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6 Singapore artists and their personal art collections

Unlike art collectors, artists build their art collections with a vastly different approach.


    Nearly every corner of Iskandar Jalil's terraced house in Kembangan is filled with some sort of art, running the gamut from ceramic works by the 78-year-old master potter himself to pieces by acclaimed British potter Bernard Leach and Iskandar's students Aida Khalid and Agnes Lim.

    In a way, these artworks are artefacts, objects that bear the messy traces of personal memories.

    "When I collect (art), I want to know the person. I need to see how he feels," says the Cultural Medallion recipient who is married to a retired teacher. They have two children.

    In his home, he has three porcelain bowls by the late New Zealand architect and potter David Brokenshire, which skilfully capture the motion of waves.

    "He had one of the most unique kilns in the world," says Iskandar, recalling his visit to Brokenshire's home in Christchurch. "(His work) was made from porcelain clay... You had to fire it to 1,310 deg C for two days and one night."

    Iskandar, who also has paintings and collects basketry and metal beetle nut cutters on his travels, recalls one trip to Lombok, Indonesia, when he bought an earthenware pan from a woman in a village who was using it to fry coffee beans.

    "I said, 'I don't want a new one. I want the old one.' They thought that 'this man must be mad'," says Iskandar, who, in 1972, studied ceramics in Japan under a Colombo Plan scholarship.

    Even the most unobtrusive thing in his house might be construed as art. The living room table was a gift from the former governor of Japan's Miyazaki Prefecture, who crafted it himself from cedar wood more than four decades ago.

    A sculpture by Iskandar's student, Hiroko Mita, consisting of twin crescent shapes yoked to each other by a 1.4m-long chain of linked clay shapes, was inspired by the relationship between Iskandar and his wife.

    Iskandar does not collect works by his mentors because "the prices are astronomical". He would like to own some works by potters Hans Coper, Shoji Hamada and Lucie Rie, but says he cannot afford them. A small bowl by Rie recently sold for half a million pounds (S$881,000), he says.

    He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, but remains active and has continued to present solo exhibitions. His latest, Paradox, runs at the Japan Creative Centre till Friday.

    Several cupboards in his house are filled with ceramic works which he euphemistically describes as "teaching aids". One of them is a round piece by a former student who smoothened the surface with a bamboo stick.

    "I kicked her out," says Iskandar, whose art often has an organic style. "It was too perfect."

(RELATED: 3 art collectors in Singapore have turned their homes into beautiful galleries)

This article was originally published in The Straits Times.

Photos: ST/SPH