Curation Materials

Gabriel’s curation:

Nicholine’s curation:


Cui Min’s curation:

31st UOB Painting of the Year, by Esmond Loh Fah Rong


Loh was a 17 year-old HCJC student at that time, and his work is inspired from the ‘constant fatigue he felt from school’. The title of his work: ‘Just Let Me Sleep’ is a desperate plea that contextualizes the extent of stress Singaporean youths face under the competitive education system — one that demands constant mental and emotional toil but allows for no rest. The words effectively make the painting more poignant, showing how text can bring out visuals.

The painting is a self-portrait of Loh. The close-up, level, angle frames Loh in the middle. The use of stronger strokes on his face and blurrerd ones in the background gives a perception of depth. These factors bring his raw facial emotions into clear focus at the foreground.

The head atop the shoulders forms a triangular shape, giving the painting more energy, as opposed to only framing the face alone. The head is caught in a slight upward-tilt; there is implied movement that Loh is throwing his head back in despair. These factors come together to convey a very intense moment of anguish.

The shadows convey a gloomy, sombre state while the dark, dirty colours serve to make him look even more miserable.


The doll is an indexical sign symbolising childhood. The pink colour and naive facial expression depicts the precious innocence of childhood. The books is an indexical sign symbolising education. The picture makes up a metonymic code, conveying how childhood is threatened by education.

The pink colour of the doll brings it out against the contrasting brown and black around it. The roundedness of the doll also contrasts the angular edges of the books. This makes the doll look very out of place in the picture.

The low-key lighting harshly highlights the doll while casting deep shadows over the books. This makes the books appear threatening and the doll appear vulnerable.

The doll is small compared to the books, and the books scattered messily all around the doll makes the scene chaotic and overwhelming, especially when contrasted to the puzzled, innocent expression of the doll.

This depicts the case in Singapore, where children are so preoccupied with homework that they seldom have time for play. This picture conveys the vulnerability of children and their helplessness in the drowning workload of the Singaporean education system, and how their innocent and simple childhood is lost due to the stress of school.

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