S. Chandrasekaran (b. 29 November 1959, Singapore–)1 is a visual artist who works across different disciplines and mediums. He is known for the intense physical nature of his performances and the incorporation of elements from the biological sciences into his performances.
Chandra began his formal art education at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), where he received his Diploma in Fine Arts in 1988. He furthered his studies in art at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1990, a Master of Arts (Visual Arts) in 1997, and a Doctor of Creative Arts in 2007.2
In March 1988, Chandra and fellow NAFA graduates, Salleh Japar and Goh Ee Choo, launched the exhibition Trimurti at the Goethe Institute, where they showed works executed in a range of mediums, from paintings to performances. Trimurti has since been critically regarded as a landmark exhibition in the history of contemporary art in Singapore.3
After completing his first degree, Chandra delved into issues pertaining to identity and culture in his art practice, drawing on his Indian heritage, which led to performance-cum-installation works such as Kala Chakra (1991) and Atman (1992).4
Chandra was one of the first recipients of the Young Artist Award, awarded by the National Arts Council of Singapore in 1992.5
In 1992, Chandra travelled to India and was based in Cholamandal Artist Village in Chennai, South India for two years, during which he explored new ideas and reflected on his works. During this period, he learned wood carving and studied temple architecture from masters in India. The new direction in his art practice was reflected in the form of new works exhibited in ICONS, a show curated by Constance Sheares in 1996.6
Chandra was also commissioned for public works both locally and internationally.7 In 2003, he was involved in Art in Transit, one of Singapore’s biggest art commissions by the Land Transport Authority. This project involved the installation of visual and tactile art within the stations of the northeast Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line. Chandra’s featured work, Memoirs of the Past, is influenced by traditional Indian folk art and aims to evoke memories of Little India’s past, while celebrating the uniqueness of Indian culture in Singapore.8 Chandra also displayed his talent globally at the World Sculpture Park in Changchun, China, with his sculpture Water for Nature in 2001.9
One of Chandra’s research interests lies in the co-relation between bodily presence and life sciences through performance art. He worked with Gary Cass, an Australian scientist, to combine biology, chemistry, installation art and performance art. He put up several performances that incorporated the physical experience of bodily pain, one of which included inviting audiences to stick metal pins in his back. Bleeding Angel, a performance art display nominated for the APB Signature Art Prize in 2008, featured Chandra immersing half of his body into a mixture of wine and bacteria, which then produced a film that encased part of his body. Chandra focuses on performance art, because it allows audiences to have a greater connection to his work and witness it in real time.10
Chandra is the founder and artistic director of Biological Arts Theatre (BAT), together with Gary Cass, choreographer Santha Bhaskar, and guest artist Madhura Nayak. BAT aims to be a practice-based research network that provides a platform for art and non-art practitioners to create new works, with a focus on contemporary art. With the support of the National Arts Council’s Arts Creation Fund 2011, BAT developed Infinite Saree, a project to create research-based, biological arts theatre works.11
Apart from his contribution to the local art scene, Chandra has academic appointments in the field of arts education. His teaching areas include drawing, painting, art photography, installation, new media, performance art, art theory, psychology of art, art history, Southeast Asian art history and aesthetics.12
1994: Madras Madley, Lalit Kala Academy, Madras, India
1996: ICONS, Fort Canning Gallery, Singapore
2002: Akasa, Earl Lu Gallery, LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore
2012: Living Stories, Substation, Singapore
1997–99: Senior lecturer, LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts
1999–2002: Head, School of Fine Arts, LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts
2002–08: Part-time lecturer, Department of Visual Arts, Curtin University
2009–10: Head, Department of Fine Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
2010–11: Senior research fellow, Institute of South East Asian Arts, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
2011: Part-time lecturer, Department of Fine Arts, Goldsmith’s College, University of London, LASALLE College of Arts
1994–95: Artistic Director/Founder, The Arts Fission Company
1998–2007: Member, Board of Director/Founder, The Arts Fission Company
2007: Artistic Director/Founder, The Quasi-Living Group
2009: Founder/Artistic Director, Biological Arts Theatre (BAT)
1. “About Me,” S. Chandrasekaran, accessed 27 September 2016, https://www.schandrasekaran.com/?page_id=497.
2. S. Chandrasekaran, “About Me.”
3. Philip Cheah, “‘Rebel Students’ Make the Grade,” Straits Times, 17 May 1987, 8 (From NewspaperSG); T. K. Sabapathy et al, eds., Trimurti and Ten Years after (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 1998), 7–9 (Call no. RSING 700.95957 TRI); Arun Mahizhnan, ed., Heritage and Contemporary Values (Singapore: Times Academic Press for Institute of Policy Studies, 1993), 50–51. (Call no. RSING 306.095957 HER)
4. T. K. Sabapathy, “Art of Time Travel,” Straits Times, 26 April 1991, 6; T. K. Sabapathy, “Chandra Installed,” Straits Times, 28 August 1992, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Ho Sheo Be, “National Awards for 8 Young Artists,” Straits Times, 10 September 1993, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
6. T. K. Sabapathy, Living Stories (Singapore: S. Chandrasekaran, 2012), 5. (Call no. RCLOS 709.2 CHA-[SST])
7. S. Chandrasekaran, “About Me.”
8. Christopher Tan, “$10m Worth of Artworks Adorn North-east MRT Line,” Business Times, 11 March 2003, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “Art in Transit. NE7 Little India: Memoirs of the Past by S Chandrasekaran,” SBS Transit, accessed 28 September 2016, https://www.sbstransit.com.sg/art-in-transit.
9. S. Chandrasekaran, “About Me.”
10. June Cheong, “He Works with a Canvas of Pain,” Straits Times, 31 May 2007, 98; Adeline Chia, “Artists in for Top Award,” Straits Times, 1 August 2008, 77. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “Biological Arts Theatre,” S. Chandrasekaran, accessed 30 September 2016, https://www.schandrasekaran.com/?page_id=497.
12. “Dr S. Chandrasekaran,” LASALLE College of the Arts, accessed 30 September 2016, https://www.lasalle.edu.sg/about/academics/s-chandrasekaran.
13. S. Chandrasekaran, “About Me.”
14. S. Chandrasekaran, “About Me.”
15. S. Chandrasekaran, “About Me.”
The information in this article is valid as of October 2021 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.