Khairullah’s Japanese Paradise; Kaoru’s Singapore Memories

Discreet Paradise by Singapore artist Khairullah Rahim.

“Discreet Paradise” by Singapore artist Khairullah Rahim.

Sometimes, the smallest shows are the most memorable for me. And this is one of them.

Singapore and Japan had an artistic exchange called Project 6581 (country codes of the two countries) and the result was an exhibition by eight artists at the Japan Creative Centre Singapore from February 8-28, 2014. It’s a fascinating showcase of cross-cultural impressions.


Two artists stood out for me. First, Singapore’s Khairullah Rahim, and his series of works called “Discreet Paradise”. Inspired by his month-long stay in Tokyo, these are studied pencil drawings of foliage, overlaid with blocks of pearlescent washes, with parts filled in with – here’s the interesting part – dirt!

Pencil, paint and dirt make Khairullah’s vision of paradise.

Pencil, paint and dirt make Khairullah’s vision of paradise.


It’s nature, man-made forms, and a union of the two, delicately rendered on paper. There’s a soft, shimmering quality about them, and a certain fragility and preciousness.

That’s my general impression of Japan too — refined, lyrical but modern in outlook. But Khairullah expresses it with unique poetry.

Meanwhile, Japanese artist Kaoru Murakami’s impressions of Singapore were certainly unconventional, and open to interpretation. It can be playful – or sombre – depending on how you look at them.

She has re-cast Singapore’s historic icons – statue of founder Stamford Raffles, the National Museum Building — as oversized “stamps”.


Tea stains give the “stamps” an antique look.

Hardwritten descriptions.

Hardwritten descriptions.

These thick felt stamps – what an interesting choice of material! – reminded me of floor mats. But Kaoru’s I would hang on the wall and admire.


The Singapore National Museum Building was rendered in halftone dots, à la Lichstenstein, but the muted tea stains gave all of Kaoru’s pieces an antique, old-world personality. No “Kapow!” here. Perhaps just a little joke with a straight face — why are there water spouting here and there from Raffles’ pants? Or are these actually a stern comment on Japan’s occupation of Singapore during WWII?


The other artists were Justin Lee, Ade Putra Safar Bin Fuad, Shih Yun Yeo, Chihiro Kabata, Yuuri Kabata and Aya Murakami. I tip my hat to Youkobo Art Space Tokyo and INSTINC Singapore for their vision and realisation of Project 6581.

The show was beautifully executed — I was completely charmed by the handwritten descriptions — at the light-filled gallery at Japan Creative Centre Singapore, a refurbished “raised” bungalow off Orchard Road.

The Japan Creative Centre is located at the top end of Orchard Road.

The Japan Creative Centre is located at the top end of Orchard Road. Notice the bungalow is raised from the ground, a flood-mitigating feature of colonial-era homes in Southeast Asia.

In brief – “Project 6581 – Parallel Perception and Counter Connection” was a delightful, easy-to-digest exhibition that captures the anything-goes attitude of contemporary art, but with civility, substance and creativity by artists from Singapore and Japan.

Text & photos by S.T. Leng



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