Wall Murals of The Four Great Beauties of Ancient China in Singapore Simei estate 狮城邻里四美区集合中国古代四大美人的壁画
Some of Singapore’s ubiquitous HDB blocks have been jazzed up with interesting designs and murals, but this particular endeavour is quite unusual. I found these eye-catching wall paintings which recall different periods of Chinese history for residents of Simei estate. The word "Simei" means "four beauties" in Chinese. Indeed, when mentioning Simei, one tends to think of the Four Great Beauties: Xi Shi, Diao Chan, Yang Guifei, and Wang Zhaojun - legendary characters in Chinese classical literature.
According to local archives, the government had planned to name four roads in the estate as “Guifei Road”, “Diaochan Road”, “Xishi Road” and “Zhaojun Road”. Unfortunately these names are quite the tongue-twister for non-Chinese residents, and so they later settled for Simei Street 1, 2, and so on. Even though the authorities eventually did not name the roads here after the four beauties, you can find murals of them at the HDB void decks in Simei. Look beyond the beauty, the murals of the four beauties sitting at Simei HDB void decks have certainly altered the void decks scene by injecting this area with a little more culture and history.
我最近在本地染上了追 “壁画风”，到许多邻里社区拍摄祖屋底下的壁画。今天我就来到了东部的四美区，而且很意外地发现当年新加坡建成新镇 “四美”，是为了纪念中国古代四大美女的：西施、貂蝉、贵妃、昭君，各有不凡的气质。据说，在新加坡发展初期，确实是以四大美人的美人芳名命名街道的，更有温柔余韵，而且还能凸显社区的不同魅力。但对于不懂中文的人，实在过于拗口。于是，政府便依序以四美一街至四街重新命名，也就是：四美一街、四美二街、四美三街、四美四街等。在“组屋”底层，分别绘制了这四大美人的壁画。每幅壁画绘着美人半身像。贵妃把盏醉酒、貂婵月下焚香、昭君怀抱琵琶、西施纤手浣纱，画面栩栩如生，人物身份一目了然，别有韵味。
I’ve been noticing some murals springing up in the city in recent months, even our humble HDB flats have been catching my eyes more. There are plenty of unique, compelling HDB blocks in Singapore which are painted in vibrant colours or feature giant murals on their walls, boasting all sorts of creative designs from abstract art to pop art. Their bright splashes of colour brightening up the once-grey walls, they never fail to perk me up! Singapore may be a concrete jungle, but as the murals on the streets and charming heritage buildings show us, you can find beautiful art almost everywhere in the city. Since many of the oldest and prettiest buildings have been demolished these past few years, it is time to start paying more attention and appreciate wall murals as a community. I don't wish to wait till it's too late to treasure the colourful murals around us.
The HDB void decks in Serangoon Central were given a fresh, colourful coat of paint. That’s the dose of nostalgia these murals offer. Many of those murals harken back to Singapore’s simple kampong days as a fishing village, while you’ll can also find a lively mix of everything from Sir Stamford Raffles to our modern buildings in the area. They are great examples of meaningful and impactful ground-up initiatives and the final product is a new appealing space that many residents, both young and old, treasure and are proud of.
Still think public housing blocks in Singapore are boring? I hope you'll change your mind after you get to the end of this article.
Art has traditionally been used as a medium of expression but conversations have often been restricted within the four walls of a gallery, catering only to a niche audience. However, arts and culture are not confined to just galleries and museums in Singapore anymore – they come alive on the void deck walls of many an HDB estate. Public art took on a life of its own, breaking down walls of confined spaces and spilling out to the heartlands, making the art experience accessible to all.
More murals – or rather, art pieces – were done up at another void deck in the West side of Singapore. Non-profit group Social Creatives transformed a portion of the void decks of Blocks 749 and 750 Jurong West St 73 into a ‘Picasso’ community art gallery. The gallery pays homage to spanish artist Pablo Picasso and his famous Cubism style by creating a more intimate relationship between the artists and the community through collaboration. This is also to encourage local residents to know more about the art history and embrace the arts culture of their city.
