Sculptor Han Sai Por (b. 19 July 1943, Singapore - ) is well-known for her sculptures carved in stone, bringing to life figurative forms and organic shapes from hefty granite blocks. She has exhibited her works internationally in Southeast Asia, China, South Korea, North America and Europe. Some of her works are on permanent displays in hotels, libraries and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations in Singapore as well as parks in Malaysia, Japan, United States and England. Han was awarded the 1995 Cultural Medallion for her contribution to art.
Han came from a poor family. One of six children, she was born on 19 July 1943 during the Japanese Occupation. Unable to afford proper housing, her family lived as illegal squatters in a house constructed of cardboard boxes and coconut leaves in Changi. Han's uneducated mother had to scavenge at nearby Changi beach to support her family, as her father was often sickly. However, poverty did not stop Han from having a childhood that was 'happy and free.' An active girl who loved the outdoors, Han enjoyed going to the beach where she would make sand figurines of animals. Her childhood experiences made her appreciative of nature and instilled in her a sense of adventure and exploration. At the age of 10, Han was first introduced to the enthralling work of Michelangelo's sculptures, gleaned from a book Han's mother had bought for her.
In the 1970s, Han worked as a full-time teacher after graduating from the Teachers' Training College in 1968. Art was considered a luxury for Han. For two years, she took up part time courses at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). Only after saving enough money did she venture abroad to the United Kingdom in 1979 to pursue a degree in fine arts. To make ends meet as an undergraduate, Han took up jobs as a waitress, hotel maid and even a cook. Upon her return in 1983, Han became one of two teachers to kickstart the Arts Elective Programme at Nanyang Girls' High School. She was picked because she had the necessary art education and was herself a practising artist. In 1987, Han went into part-time teaching at NAFA and Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts in order to support her work as an artist. Thus, her art career bloomed in the midst of a constant juggle between family life and work, with continual tension between time and money.
Han has come a long way since her first sculpture - which was a bust of herself. Since then, she has exhibited locally and internationally. Her commissioned works can be found in locations such as The Esplanade, Suntec City, Capital Towers in the Central Business District and Woodlands Regional Library. Her work is also on permanent display internationally in places such as the Portland Sculpture Park in England, the Kuala Lumpur Lake Garden in Malaysia and Uchinomi-cho Town Hall Garden in Japan.
Han's favourite medium for her sculptures are marble and granite. Using her own money, she often buys granite from quarries in Singapore or neighbouring countries like Malaysia. She has also looked for stone as far away as the quarries of China, Italy and Japan. Solo exhibition works can cost Han up to S$20,000 in material expenses alone. Although this sets her back financially, Han is not perturbed. What is important for her is how her work will be received by the public. Han is motivated by the encouragement, recognition and acknowledgement of her art from others.
Han's main sculptural expression is through figurative works. These can command a minimum of S$1,000 for a small table-top sculpture. Han's works have been said to depict a sense of contrast between the hard surface of stone and the softness of organic shapes. Despite being of a slight build, her ability to carve massive tonnes of granite to produce works that are 'sentimental and emotional' has been a source of wonder to those who appreciate her work. Han, who is single and lives in a rented two-storey house within the compounds of Seletar Airbase, spends hours creating personal or commissioned works. Life, for Han, is a matter of working hard, living simply, and doing what she chooses to do as a sculptor.
"A sculpture is not a cold piece of stone, clay or metal. It has a life of its own. It's the sculptor's way of expression and it's his companion. " - Lim, Richard (1998), Singapore artists speak, Singapore: Raffles Edition
"All my discoveries will go into my art." - Weighty issue. (2002, March 13). The Straits Times.
Singapore Cultural Medallion in 1995.
The Top Prize winner of 11th Triennale India in 2005.
Outstanding City Sculpture Award in China, 2006.
The Finalist of Beijing Olympic International Tour Exhibition, 2008
Collections and Public Sculptures
Towards Peace - Malaysia Asean Sculpture Park, KL (1987)
Flow through the Rocks -Portland Sculpture Park, England (1990)
Spirit of Nature - Kuching, Sarawak (1991)
Childhood Dream -Shodshima Centre Park, Japan (1992)
Pisces - Yashiro Hoshi-no Choukoku Centre Park, Japan (1993)
Tropical Leaves - Washington DC (1994)
Spring – Singapore Revenue House (1996)
Seeds - Singapore Art Centre (Esplanade) (1995-1996)
Shimmering Pearls Series 1 – Capital Tower, Singapore (1999)
Orchid Journey (Series 1 to Series 5) – Suzhou Park, China (2000)
Physical consequences - Singapore Museum collection (2002)
Shimmering Pearls Series 2 – Beijing, Capital Land (2006)
Flora Inspiration - Changi Airport Terminal 3, departure hall (2008)
Shimmering Pearls Series 3 – Beijing, Fair Mount Hotel.
Flow and Touch – Wheelock’s property at Ardmore Park (2009)
Transformation – Istana, Singapore (2011)
The Black Seed – OUB Centre (2011)
Tropical Leaf – One Raffles Quay (2012)
The Destruction and Extinction Series – World United Nation, New York and Singapore office building (2012).