Spot these beautiful chairs — painted by special needs students, and artists in S'pore — at ION this December

A glimpse of how much more there is than meets the eye.

Jeanette Tan | November 30, 2016, 12:02 PM

If you happen to visit ION Orchard mall in December, you may want to check out a series of really special chairs on display on the third floor.

They're created by Singaporean and Singapore-based artists, in collaboration with students with special needs from the Rainbow Centre, a nonprofit that serves children aged between two months and 18 years old who have any of a range of developmental disabilities.

Yet, for many, you can't tell — their impressive artistic talent is something the artists themselves will testify to in their experiences working with them on these.

Here's a selection of a few of them (which you can buy for $8,000 apiece in support of the building of an extension for the Centre's premises, so they can support more children in need):

1. Eugene Plays Outside, by lawyer-artist Amita Dutt and Eugene, Rainbow Centre student

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre

Eugene was Amita’s inspiration for the artwork. In the painting, the red string represents the skill or knowledge that Rainbow Centre gives to a child. The kitten (the puzzle image) is just one of the unknowns that the child will discover. The child will calibrate his interactions by controlling the red string. As the puzzle expert between them, Eugene put the jigsaw together.


2. =, by illustrator Dianna Sa'ad and Rainbow Centre students Yap Jia Hui and Shalyn Toh

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

"We live in a place where people of all shapes and sizes co-exist and because of this, it is important that we learn to be with and around each other. I visited the Rainbow Centre students and worked with them in the classroom and for the first time, I felt like I was the oddity, an outsider looking in.

Inclusion is a two-way street. We constantly try to make sense of each other's world. The artwork was inspired by this — the vast diversity of people from different places with different stories to tell and how beautiful it can be."

About the students: Jia Hui shows great talent in art. Incorporating details into her artwork, she brings to life famous places of interest such as the Sydney Opera House. She also likes expressing her imagination through drawing, putting to paper whatever comes to her mind.

Shalyn loves colours. She is also great at still-life drawing, being able to follow the product samples well during art and craft lessons in school.

3. Renew, Rekindle, Regenerate by landscape architect Yuen Kum Cheong and Rainbow Centre student Caden Lee

Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre

"The concept is inspired by nature, specifically the sea stars (commonly known as star fish) at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin. Nature is precious to us and our future generations. While our children have various special needs, they can be resilient and learn to adapt in our society. There is a parallel with sea stars that appear fragile, yet are resilient in the natural environment."

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

A little about Lee: "Despite his autism, Caden is a lovely boy who shows empathy towards his friends. He likes to draw on the whiteboard, in particular his favourite subject, the elevator. Art helps occupy his time meaningfully and is an opportunity for him to practise his verbal skills.

Caden was really receptive to the project as it tapped on his interest in art and his strength in kinesthetic learning. He was focused and joyous during the session. He did not comment on how he felt during the session but he showed great eye contact and vibe with Kum Cheong when they interacted, which are very positive indicators of Caden’s level of engagement."


4. A Universal Sigh, by visual artist Leigha Weatherford and Rainbow Centre student Danial Isaac

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

“Danial and I have become friends over the course of this project. Danial is an incredible artist and his work always blows me away.  We are similar artists with two very different styles. He has a real talent for graphite drawings, line work and facial realism; so it’s been really interesting to ask his perspective on my psychedelic colored, abstract style. Most of the time when we’re working we just get down and have fun... We probably spend as much time painting as we do cracking up and dancing to Rihanna. Working with Danial is like working with one of my closest friends. I think I may be learning more from him. He has taught me to be more patient with my ideas and execution and I think I’ve taught him different painting and preparation techniques.  What I love most about working with Danial is sharing my passion for creativity and expression!”

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

About the artwork: “Waves can be big and powerful, but they can also be calm and gentle. One of their most beautiful characteristics is how unpredictable they are when they break.  It’s at that point when they crash that they create the most beautiful imagery and I enjoy capturing that. I analogize waves with everyday life. These invisible pulses of energy are completely unforgiving if you attempt to fight them, but if you learn to respect the beauty of their nature, relax and flow with them, you’ll in turn learn how to harness your own energy for the better.”


5. A Happy Place, by artist Stephanie Hew and Rainbow Centre students Javier Yeo, Max Lim, Zaakir Bin Rahmat and Muhammad Raiyan Bin Haron

Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre

"This artwork is a depiction of a different world that I feel the students of Rainbow Centre, and all children in general, have access to. A place that is both a playground where imagination can run free as well as a quiet place for the children to retreat to. The wooden frame of the chair, in my mind, symbolises the solid support structures that help maintain this world."

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

6. Plue Est En Vous (There is More in You Than You Think), by interdisciplinary artist Madhvee Deb and Rainbow Centre student Hanif Siu

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

Madhvee has categorically used various mediums, as a metaphor to express the notion of Plus est en vous. Relentless dedication and synchronised efforts of the involved individuals, with an objective of bringing out the best in the students, is something that motivated her. The philosophy of treating failure just as an experience, is highlighted in the work.

About the student: Hanif is a cute seven-year-old in the Rainbow Centre Programme for pupils with Multiple Disabilities. He is diagnosed with the Williams Syndrome, a developmental disorder.


7. Fighting Fish, by TV celebrity veteran and artist Aziza Ali and Rainbow Centre students Candyce Chow and Bernard Ng

Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre

"The fighting fish on the seat represents strength; beautiful but fierce. In contrast, the fish on the backrest is plain and fighting for its freedom. This depicts how humans go through different challenges in life and fight for what we believe in. While the fighting fish might be intimidating, akin to difficult situations or people we cross paths with, its strength is something that we can learn from."

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photo courtesy of Rainbow Centre

About the students:

Candyce Chow loves dancing along to music and humming a tune. Beneath her autism, Candyce is a sensitive soul; she consoles her friends with a gentle touch of the hand when they are upset.

Bernard Ng enjoys art; he pays attention to the details and uses a variety of colours. Art has helped Bernard to remain positive and to regulate his emotions. Though he does not express himself verbally, he is sensitive and consoles his friends when they are sad.


8. Stars Are Born, by Kumari Nahappan and Rainbow Centre student Vani Thiruchelvam Sanjay Nitheesh

Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre Photos courtesy of Rainbow Centre

"The stars represent the children as rising stars in their own right, each with unique personalities and talents. Painted in rainbow colours, the stars illustrate the children’s relationship with Rainbow Centre.

We all need to take time to stop and admire the stars in the night sky. Similarly, we should also take the time to look up and admire these children, who can rise above their challenges as unique one-of-a-kind “Stars”.

About Vani: He is a sweet 12-year-old boy with autism who loves art, and is well-loved by the teachers.


You can check out these and other chairs, some of which were also contributed by university and mainstream school students, at ION and on their website here, and if you're feeling charitable, you can pledge for one, or you can donate to them there too.

The exhibition will be on from December 1 to 15 2016, and open from 10am to 10pm each day.


Top image courtesy of Rainbow Centre Singapore.

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