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Expressing Hope for the Future Through Art

The Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition 2017 showcases 108 art pieces by inmates from the Visual Arts Hub (VAH) and Changi Women’s Prison.

Themed “For Better Endings and New Beginnings”, the Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition 2017 (YR CAE) highlights the desire of inmate artists to move past their mistakes and live a new life after their release from incarceration.

“This year’s theme calls to mind the YR CAE’s consistent message of hope, forgiveness and endless possibilities that await inmates upon their release,” said YR CAE 2017 Vice-Chairperson Deputy Superintendent Cheong Wee Ling.

“Correctional Intuition” uses office stationery to highlight how locating mistakes that have to be corrected is often the most challenging part of the process. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

The exhibition comprises 108 art pieces created by inmates from Changi Prison Complex and Changi Women’s Prison.

For Ms Andrea Fam, 30, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM)’s Assistant Curator and third-time Curator of the YR CAE, the exhibition allows the inmates to speak about their life’s journey and express their hopes for a happy ending.

“Curating the YR CAE has been a humbling experience. I have seen the inmate artists use their materials and skills to make art their voice and language. Art has taught them flexibility and adaptability, which is important for life outside of prison,” said Andrea.

The delicate patterns and contrasting colours of “Black Beauty” remind the viewer that even the darkest colour can be a canvas for beautiful designs. PHOTO: Jaiesh Sachi

Artist-mentors Ms Nicola Antony, 33, and Mr Barry Yeow, 50, contributed a collaborative mixed media piece especially for this exhibition. Artist-mentors provide artistic guidance to inmates within Changi Prison Complex and Changi Women’s Prison.

“When I was asked by SAM to become an artist-mentor this year, I made it my duty to give my students the confidence to learn and grow. By the end of the three-month mentorship period, they could visibly see their progress and that’s important, knowing that you can learn and you can have confidence in yourself,” said Nicola, who is a first-time artist-mentor.

“Feral cat” uses handcraft, batik and ceramics to create a story of change and reform. PHOTO: Jaiesh Sachi

As an ex-offender turned artist-mentor, Mr Barry Yeow first developed his artistic skills in 2011 while he was still an inmate. By mentoring others who are facing the same predicaments he once did, he hopes to foster deeper expression and broader thinking among the inmate artists, many of whom were his former cellmates and friends.

“My role as a mentor is not just to guide them, but also to learn from them. When they are confident about their art, their confidence inspires me,” said Barry.

“Window to My Heart” uses pieces of discarded wood to share the artist’s preserving optimism with the viewer. PHOTO: Jaiesh Sachi

The thoughts and personal feelings of the artist-mentors have been more deeply expressed in their collaborative piece “The Flow of Time”, which is also on display at the YR CAE.

Composed of fragmented pieces of paint, pottery and paper, the piece is shaped like an hourglass lying on its side. One interpretation is that it is about to turn and start anew, symbolising the new life an inmate can begin after prison.

“The Flow of Time”, is a collaboration between artist-mentors Nicola Anthony, Barry Yeow and Kim Whye Kee and is composed using fragmented pieces of paint, pottery and paper. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

“The piece illustrates that we are not made up of one defining label but of many fragments of time, moments, emotions and memories that come together to make one person,” reiterated Nicola.

The artist mentors stressed that the meaning behind the artwork is meant for the audience to interpret and reflect upon.

Barry expressed hope that viewing the artwork will allow public to better understand the inmates’ challenging journey towards rehabilitation and reintegration.

(From left to right) Deputy Superintendent Cheong Wee Ling, Ms Nicola Anthony, Ms Andrea Fam and Mr Barry Yeow. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

The exhibition will run from 7 to 22 October 2017 at SAM@8Q. It will be open from 10am to 9pm on Fridays and from 10am to 7pm during the rest of the week. Admission is free.


Written by

Jaiesh Sachi


11 October 2017

Prisons Management and Rehabilitation
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