Street Art In Singapore: Little India, Armenian Street, Kampong Glam & Orchard SCAPE YouthPark (Revisited)
What’s an artwork without an audience? Without getting bogged down in philosophical discourse, let’s just assume artists create their works to be seen by others. I think street art photographers, bloggers and supporters who document street art play a key role in sharing street artworks that might disappear tomorrow.
I am always on the lookout for new art showing up on the walls and surfaces of cities. I capture, exhibit and provide context for these artworks and I think this is a great way to feel the pulse of a dynamic city’s street art scene. Singapore’s bustling street art scene is evident every single month of the year. Often times, art extends itself past the traditional canvas. We see this in the world's most beautiful public sculptures, or even sandcastles along a beach. Yet, what can be a bigger space to express ones creativity than the sides of buildings? It's with these murals we see in neighborhoods throughout the world that the thoughts and fears and dreams of a city come to life. They show us that something as simple as painting a mural on the front of a building really could make a difference and bring so much joy to passers-by.
Today's blog post showcases more street art in Singapore, specifically at (1) Little India; revisited (2) Armenian Street; (3) Kampong Glam district (including Haji Lane); and (4) Orchard *SCAPE YouthPark. There is no reason why we shouldn’t revisit existing murals (in fact, all the more the reason to revisit them). I hope the new murals would bring lots of hope and inspiration, especially during these challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Heads up. This is an image-heavy blog post.
Construction Site-Turned Southeast Asia's First Official Graffiti Hall of Fame at Singapore's Kampong Gelam
People who are familiar with urban art would have heard of the Hall of Fame, which refers to a space legally dedicated to street art. In the graffiti world, a Hall of Fame is a vibrant hub where artists new and renowned can hone their craft. Some of the major cities in the world – including New York and Sydney – have said spaces where artists can work their magic; and now, Southeast Asia’s first official graffiti Hall of Fame can call Singapore home.
Southeast Asia’s first official graffiti Hall of Fame was recently launched in Singapore by precinct association One Kampong Gelam and the Singapore Tourism Board on 28 April 2021 on an unprecedented scale. The Hall of Fame is set to be one of the most prominent street art experiences in the region. There are altogether 17 Singapore-based artists unleashed their works on tall metal canvases along Bali Lane and Ophir Road. The enclave has long been famed for its colourful street art splashed across its back alleys. In 2019, it also welcomed Singapore's first outdoor gallery, Gelam Gallery (click here to read my post on Gelam Gallery).
But the interesting part about Singapore’s Hall of Fame is that a construction site has become an unexpected canvas for art. Originally erected as noise barriers for ongoing construction works, the tall metal canvases have become the stage for the best muralists from Singapore. Each mural comes with a handy QR code, allowing you to check out artwork descriptions and artist info through the Hall of Fame microsite.
HDB Colour-Coded Directions Signs as Wayfinding For Dementia Friendly Community in Yishun, Singapore
A series of community initiatives has recently been implemented to make some of the neighbourhood estates in North Singapore more dementia-friendly. For the people staying in North Singapore, did you notice that the facades of some Housing Development Blocks in high-traffic areas near Yishun (a.k.a. Nee Soon) were painted recently with striking colours and symbols?
Similar to zoned carparks, the blocks feature icons - pineapples for red blocks, fish for blue blocks and rubber trees for green blocks. Block numbers were painted prominently on the sides of the blocks and their pillars. The colours stand for different zones in the neighbourhood, comprising Blocks 837 to 850 Yishun Street 81/82. They are part of an effort in making the area more dementia-friendly, in other words, to better help persons with dementia find their way around the neighbourhood.
Persons with dementia often find it difficult to navigate even their own neighbourhood, and risk losing their way. Mature residential environments are especially difficult for wayfinding due to high-rise almost identical height buildings. One promising intervention to make an environment more supportive for wayfinding is to enhance it with salient cues, especially since many environments that seniors inhabit lack salient environmental information. Salient cues are those that grab the user’s attention and stand out from the surround such as a large brightly illuminated statue. The rationale for using salient cues is that they address the problem of wayfinding both visually and cognitively. Visually, salient cues can stand out from the surround, attract the wayfarer’s attention, and are more likely to be seen by the aging eye.
If a person with dementia were to ask for help, or if somebody were to find him looking lost, even if he cannot remember exactly which block he lives in, he might be able to recall the colour or icon. This will help people to lead him back to where he lives.
Wall Murals In The Heartlands at Tampines HDB Void Deck Feature Nostalgic Childhood Games From The Singapore's Past
Today's kids spend time playing virtual games in virtual environments. They play away everyday from life and the streets. They are unaware of social games of the past. There were once children's games that colored our lives. Nowdays the kids grow up without knowing the life, touching the life and sharing but only touching the screens. This is especially more apparent in big cities. Children growing up in big cities today neither know the street nor are they aware of the neighborhood culture. The adults cannot hear the joyful sounds of children rising from the streets.
