Han Sai Por



Sculptor Han Sai Por (b. 19 July 1943, Singapore – ) is well-known for her sculptures carved in stone, bringing to life figurative forms and organic shapes to hefty granite blocks. She has exhibited her works internationally in Southeast Asia, China, South Korea, North America and Europe. Some of her works are on permanent displays in Singapore’s hotels, libraries and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations as well as in parks of Malaysia, Japan, United States and the United Kingdom. Han was awarded the 1995 Cultural Medallion for her contribution to art. 

Early life
Han came from a poor family.1 One of six children, she was born on 19 July 1943 during the Japanese Occupation.2 Unable to afford proper housing, her family lived as illegal squatters in a house constructed of cardboard boxes and coconut leaves in Changi.3 Han’s uneducated mother had to scavenge at the nearby Changi beach to support her family, as her father was often sick.4 However, poverty did not stop Han from having a childhood that was “happy and free”.5 An active girl who loved the outdoors, Han enjoyed going to the nearby beach where she would make sand figurines of animals.6 Her childhood experiences made her appreciative of nature and instilled in her a sense of adventure and exploration.7 Han was first introduced to the enthralling work of Michelangelo’s sculptures when she was 10, images of which were from a book Han’s mother had bought for her.8


In the 1970s, Han worked as a full-time teacher after graduating from the Teachers’ Training College in 1968.9 Art was considered a luxury for Han. For two years, she took up part time courses at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).10 Only after saving enough money did she venture abroad to the United Kingdom in 1979 to study at the East Ham College of Art and afterwards, the Wolverhampton College of Art, where she received her BA (Hon) in Fine Art.11 To make ends meet as an undergraduate, Han took up jobs as a waitress, hotel maid and even a cook.12 Upon her return in 1983, Han became one of two teachers to start off the Arts Elective Programme at Nanyang Girls’ High School.13 She was selected because she had the necessary art education and was herself a practising artist.14 In 1987, Han went into part-time teaching at NAFA and LaSalle-SIA College of Arts in order to support her work as an artist.15 Thus, her art career bloomed in the midst of a constant juggle between family life and work, with continual tension between time and money.

Achievements
Han has come a long way since her first sculpture of a bust of herself.16 Since then, she has exhibited locally and internationally. Her commissioned works can be found, for instance, in the Esplanade, Suntec City, Capital Towers in the Central Business District as well as Woodlands Regional Library.17 Her work is also on permanent display internationally in places such as the Portland Sculpture Park in the United Kingdom, the Kuala Lumpur Lake Garden in Malaysia and Uchinomi-cho Town Hall Garden in Japan.18

Han’s favourite medium for her sculptures are marble and granite.19 Using her own money, she often buys granite from quarries in Singapore or from neighbouring countries like Malaysia.20 She has also looked for stone as far away as the quarries of China, Italy and Japan.21 Solo exhibition works can cost Han up to S$20,000 in material expenses alone.22 Although this sets her back financially, Han is not perturbed.23 What is important for her is how her work would be received by the public. Han is motivated by the encouragement, recognition and acknowledgement of her art from others.24

Han’s main sculptural expression is through figurative works.25 These can command a minimum of S$1,000 for a small table-top sculpture.26 Han’s works have been said to depict a sense of contrast between the hard surface of stone and the softness of organic shapes.27 Despite being of slight built, her ability in carving massive tonnes of granite to produce works that are “sentimental and emotional” has been a source of wonder to those who appreciate her work.28

Han used to live in a rented two-storey house within the compounds of Seletar Airbase, before moving to Wessex Estate in 2006.29 Life, for Han, is a matter of working hard, living simply, and doing what she chooses to do as a sculptor.30

Quote
“A sculpture is not a cold piece of stone, clay or metal. It has a life of its own. It’s the sculptor’s way of expression and it’s his companion.”- Han Sai Por in Singapore artists speak (1998).31

"All my discoveries will go into my art." – Living Stones. (2002, March 15). The Straits Times.32

Education
Yuying Secondary School (Yock Eng High School)33
1965 – 1968: Singapore Teachers’ Training College, Singapore34
1975 – 1977: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), Singapore
1979 – 1980: East Ham College of Art, United Kingdom
1980 – 1983: Wolverhampton College of Art, United Kingdom35
2004 – 2008: Lincoln University, New Zealand36

Career
1968 – 1978: Primary school teacher37 
1984: Teacher at Temasek Secondary38
1984: Selected to teach at in Nanyang Girls’ High School in the newly developed Art Elective Programme, part of the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) for gifted students.39
1987 – 1993: Part-time lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and LaSalle-SIA College of Arts 
1994 – 1995: Part-time lecturer at National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
2001: Founding President of Sculpture Society, Singapore
1996 – present: Professional full-time sculptor40

Selected awards/ honours
1990: British Scholarship for Sculpture, site specific works, Portland Quarry, United Kingdom
1993: Sponsored for International Painting and Sculpture Symposium, India awarded by Singapore International Foundation41
1995
: Cultural Medallion Award42

