Featuring virtual desktop windows, stickies, folder icons and even an open iCal calendar, the campaign collateral for this year’s Singapore International Photography Festival resembles a series of Mac screen shots. Well, that’s because they are.
In response to the biennial’s theme The Archive, Singapore-based design consultancy H55 created this visual identity to challenge the traditional image of archives as “dusty boxes of physical materials” and make a statement on photography and its digital nature today.
“Photographs are circulated more than ever online. You may not even have a gallery space or a museum showcase, you can just circulate them on Facebook and Instagram or email your work to somebody,” explains the studio’s creative director Hanson Ho. “A lot of photographs are actually stored in desktop folders, not so much on shelves.”
Much attention has been given to The National Gallery’s architecture and collection, but less so are the equally beautiful exhibition catalogues and publications coming out from Singapore’s latest arts destination. While printed books may seem archaic in today’s digital world, they remain the best medium—for now—to allow visitors to take home the vivid artworks they encounter during their visits to the museum.
This was struck me after encountering Somewhere Else’s design for Seeing the Kites Again, a publication showcasing the expressive calligraphic strokes of artist Wu Guanzhong. The different paper types, the custom typography, and considered layout all come together to produce a handsome publication worthy of this artist.
The studio led by Yong has also produced an equally evocative pair of books for Wu’s Beauty Beyond Form and artist Chua Ek Kay’s After the Rain.
Holding up the National Gallery’s two inaugural exhibitions on Singapore and Southeast Asian art respectively, both covering the 19th century to present, is a modern frame designed by H55 Studio. In creative director Hanson Ho’s typical restrained and minimal approach, Siapa Nama Kamu? Art in Singapore since the 19th century(Malay for “What is your name?”) is reduced to a single line to be filled in, while Between Declarations and Dreams: Art of Southeast Asia since the 19th centuryhas its title visualised with Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar’s statement on the gap between the desire for national independence and its achievement in political terms debossed onto the cover.
Besides the catalogues, the National Gallery has also made an effort to produce research titles and children’s publications. The former is best represented by a collection of essays on arts and culture by pioneering Nanyang artist Liu Kang, elegantly packaged by The Press Room in a gold, black and white reader.
Of the many titles that have given Singapore illustrators the chance to introduce art to children, Warm Nights, Deathless Days,Sonny Liew’s take on artist Georgette Chen that comes in a thoughtful design of ampulets is a standout.
At the mid-career retrospective of graphic designer Hanson Ho last month, visitors might have been surprised to see not a single piece of work he created in the past 16 years.
Instead, the gallery walls were adorned with a salmon-colored semi-circle, a grey square, and framed black rectangles, amongst other simple shapes. These are the building blocks of the elemental and modernist creations by the Singaporean designer, better known as the founder of H55 studio. When Ho thought about looking back at the output of the studio he founded in 1999, he decided to pay homage to the aesthetic fundamentals of his practice instead of staging a “meaningless” show-and-tell exhibition.