Through The Looking Glass: How Travel and Home Helped Hugh Oliveiro Find his Voice as an Artist
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Friday, 29th June 2018

In this first series of articles around our WIT Singapore Conference theme of 'Through The Looking Glass', where we look outside travel in search of different stories and lessons, we feature Singapore-Australian artist Hugh Oliveiro and how his journey, from Singapore to Australia, has influenced his art and his latest collection of Peranakan-inspired creations in 'Ambience'.

In many ways, travel is about a search for home, a yearning to return to something familiar. It could be visiting a place where you once lived and remembering moments from that time. Or it could be a search for one’s roots. I remember travelling with a friend who wanted to trace his ancestry to Bohemia and we trampled graveyard after graveyard to find headstones carrying his former family name.

In recent years too, we’ve taken to staying in people’s homes and we want to eat in other people’s homes when we travel. Perhaps it makes us feel at home away from home.

Hugh Oliveiro: “I owe a great deal to my Oriental heritage.

For artists too, there’s something powerful about the call of home. It took a return to his shipbuilding hometown of Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, to break pop artist Sting’s dry creative spell and out of it came his musical, The Last Ship, which premiered in 2014.

Australian-based artist Hugh Oliveiro, known for his “4 Seasons” mural at the Victorian Art Gallery, was driven by the same yearning for home with his latest exhibition, Ambience, which was showcased at the Australian High Commission in Singapore earlier this year. The collection of 10 paintings were inspired by his early memories of Singapore and the Peranakan culture in the Katong neighbourhood where he spent a big part of his childhood before leaving for Australia at the age of 17.

Born in 1938, it’s taken Hugh almost six decades to answer the call of home with his latest paintings. This is a story of a Singapore-born artist who found fame in Australia but whose creativity and imagination are inextricably linked to his roots.

Q: What do you recall of your early years growing up in Singapore?

It was a bit like “Phoenix Rising From The Ashes” – Singapore after the Second World War. I was 5-6 years old and I remember rustic, and horrific scenes, but also an energy of excitement to clear the mess – so typical of the people there. We moved to our beautiful home in Katong and lived there till I left for Australia.

Read the full article here.

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