2002: Finalist, Women Inspire 2002 Awards43
2005: Winner of top praise, 11th Triennale, India
2006: Outstanding City Sculpture Award, People’s Republic of China
2008 : Finalist, Beijing Olympic International Tour Exhibition, People’s Republic of China44
2014: Inducted into Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame45

Solo Exhibitions
1993: Four Dimensions, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1999: Rain Forest, Plastic Kinetic Worms, Singapore.
2002: 20 Tonnes - Physical Consequences, ARTrium@MITA & Art-2 Gallery, Singapore
2006: Oasis, Sculpture Square, Singapore
2009 : The Changing Landscape, The Luxe Art Museum, Singapore
2011 : The Black Forest, Jendela, Esplanade, Singapore46
2014 : Moving Forest, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore47



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Han, S. P. (2013). Han Sai Por: Modern Sculpture. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, p. 123. (Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN); Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 240. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
7. Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 240. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
9. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2; Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p .4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Aw Yong, B. Y. (1993, February 18). Art of geometryThe Straits Times, p. 6; Ida Bachtiar. (1995, September 1). Never say die- childhood poverty made life richerThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Pereira, B. (1983, October 6). Two overseas-trained art teachers kick off classes for budding artists. Singapore Monitor, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Pereira, B. (1983, October 6). Two overseas-trained art teachers kick off classes for budding artists. Singapore Monitor, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 240. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
17. Ong, S. F. (2001, April 29). Out of the WoodlandsThe Straits Times, p. 2; Oon, C. (1998, May 20). Giant fruits and gourds "grow" in Fort CanningThe Straits Times, p. 6; Chin, S. F. (1995, October 13). Vision of abundance, zodiac medallions for Suntec CityThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Aw Yong, B. Y. (1993, February 18). Art of geometryThe Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Chin, S. F. (1995, October 13). Vision of abundance, zodiac medallions for Suntec CityThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Sim, A. (2002, March 13). Weighty issue. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Top Cultural Medallion awards go to two women. (1995, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 1; Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 240. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
26. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Aw Yong, B. Y. (1993, February 18). Art of geometryThe Straits Times, p. 6; Chow, C. (2006, January 19). An artist’s trouble images. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Chin, S. F. (1995, October 13). Vision of abundance, zodiac medallions for Suntec CityThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 240. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
32. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Leong, W. K. (1998, November 20). Beginning- with 30 studentsThe Straits Times, p. 75. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Sim, A. (2002, March 15). Living StonesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 243. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
36. Han, S. P. (2013). Han Sai Por: Modern Sculpture. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, p. 123. (Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)
37. Pereira, B. (1983, October 6). Two overseas-trained art teachers kick off classes for budding artists. Singapore Monitor, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Tan, J. (1983, October 7). Special test for budding artists in schools. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Pereira, B. (1983, October 6). Two overseas-trained art teachers kick off classes for budding artists. Singapore Monitor, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Han, S. P. (2013). Han Sai Por: Modern Sculpture. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, p. 124. (Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)
41. Han, S. P. (2013). Han Sai Por: Modern Sculpture. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, p. 127. (Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)
42. Top Cultural Medallion awards go to two women. (1995, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Tee, H. C. (2002, October22). Three women who inspire. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Han, S. P. (2013). Han Sai Por: Modern Sculpture. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, p. 124. (Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)
45. Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations. (2014). Retrieved 2016, April 18, from Singapore Women’sHall of Fame website: http://www.swhf.sg/the-honourees/11-arts-culture-entertainment/42-han-sai-por
46. Han, S. P. (2013). Han Sai Por: Modern Sculpture. Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, p. 124. (Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)
47. Han, S. P. (2013). Moving forest. Singapore: Singapore Tyler Print Institute, p. 76. (Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)



Further resources
Han, S. P. (1993). Four dimensions : a sculptural installation. Singapore: Sheen's Gallery.

(Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)

Han, S. P. (2002). Sculpture. Singapore: Art-2 Gallery.
(Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)

Han, S. P. (2005). Han Sai Por. Singapore: National Arts Council.
(Call no.: RSING 730.95957 HAN)

Han, S. P. (2010). The changing landscape : deforestation, destruction, extinction, transformation. Singapore: LUXE Art Museum.
(Call no.: RSING 730.92 HAN)

Han Sai Por. (n.d.). Retrieved 2016, April 18, from http://www.hansaipor.com/

Lee, C. (2016, January 21). New initiative to boost art appreciation among public; National Arts Council to also hold educational and training workshops for teachers. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Sabapathy T. K. (1991). Sculpture in Singapore. Singapore: National Museum

(Call no.: RSING 730.95957 SAB)

Shetty, D. (2015, August 18). Sculptures for SG50. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Singapore Biennale returns after 3-year absence. (2016, January 21). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Tan, R. L. (2015, November 30). New art installations; free walking tours with artists. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Sculpture--Singapore
Women artists--Singapore
Award winners
Art--Singapore
Award winners--Singapore
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Women sculptors--Singapore
Arts>>Sculpture