There is another thing I would say is perhaps not unique but certainly as a whole Picasso brand it is unique. There are so many stories, myths and legends surround Picasso brand that it’s hard to know which are true and which are partly true. This is what made him memorable and his name shareable to wider audience outside art connoisseurs and art collectors.
Today, Pop Art is one of the most instantly recognisable forms of art. The influence and mark of pop art artists can be seen in almost every aspect of our modern society. At first glance, Pop Art might seem to glorify popular culture by elevating soup cans, comic strips and hamburgers to the status of fine art on the walls of museums. Pop Art focused on mass production, celebrity and the expanding industries of advertising, TV, radio and print media. Ultimately, it shaped a completely new cultural identity in the field of art and design. The art movement aims to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art, thus blurring the lines between high and low arts.
Campbell’s Soup, Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and words like ‘whaam’ are some examples of Pop Art. If they aren’t enough of an indication, you can spot a Pop artwork pretty easily as they are bright and bold in colour. But while easily recognisable, artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein exhibited their own, unique style.
There is a pop art gallery in Singapore created by Social Creatives, which you do not need to pay any entry fee to visit, and that is located at Block 8 Holland Avenue, a HDB property in Queenstown estate. I was pretty excited about the exploration because I love bold pop art and just about any image inspired by it. The conclusion of the visit was that I found it so fascinating. Basically the paintings are spoofs of renowned pop art artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring added in with certain Singapore elements. The artists gave the artwork there a uniquely singaporean twist, so don’t be surprised to see words like “aiyoo” and “sedap” too. There are a few reasons why i personally like Pop Art which are elaborated as you browse the collection of photos below. See if you agree.
Step Into The World of Vincent Van Gogh at the Void Deck Art Gallery in Singapore MacPherson HDB estates
There are places in Singapore not many are aware of which has a good showcase of artworks – and I am not talking about galleries or museums, but your very own housing estates. For people who live in HDB would think that their public housing block look rather dull and lifeless. Standard practice on some buildings is to leave the first floor open, except for the structural elements. This area is called the "void deck".
In a void deck in MacPherson, you’ll find that the walls are painted in Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s signature yellow and blue, with reproductions of his famous artworks such as Sunflowers and Starry Night. Arts charity group Social Creatives calls it a “void deck art gallery”, said to be the first of its kind here.
You do not need to buy an air ticket to fly to Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Musuem to find artistic inspiration. Instead, take a stroll through one of Singapore’s heartlands at Macpherson HDB estates, to enjoy the colourful art gallery without visiting to any museum. It's so nice to see art and colour on what would otherwise have been ordinary plain walls. It's also a nice way to educate the public about art and show them some of the masterpieces of the great painters like Van Gogh.
Confession: I am quite obsessed with finding street art. I have a love for public art. Murals and street art are always a fun thing to photograph. It’s something I do in every city that has street art. Any travel day that I end up photographing multiple murals marks a truly successful day of travel photography, in my opinion.
In the past decade, there has been a surge in popularity of one particular type of art in Singapore, the mural. Murals improve the urban landscape around them and create a sense of community through shared visual experience. Much like the flowers, trees, and plants maintained throughout the city, murals provide a splash of color in parts of town dominated by brick, concrete, or limestone. It is no wonder that murals have become popular and they will continue to provide color downtown and throughout the city.
In between the sleek skyscrapers of our Housing Development Blocks (“HDB”), creativity blossoms on the walls of housing estates, in quiet alleyways, and within bustling neighborhoods, bringing with it a flutter of radiant energy and charm. I explored the whole of Hougang HDB town to hunt down as many artworks as humanly possible so that I could break down the works of art by neighborhood. I realised that they are a great addition to our sense of place and offer ‘belonging’ for the residents staying in Hougang, as well as for the arts community.
Here are some of the cool and creative designs I saw along the way, from edgy graffiti to retro scenes. I think the photos in this collection have done a pretty good job of photographing murals with some good results. I hope it helps you chart out your own course to see these sights up close.