As Singapore Art Week takes place across the Southeast Asian peninsula, there is one exhibition in particular that has grabbed our attention here at It’s Nice That. Chinese photographer Feng Li is known for his hawk-eyed street photography. He captures everyday passings on the street as if they were multi-million dollar movie sets. In his latest exhibition for this year’s Singapore Art Week, he collaborates with illustrator come designer AikBeng Chia for Singapore Express, a series which “combs the streets” of the Asian city, shedding new light on its tropical quirks.
Feng is a Chengdu-based photographer who trained, rather unexpectedly, in Chinese medicine. He practices photography both as a civil servant for his local council and as an independent artist snapping up the streets that he haunts. High levels of saturation and sometimes purposely overblown, Feng delivers an intimate and personal view of the city known for its conservatism. Singapore is famed for its ethnic and cultural diversity; with a large majority of ethnically Chinese people, the country is also home to the indigenous Malay communities as well as Indians and many others.
Feng observantly expresses this cultural diversity in the series Singapore Express. In one striking image in Little India, a family take selfies amidst a backdrop of bright neon signage. The three characters at the centre of the image are starkly lit, highlighting the family’s gaze on the phone screen through their outstretched arms. In the background, the market is dimly lit, though colourful saris and crowds of local passers-by are vaguely recognisable in the distance. Through images like this, Feng’s photography welcomes the viewer onto the streets of Singapore’s humid climate through photographic stills full of panache.
Feng tells It’s Nice That: “As it was my first time in Singapore, I felt it was a well-ordered country”. Despite this evaluation, Feng finds a somewhat chaotic story in every image. Whether seemingly as simple as two young girls going up an escalator, Feng’s eye for composition means futuristic metallic reflections and a dramatic sky exalt the mundane scene into obscurity. “The people of Singapore look very peaceful”, continues the photographer. He further assesses how “everything seemed to have no conflict” and whether that is truly the case or not, Feng’s photographs always find a narrative amidst the stillness. He concludes, “I can always find some interesting point from the streets, so I still took some good photos this time.”
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