Academic Profile : Faculty

Asst Prof Roger Nelson .jpg picture
Asst Prof Roger Nelson
Assistant Professor, School of Humanities
Roger Nelson joined the Division of Art History in the School of Humanities in August 2022, where he teaches modern and contemporary Southeast Asian and global art histories. He was a curator at National Gallery Singapore from January 2019 to July 2022, where he worked on research, exhibitions and collections related to Southeast Asian and global modern and contemporary art. Concurrently, he taught at the National University of Singapore in the Minor in Art History. Previously, he was a CLASS (Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences) postdoctoral fellow at NTU from September 2017 to January 2019. During his postdoctoral fellowship, he completed several journal articles and book chapters, and curated an exhibition at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore ‘Lab’ drawing on his research on art historiographical projects in the region. He also completed a translation and introduction to Suon Sorin’s 1961 Khmer novel, A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land, published by NUS Press in 2019. This book – one of the first English translations of a modern Cambodian novel – was awarded the A.L. Becker Southeast Asian Literature in Translation Prize, awarded by Association for Asian Studies in 2022.

Prior to moving to Singapore, Roger lived and worked in Phnom Penh, Cambodia while completing a PhD on ‘Cambodian arts’ of the 20th and 21st century at the University of Melbourne. He has curated exhibitions and other projects in Singapore, Cambodia, Australia, Thailand, and Vietnam, and regularly serves as nominator and juror for international exhibitions, awards and foundations, such as the inaugural Artist Excellence Award at Vietnam’s Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in 2021 and the 58th Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2022. In addition to his scholarly publications, Roger’s writing has been widely published in specialist art magazines including Artforum and ArtAsiaPacific.

Roger is the co-founder and co-editor of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal published in print and online by NUS Press, and available freely via Open Access on Project Muse with generous support from Chen Chong Swee Asian Arts Programme at Yale-NUS College and the Foundation for Arts Initiatives.
Roger Nelson researches modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia, with a recurrent concern with questions of historiography and method, including as they relate to translation, gender, trans-media intersections, and under-studied artists. With a background in Cambodian art, Roger’s postdoctoral research has been broadly comparative, and also considers links between artists in Southeast Asia, and with other regions across the Global South. Roger is interested in how art and culture relates to, articulates, and enacts modernities and contemporaneities in Southeast Asia. He seeks to develop and draw from methodologies that are rooted in the region, including through extensive (and usually collaborative) work on translation and terminologies in Southeast Asian languages. His recurrent focus on trans-media intersections sees him study artworks and images in relation to literary texts, performance, architecture and urban form, and other media and cultural phenomena.

Roger’s current research focuses on how artworks engage with art-historical images, ideas and information. Through comparative close analyses of artworks from across the region in the 20th and 21st centuries, he is exploring how artworks perform pedagogical, citational, and other ‘thinking’ roles and functions. This research may decentre academies and museums in understanding art-historical discourse in Southeast Asia, while also highlighting the uses and values of art history in the region.
  • An Emiria Sunassa Reader: Painting at Night
  • Artworks Engaging with Art History in Southeast Asia
  • Transmediality and modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia
Roger was awarded the A.L. Becker Southeast Asian Literature in Translation Prize, presented in 2022 by the Association for Asian Studies, for his translation of Suon Sorin’s A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land (NUS Press, 2019).
Courses Taught
HR3006 20th Century Southeast Asian Art: Being Modern

HR3009 19th Century Southeast Asian Art: Interactions and Refractions

HR2011 Global Modernisms: 1850-1950

HR3010 Weird Art Writing

HR7003 Advanced Studies in Southeast Asian Art Histories
Supervision of PhD Students
Roger will consider PhD projects related to his research.

Current supervisees:

Savita Apte: "Framing, Un-Framing and Re-Framing the Progressive Artists Group" (working title). Co-supervisor: Prof Iftikhar Dadi (Cornell University)

Kathleen Ditzig: "Exhibiting Southeast Asia in the Cultural Cold War: Geopolitics of Regional Art Exhibitions (1940s-1980s)" (Thesis Advisory Committee member)