Brave New World

Brave New World

150cm(H) x 180cm(W) x 5cm(D)

Acrylic On Belgian Linen

Work on this painting started early 2016 and ended only around early 2017. It took slightly more than a year to finally complete it. There is quite an interesting story behind this painting. The idea came from my good friend, Calvin Soh, who created One Kind House. We used to have ideas and brainstorming sessions at Calvin’s home. On one of those occasions, Calvin shared this idea that has been on his mind for quite a while but thought it would be a good idea to portray it as a painting.

Calvin had earlier written the book The Big Red Dot with his son. It talked about Singapore being a start-up, with us all having the entrepreneurial instinct in our DNA. And in this age of exponential change, we have to keep reinventing ourselves. To do that, we have to believe in ourselves again, to be self-confident, to be a rebel if need be, to stand up for our values, to create our own culture/language/dress/music etc.

So the idea was to paint the Merlion and the Statue of Liberty confronting each other against a tide of change. The style is Haw Par Villa-ish, with the Merlion in a combination of Chinese, Malay, Indian elements and similarly we Asian washed lady Liberty.

We also rewrote her inscription:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And we changed it to this:

“Give me your entitled, your trust fund babies,

your rich yearning to live without persecution,

the elites of your teeming shore.

Send these, the 0.1 of the 1 percent to me,

and my servant shall light my lamp beside

the golden door.”

As I was working midway through the painting in 2016. The 2016 Olympics took place in Brazil. On August 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Schooling won a gold medal in the 100 m butterfly with a time of 50.39 seconds, the first Olympic gold medal won by Singapore. The time set a new Olympic record, beating Phelps’ record of 50.58 seconds at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Just for the heck of it, Calvin had an idea of portraying Schooling’s time on as the winning lottery ticket and added it on the painting. The question we asked was we got lucky, knowing Singapore’s notorious lack of support for the sports. Now, are we going to reinvest the winnings or squander it?

This project has to be one of the most interesting projects I have been involved in. The painting is currently on display at One Kind House.

Limited edition prints of this painting will be up for sale  soon at

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