This timeline, which comprises two sections, supplements the themes in ‘Artist and Empire: (En)countering Colonial Legacies’. It brings together the artistic developments of six artists and the historical developments of the British territories featured in this exhibition, known today as Australia, Brunei, India, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore. One artist from each of these six countries – Tom Roberts, Awang Sitai, Jamini Roy, Chuah Thean Teng, U Ba Nyan and Lim Cheng Hoe – was selected based on his connections with other artists, patrons and institutions. The timeline looks at how these artists’ practices were affected by their experiences as British subjects ensconced within these vast networks, and seeks to situate them within the larger context of the British Empire rather than of individual nations.
The first section of the timeline focuses on key historical developments – territorial, political, economic as well as social – that occurred in these British territories. Beginning with Sir Francis Drake’s encounter with the Spice Islands during his circumnavigation of the globe in the late sixteenth century, and ending with Brunei’s independence in 1984, this section spans roughly four centuries. It highlights the impetuses for continued English and subsequently, British presence in the present-day Asia-Pacific region, which included naval exploration, scientific inquiry, commercial interests, and competition with other European powers. Furthermore, it underscores local responses to encounters with these foreigners and colonial authorities.
This section of the timeline also features local and global factors that contributed to the rise of nationalism in the aforementioned six countries. These factors gained momentum in the first half of the twentieth century, resulting in an era of decolonisation which saw Britain withdraw from its colonies. Nationalist movements in the colonies, some of which were moderate while others, radical, made demands for political and social reforms with varying degrees of success. The unequal pace of decolonisation among colonies meant that independence was eventually achieved at different times. Global factors likewise informed nationalist movements and the political consciousness of the struggle for and journey towards independence. Japan’s defeat of Russia in 1905, for instance, debunked the myth of Western invincibility and fired up the imaginations of revolutionary leaders in colonies across Asia. Even within the metropole itself, there were debates over whether British territories abroad should be sustained, and how they should be defined in relation to Britain.
World War II was a watershed and inflicted economic devastation on the British Empire. It ceased to be a global force, later eclipsed by the United States and the Soviet Union as superpowers in the Cold War era that divided much of the world. New geopolitical groupings also arose after World War II, such as the United Nations, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organisation and the Non-Aligned Movement. Emerging nation-states associated themselves with these new groupings, albeit with different agendas. This was also true of the six countries highlighted here, even though they were
all members of the British Commonwealth (with the exception of Myanmar).
The second section of the timeline tracks the lives of six artists and highlights events that relate primarily to their education, formal and informal art training, involvement in exhibitions, connections with other artists, and lastly, the patronage and support they received. This exhibition, particularly its second section, Encountering Artistic Legacies, examines the ways in which these artists expressed their consciousness of the local and the nation through form and subject matter, and the timeline attempts to unravel the reasons and motivations for such expressions. To be read together with the first section of the timeline, this second section poses the following questions:
• How can these artists be situated in the local context of colonial societies and the broader context of the British Empire?
• What do their artistic developments reveal about colonial societies and the British Empire?
• What did the ‘local’ mean to them? What did it mean to be modern during the colonial era?
• How did their colonial experiences drive them to use certain art forms and subject matter?
• Did they share any experiences despite being from different parts of the British Empire?
• In what ways did their art practices develop similarly, and why? In what ways did their practices develop differently, and why?
Just as there was no singular colonial experience, the experiences of these six artists are not representative of all fellow artists and function as case studies from each colony. While not conceived as a definitive survey of historical and art-related events that occurred in the British Empire, this timeline foregrounds the complexities of identity faced by artists during the period of decolonisation, as British colonies transitioned towards nationhood.
