOME

WHERE: smallbigdreamers.com

WHEN: Till March 28 next year

ADMISSION: Free

The festival also offers art tutorial videos facilitated by education experts, artists and illustrators.

Families can share artworks created in response to the festival on social media with the hashtag, #SmallBigDreamersAtHome. Their art might be featured in compilation videos that will be published on the website in August and December.

The festival is supported by the Tote Board, which is the gallery’s development partner.

Festival director Suenne Megan Tan says the festival was created with the help of children, whom the gallery engaged through focus group sessions before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The children selected artworks they wanted the festival to be based on.

“While the younger children preferred to experiment with a wider range of colours, the older ones were more intrigued with depth and layers. Guided by their reactions, we developed these artistic elements,” says Ms Tan, 45, who is the gallery’s director of audience development and engagement.

She hopes the festival will spark children’s curiosity and appreciation of art.

“The idea is not for us to download everything that has to do with interpreting the works of art, but to find points of connection that will ignite children’s creativity – and for them to apply that creativity in response to knowledge and insights they have picked up.”

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