Han Sai Por: The Forest and Its Soul

“I like to experiment so as to discover the material that I’m working with through my hands-on approach. This is a language for me, allowing me to interpret the vision that I have. At STPI, it was about this kind of experimenting and discovering.”

– Han Sai Por

The Forest and Its Soul marks the second residency and solo exhibition of Singaporean artist Han Sai Por (b. 1943) with STPI. Following her first residency in 2013, the Cultural Medallion recipient and Asia’s foremost sculptor returns to the Creative Workshop to create 35 new print and paper works in a span of just three weeks. Using technologies that are new to the artist (such as photo intaglio and laser-cutting), the eventual works exemplifies Han’s enduring spirit of artistic exploration that is not bounded by a singular medium, even at this stage of her decades-long career.

This body of work draws from the artist’s own experiences of walking through dense forests, of which Han has described as being “an emotional landscape”. Additionally, it serves to evoke a sense of boundless energy hidden behind the many layers and depth of the whole forest ecosystem, composed of many elements – the wind blowing, leaves dropping and dancing, rolling waters, micro-life teeming among the mud and detritus on the floor and more.

Sea Vision, 2022, Acrylic paint on STPI casted paper, 127.5 x 166 x 3.5 cm. © Han Sai Por / STPI.

The impression of layers and depth is achieved through a handful of techniques, such as with the paper cast “paintings”, Sea Vision and Seascape. For Sea Vision, even after the shape of the canvas has been formed through paper casting, Han continued to hand-sculpt areas of the work to accentuate its depth despite its seeming two-dimensionality. The idea of the flat landscape is further disrupted through masterful sweeps of colour throughout the cast, with the colours intentionally highlighting its sculptural characteristics. In this manner, the landscape comes to life in multiple perspectives, depending on the angle that one views it from.


Inner Forest through the Artist’s Eyes 2, 2022, Photo intaglio on paper, 88.5 x 116 cm. © Han Sai Por / STPI.

A sculptor at heart and in line with the ideas she engages with for this show, Han seeks to capture depth even with her two dimensional prints. Presented with the possibilities of photo intaglio, the artist was able to capture her meticulously detailed sketches—where the highlights and shadows are skilfully expressed through the artist’s hand—in the medium of print. Series such as Inner Forest through the Artist’s Eyes and Close Vision in Light & Shade thus articulate the artist’s long-lasting relationship with nature and its many components, and circles back to her view of it as a highly textural, multi-layered landscape.

Blue Fruit, 2022, Stone textured spray paint, acrylic paint on sculpted paper pulp, 19 x 25 x 25 cm. © Han Sai Por / STPI.

Other highlight works include Blue Fruit, White Fruit and the Dancing Leaves paper sculpture series, lithographic prints of landscapes from the artist’s imaginations like Wild Land and Dancing Waves, and the powerfully raw piece, Native, formed out of flattened mulberry bark. Ultimately, the artist hopes for visitors to reacquaint themselves with the full breadth of nature, and to encourage care and reverence for the living world all around us.

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