Prada and The Monk in Singapore


The Art Club Singapore is resided in the area of Geyland, and at the first glance it looks like any other home with a red bright couch, a small kitchen and a cosy atmosphere. But this is actually the idea behind The Art Club according to one of the owners and founders, Marcus Von Kloeden. “We want you to feel at home while you look at the art,” he says. And there’s a lot of art on the walls to look at. On Thursday the 17th and Friday the 18th of September the Swedish painter Ingela Johansson made most of the paintings on the walls. In both evenings the exhibition “Prada & The Monk” took place and Ingela Johansson both showed and shared stories about her paintings.

It is not the first time, that Ingela Johansson appears in a ScandAsia article, and like she was the other time we met her, at an art exhibition in Tiong Bahru, she is dressed in orange. The colour gives her energy and creativity, she says. Three years ago she and her family moved to Singapore, and one of the reasons why she loves Singapore is also the colour. As an example of that, she shows a picture from a party at her house. “There’s colour, variation, people from basically everywhere. That’s what I love,” she says and underlines the contrast between her home country and Singapore with another picture of a exhibition in Sweden where everyone is dressed in black.

The first painting Ingela Johansson did of a monk

The colour orange repeats itself in her paintings of the Singaporean monks in their orange robes. She started painting monks in 2013 and the first one she painted was of the monk walking outside Prada on Orchard Road in Singapore. What intrigued her – and what continues to intrigues her today – is the question of the monk’s doings at the brand store. Why is he there?

“I remember having this discussion with a friend, who was telling me, that maybe he was there to learn about his own temptation in life,” she says.

A partly reason for the theme in her paintings is her background in the fashion world. Many years ago she did a fashion collection and travelled to Paris, where she visited a lot of the major fashion brands headquarters.

“To me it’s like the Prada stores has almost become these new temples with luxury brands,” she says.

A monk in front of Louis Vuitton in Marina Bay

During her artist talk she describes how she sees a lot of monks coming to Marina Bay as tourists where they take selfies and hang around, which has made her even more curious about them and the perception of the monk. The subject of perception is also discussed when Ingela takes the time after her talk to answer some questions.

“I couldn’t help but gather the perception that monks should not enjoy sights which is created by people, and that is to me a very European tradition in the perception of how monks should be or how monks are,” one person from the audience says and asks the question: “Is it not possible that the monks like Prada, not because of the brand, but because they like quality?”

Another member in the audience tells Ingela Johansson, that she likes the theme because of the contrast it shows and reminds her, that all the glitter is not going to bring happiness at the end and therefore brings her back to reality.

According to Ingela, one of the pleasures of being an artist is showing her works to an audience, and see how people respond to the art and the questions it poses. It is also why she keeps painting the monks. She likes the variety she attains from peoples questions and opinions.

“I hope it makes you stop and think about why the monk is there. The answer could be anything. And I certainly don’t have the right answer,” Ingela says.

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