Oliver Twist 1,2,3

Coming from the In Pursuit of the Ethical Pot show, the series of artworks proposed for acquisition are particularly significant due to the fact that the show will stand as the last solo show by the artist Iskandar Jalil. Iskandar, who needs no introduction for his contributions to the Singaporean ceramics scene, was diagnosed with prostate cancer early last year. The practice of Iskandar exemplifies the amalgamation of the Japanese aesthetics of wabi-sabi and Southeast Asian motifs, and this latest exhibition includes works (entering the Istana Collection) inspired by the songs and films of the Malay entertainment icon P. Ramlee. To Iskandar, “Somehow or other you are involved with life in making pots”, and his involvement with ceramics has spanned close to half a century. His passion in pottery commenced in the 1970s, his Colombo Plan scholarship bringing him to Japan to further his studies of pottery and the art of ceramics making. Since then, Iskandar has played a pivotal role in modern ceramics art history in Singapore, as an artist, as well as an instructor-mentor to budding Singaporean ceramicists. Of the many accolades presented to Iskandar in recognition of his contributions to the arts, 3 stand out – the Cultural Medallion, presented to Iskandar in 1988; the Public Service Star, presented to him in 2012; and most recently, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, presented to him in 2015 by the Japanese Ambassador to Singapore. In the words of Singaporean art historian T.K. Sabapathy, the ceramics of Iskandar “projects a vision of harmony; medium, form and image cohere into a complex, interweaving composition”. Within the series of works acquired, pieces such as Beauty and the Beast, Lagu Dan Irama, Jari-Ku Sakit Semua, and Opposed Jalan Bahar Mural, highlights Iskandar’s mastery of incorporating organic structures, such as branches, seamlessly into the designs of his vessels. The myriad of forms that the various vessels take on also highlight Iskandar’s mastery over his craft – be it rotund pots, cylindrical bowls, or vessels such as Sar-Kar, the harmonious compositions underpin his philosophy of pottery. In this regard, In Pursuit of the Ethical Pot is a demonstration of Iskandar’s beliefs and attitudes towards pottery making and the last solo showcase in his pursuit of “the ultimate pot” – the convergence of a mastery of technique, as well as aesthetics, identity, and life experiences.