I’m one for nostalgia. There’s something nostalgic about looking back at all the traditional games we played while growing up in Singapore. The games of my childhood always bring back fond memories of carefree afternoons spent outside. These games take us back to a simpler era when life seemed to move at a slower pace and all we really cared about was having a good time with our buddies. There is a set of murals at Blk 857 Tampines Street 83 featuring nostalgic childhood games from the past. They were done by a local artist Jaxton Su. It was a flashback to the past when I saw these murals ! Although not all traditional games were showcased in this artist's collection, let's remember the forgotten children's games and in the name of the joy of the streets!
The Search for Street Art: Project Void Deck Revamp & MayFlower Food Centre/Market in Ang Mo Kio, Singapore
There is actually so much street art in Ang Mo Kio. Ang Mo Kio may be the latest town decorated with beautiful street art that make the walls of the town attractive. Not only attractive, beautiful or Insta-worthy. All these street art pieces of Ang Mo Kio tell a story about Singapore, its culture, rich heritage and history.
It is so heartening to know that there are two areas in Ang Mo Kio where the wall murals were painted by school students. The creation and presence of public works of art provide immeasurable opportunities to those students involved and those who experience them. These projects show that Singapore is a place that not only values the expression of local artists, but is a country that is eager to share opportunities with others for the sake of art education and community building.
The first set of murals are known as “Void Deck REVAMP” project. Art students from Canberra Secondary School, Ang Mo Kio Secondary School, Maris Stella High School, Presbyterian High School, Chong Boon Secondary School, Mayflower Secondary School and Nanyang Polytechnic, led by local artists revamped a total 11 void deck areas at various Housing Development Blocks (“HDB) at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, 3 and 10. The murals were completed in July 2014. I know I am a bit late to write about them, but better late than never, right? The aim of Project Void Deck REVAMP was to allow engagement between the artwork and the residents, promoting community arts, getting everyone to beautifying the environment and lastly, and also to promote our local artists.
If the memory can serve Singaporeans well, Singapore was the host of the inaugural 2010 Summer Youth Olympics Games (“YOG”). It participated in all the 26 sports, with a total of 129 athletes representing the nation.
Art is one way to bridge the community. Back in 2009, students from Damai Secondary School spent part of their holidays to transform some empty walls of housing flats at Bedok Reservoir Road into larger-than-life canvasses. The theme of the murals was “Sports” and there were 15 murals in total, created with brilliant colours, depicting various sports such as swimming, table tennis and basketball.
There was a special link between the YOG and Damai Secondary School, even before these murals because in 2008, the students painted two Olympic-themed murals to support Singapore's bid to host the YOG as well as the nation's athletes in their quest for glory at the Beijing Olympic Games. This mural project was also a double celebration as it marked the 15th anniversary of the school.
Anyone who knows me knows I am a massive fan of street art. I personally enjoy street photography, so in a way, street art massively appeals to me. I seem to have this sixth sense for sniffing it out in the city that I live in or every new city I visit. I always find them in some very surprising locations. Through my travels I have to come to recognise the styles of some of the world’s better known artists, and found some new favourites along the way.
For an added bonus, the relatively new Our Tampines Hub in Singapore has also provided some new street art gems, including work by a Singaporean artist, Ceno2. Ceno2 is, without doubt, one of my favourite street artists, and stumbling upon his art pieces while exploring a new mall was like finding the holy grail of street art. Whenever I make a wrong turn, will always result in finding something just as wonderful. I also spotted pieces by other artists like Chai Chee Seam and RSCLS, such as Zul Othman, who goes by the moniker Zero @zero_rscls, Adeline Tan @Mightyellow, Ink and Clog Studio and Wu Yanrong.
I am drawn to street art because it is usually reflective of the personality or quirks of the neighborhood where it is located. Simply put, it conveys a vibrancy and a story of the community where it exists. Thus, by including it in my photos can give my viewers a look into the culture of the place and what it may be like to be in that particular setting.
In the last couple of years I have come to appreciate street art. There are so many reasons why people love street art and why it is becoming more popular or important for people of all walks of life. Street art is an important part of history and identity for many metropolises, and sometimes even has the ability to breathe life into communities. I have tons of Singapore street art / wall mural pictures and I will continue to blog about them bit by bit in 2021.
I have a lot of great memories of Bras Basah Complex, so today I decided to dedicate a post on wall murals at this place. The Bras Basah Complex has been a familiar place to many Singaporeans for the past three decades. The commercial-cum-residential complex became Singapore’s well-known City of Books, an unofficial yet representative name just like the Beach Road’s Army Market, the Arcade where moneychangers ply their trades, or the famous Sungei Thieves Market with their second hand goods. I used to buy books and stationery at this place when I was a student. I still frequent Bras Basah Complex very often nowadays, not to buy books, but for the endless supplies of art materials from Art Friend for my painting works.
Most of these vibrant and cheerful wall mural paintings at Bras Basah Complex were created by students from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts ("NAFA"), as part of Central Singapore CDC’s Painting Smiles initiative. This arts initiative was titled "Painting Smiles" which aimed to bring smiles to visitors or residents through the use of bright and therapeutic colours on wall murals. There are also some other wall murals done by local street artists.
