The End Of History is the end of Huang Wei

The End Of History is the end of Huang Wei
The paintings of Huang Wei in the exhibition-performance The End Of History. Photo: Alan Oei.
Artist Alan Oei’s latest exhibition-performance marks the final chapter of a five-year-project on an unsung Singaporean painter
Published: 4:02 AM, October 30, 2013
Updated: 8:00 PM, October 30, 2013
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SINGAPORE — It’s time to bid farewell to an unsung painter: An exhibition of paintings by the late artist Huang Wei will go on display next month.

Dubbed The End Of History, it isn’t your typical exhibition — it is part of a performance conceived by artist Alan Oei.

Oei, the man behind innovative artistic experiences such as the Open House art tours in Tiong Bahru and Marine Parade and the Blackout in-the-dark warehouse show, is closing the chapter on his five year project revolving around an artist who was supposedly a contemporary of the Nanyang artists.

Huang Wei was born in 1914 and was the son of a studio photographer. He was drawn towards the artistic style of Caravaggio when the rest of his more popular peers looked to Matisse and Picasso. He was eventually overshadowed until his works were rediscovered.

Oei’s project began in 2008 and the following year, a performance lecture titled These Children Are Dead was staged at The Arts House featuring the Huang Wei’s haunting portraits of children. The End Of History, though, is a one-hour show that is “a cross between being lost in a museum by yourself and a theatre performance”.

“I want to put visitors inside a painting until they realise that not only are they inside a literal painting but they are the very subjects of it,” explained Oei.

In the typical playful approach to his projects, the show’s venue will only be revealed when you buy a ticket. Visitors will receive a specific key through the mail to unlock different doors.

“There will be eight people at one time and they will go through this whole narrative space and meet characters who inhabit that space,” he said.

Oei has roped in Kaylene Tan of theatre group spell#7, who was also involved in These Children Are Dead, for the show. “One of the things I realised is that it’s not enough to construct an environment. We consume art so quickly that it’s hard to be able to pull somebody into a different universe. We need to suspend belief; and theatre has a lot of experience doing that,” he added.

But for all its whimsical aspects, the show’s subject, Huang Wei’s paintings and somewhat tragic life story, will undoubtedly be tinged with melancholy.

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