WORKS CONSULTED FOR THE TIMELINES
EVENTS OF EMPIRE
Michael Aung-Thwin and Maitrii Aung-Thwin, A History of Myanmar since Ancient Times: Traditions and Transformations, Reaktion Books, London 2012
Melanie Horton, Empire Marketing Board Posters: Manchester Art Galleries, Scala Publishers Ltd, London, 2010
John Keay, India: A History, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2000
Nur Hanim Khairuddin, K Sabapathy and Beverly Yong, eds, Imagining Identities: Narratives in Malaysian Art, vol 1, RogueArt, Kuala Lumpur, 2012
Stuart Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2009
Kenneth J Panton, Historical Dictionary of the British Empire, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Maryland, 2015
Bernard Porter, The Lion’s Share: A History of British Imperialism, 1850–2011, Routledge, Oxfordshire, New York, 2011
Maitrii Aung-Thwin, Bruce Lockhart, Albert Lau, Portia Reyes, M C Ricklefs, A New History of Southeast Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, New York, 2010
Roger Southall, ed, Labour and Unions in Asia and Africa: Contemporary Issues, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, London, 1988
Luke Trainor, British Imperialism and Australian Nationalism: Manipulation, Conflict and Compromise in the Late Nineteenth Century, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, 1994
Marie-Sybille de Vienne, Brunei: From the Age of Commerce to the 21st Century, Emilia Lanier, trans, National University of Singapore Press, Singapore, 2015, in association with IRASEC
Khin Yi, The Dobama Movement in Burma (1930–1938), Cornell University Press, New York, 1988
SIX ARTISTS’ LIVES AND LEGACIES
Rebecca Andrews, Hans Heysen, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2008
Anne Gray, McCubbin: Last Impressions, 1907–17, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2009
George W Lambert Retrospective: Heroes and Icons, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2007
Terence Lane, Australian Impressionism, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2007
Andrew Sayers, Australian Art, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001
William G Archer and Jamini Roy, India and Modern Art, Allen & Unwin, London, 1959
Alessia Borellini, Francesco Campion and Catarina Corni, eds, Jamini Roy: From Tradition to Modernity, The Kumar Collection, Silvana Editoriale, Milan, 2015
Ella Datta, Jamini Roy 1887–1972: Journey to the Roots, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, 2013
R S Kumar, ‘Modern Indian Art: A Brief Overview’, in Art Journal, vol 58, no 3, 1999
Partha Mitter, The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-garde, 1922–1947, Reaktion Books, London, 2007
Ratan Parimoo and Sandip Sarkar, Historical Development of Contemporary Indian Art, 1880–1947, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 2009
John B Glass, Artistic Legacy: Modern Burmese Painting and Graphics in Their Historical Context, doctoral dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2009
Tin H Hla, Old Myanmar Paintings in the Collection of U Win, Thavibu Gallery, Bangkok, 2006
Khin M Nyunt, U Sein Myo Myint and Ma Thanegi, Myanmar Painting: From Worship to Self-Imaging, Education Pub House, Ho Chi Minh City, 2006
Andrew Ranard, Burmese Painting: A Linear and Lateral History, Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, 2009
Jay Sian, Interview with Lim Hock Ann, Reels 1– 4, Oral History Archives, National Archives of Singapore, 14–28 January 2010
T K Sabapathy, Lim Cheng Hoe: Retrospective 1986, National Museum of Singapore, Singapore, 1986
‘History of Singapore Watercolour Society’, The Singapore Watercolour Society, http://watercolour.org.sg/about/history/
Ahmad Dawa, Mohamed Najib, Zanita Anuar, Hashimah Nyok and Osmihamidy Osman, eds, Teng: Satu Penghargaan—An Appreciation, National Art Gallery Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 2008
Exhibition of Paintings by TengEx, exhibition catalogue, The Arts Council, Kuala Lumpur, 1963
Commonwealth Artists of Fame 1952–1977, exhibition catalogue, Commonwealth Institute, London, 1977
Batik- Paintings by Teng of Malaysia, exhibition catalogue, Commonwealth Institute, London, 1965
Rahel Joseph, Nur Hanim Khairuddin, Flo Simpson, eds, Love Me in My Batik: Modern Batik Art from Malaysia and Beyond, IB Tower Gallery Sdn Bhd, Kuala Lumpur, 2016
Lai, Chee Kien, Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur 1957–1966, Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur, 2007
Arthur Richards, ‘Duchess of Kent to Open Our Art Show’, in The Straits Times, 8 January 1966, p 5
Michael Sullivan, Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century, Faber and Faber, London, 1959
Chong Guan Tan, Chuah Thean Teng Retrospective, Penang Museum and Art Gallery, Penang, 1994
‘Batik Artist On The Way To London On British Council Trip’, in The Straits Times, 23 March 1965, p 12
Awang Sitai, personal communication with Low Sze Wee, email and interview, May 2016
Awang Sitai, personal communication with Low Sze Wee, email and interview, August 2016
Baharudin Mohd Arus, Modern Artists of Brunei Darussalam, Baharudin Mohd Arus, Bandar Seri Begawan, 2013
Winnie Cheng, Discovering Bruneian Painting Style from 1970 to 2010, MA Diss, Bandar Seri Begawan: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Brunei Darussalam, 2013
Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports, Brunei, The Singapore High Commission, Brunei and Sun Craft Fine Art Gallery, Singapore, 1st BRU-SIN Art Exhibition 1989, exhibition catalogue, presented by Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports, Brunei, and The Singapore High Commission, Brunei in conjunction with Sun Craft Fine Art Gallery, Singapore, Singapore: Sun Craft Fine Art Gallery, 1989