CAFE AGORA — An uncontroversial painting done by Elm senior Jason Tay (‘17) for his Arts and Humanities capstone project garnered great controversy when it was unveiled to an audience of Yale-NUS College students yesterday evening. Titled Pictures of the Eco-Pond, the large, simple watercolour depicted Tay’s rendering of the College’s second-most famous body of water, next to the Oculus.

At the unveiling last evening, opposing camps quickly formed around differing interpretations of Tay’s inoffensive painting. Certain art aficionados were impressed by the subversiveness of the bland, neutral portrayal of the College’s Eco-pond, a sharp departure from neo-guerilla art style favoured by most College artists.

Saga junior and local art critic Pierre Ducard (’18) praised Tay’s decision to use store-bought watercolours as “intensely counter-culture”. “The blasé adaptation of the formal façade of the Eco-pond is the sine qua non of subversiveness itself,” said Ducard, slowly swirling his wine glass and deliberately over-enunciating his vowels. “Pictures is possibly the perfect presentation of the post-modern… of the post-expression… of the post-man.”

Not all critics, however, were equally enamoured. Cendana sophomore Charles Tan III, Esq. (‘19) argued that Pictures had no place in the College’s established anti-establishment art scene. “Where is the grand rejection of contemporary standards? Or the snide remarks on the school bureaucracy?” he asks. “You cannot remain non-confrontational if you want to create art in this school and then sell it to faculty at an exorbitant price.”

The artist himself has attracted growing controversy, upsetting long-held expectations of college artists as mysterious or confrontational hermits. Tay, a mild-mannered and unassuming figure, has calmly denied being a member of the school’s vanguard neo-anti-anti-establishment movement, saying, “I don’t know much about art movements; I only painted this because I liked the colours.”

Still, Ducard comments that Tay marks a turning point in the College’s vibrant post-neo-guerilla-deconstructivist culture. “We are witnessing a paradigm shift in what it means to be controversial,” he mused, staring distractedly into the distance. “Sometimes, the most controversial thing to do is to not be controversial at all.”

At press time, Tay had put a small sign outside next to his piece labelled with the words “This is not satire”, a move which has reignited the heated artistic debate. 

Intellectual Debate Section