I know this is just one of those things that people say, but I've been obsessed with street art since way before it started to be cool to like street art. I mean, story of my life, right? I think if you lined up the few things in life that I'm passionate about, you would find that most of them are currently trendy. Which is kind of funny, because I wouldn't consider myself to be all that trendy a gal. But what can I say, street art is in this season. Honestly, I could just put a ton of street art photos up as proof that street art is pretty freaking awesome. And don't worry, I will, but I guess I should also write about it as well since this is, you know, a photography blog.
Nevertheless, it's 100% true; I fell in love with street art. It was pretty much love at first sight. I settled for travelling in search of street art in my hometown, Singapore and around the world before the COVID-19 pandemic. As a frequent traveller, I found there was a growing treasure trove, and often in unexpected places. I was fascinated. At one point, I genuinely considered doing a degree focused on the culture of street art (if there is). You get the picture. I'm kind of obsessed.
Once I discovered that Ang Mo Kio had street art, I knew I would enjoy it here. It’s a bustling neighbouring area for many, but for me, it was about looking for street art that day. I couldn’t notice such a big surprise in Ang Mo Kio until recently. Some masterpieces have to be seen in real, wherever they are. And can you say no to the pleasure of discovery?
The street art I saw depicts the culture, rich heritage, history and daily life of people living in Singapore in a sweet yet funny manner, almost like cartoon characters. As I walked around Ang Mo Kio Town Centre, spotting the murals, they had surely put a smile on my face or made me think about the local way of living in Singapore. These street artists’ murals are stunning. As usual with wall murals, I took a plethora of photos. I enjoyed the hours spent searching for street art in Ang Mo Kio, so now I would like to show you how talented some of these street artists really are.
Artistic Wayfinding Project By The Singapore Alzheimer’s Disease Association For Senior-Dementia-Friendly Community In Kebun Baru Neighbourhood
It might have passed you by, but I'm a big fan of street art. It's for that very reason that I’m always on a constant lookout for interesting street artwork. What I love most about searching for street art isn’t just finding beautiful murals, but it’s the journey to seek them out. It takes you to places you wouldn’t normally visit; down backstreets and alleyways etc. I think it’s a fantastic way of getting to know a new place. In the end, I always use street art as a landmark to navigate my way around.
The street art in Singapore that I’m going to introduce today has a noble cause in itself — it is meant for people who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's Disease. People with dementia will wander. People with dementia may not remember his or her name or address, and often experience problems with orientation, which cause difficulties in finding their way back home. Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it. Wayfinding helps people with dementia move independently from one spot to another. It refers to ‘what people see, what they think about and what they do when finding their way from one place to another’.
Several HDB blocks along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 have been embellished with murals of kueh kueh, satay, a tingkat and more. Everything — from the size of the murals (big, so residents can spot them from afar) to the mural subjects (traditional because these resonate with those living with dementia) to even the locations of the mural (just one or two at strategic locations instead of painting every other wall) — they are part of a dementia wayfinding project done by the Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) in consultation with caregivers of patients who are living with early onset dementia, so as to remain sensitive to the needs of this group of residents. The murals featured familiar, retro items to aid persons living with dementia and the elderly with difficulties in wayfinding, particularly at void decks, in easily recognising their surroundings and finding their way home.
Kampong Glam is one of my favourite places in Singapore to hang out. I used to shop around this area and spent many times walking up and down these streets, so I will always be fond of it. I love that it’s one of the first places that street art became hip. But even if I’m on a repeat visit, there’s still a whole lot to experience in the neighbourhood.
Kampong Glam is known to be unique for being a place that history and modernity are able to thrive together. It's also home to tons of cultural spots and quaint little cafes and bars. It’s pretty much a common sight to see an old and traditional shop right next to a trendy and quirky boutique. The whole area gives voice to local artists, both established and previously unknown, and to renew tourists’ interests in Singaporean arts scene.
But what really makes Kampong Glam stand out are its beautiful IG-worthy graffiti-filled walls. So beautiful that they are now Singapore’s very first outdoor gallery — Gelam Gallery, which is testament to this artistic diversity. Gelam Gallery, which features stunning imagery and paintings done by art professionals as well as graduates from local art educational institutions, is located in the back alleys of the streets of Kampong Glam. I've previously done some street art photodocumentary at Haji Lane and the other side of Kampong Glam which you can click on the links to reminisce.
Singapore has some amazing street art, scattered in various neighbourhoods, painted by incredibly talented artists. Among them, Mr Yip Yew Chong is the one of the popular artists who draws the original scenery of Singapore in its early days with a warm touch. He has been inventing new ways of utilising our shared space to communicate, provoke, and interact, which is what made this a vibrant and engaging place to live. Most of his artwork are murals telling a story about the very place they are located in. All his murals are site specific, but these are more literally so. They are centered on the social practice of using art to create social interaction, in which people reflect on the history, current state, and better potential, of the very space they find themselves in. There’s no better ways to record stories from our pioneer generation than to put them into painting. What’s more we have lifelike murals.
At Blk 683C Woodlands Ave 6 near MRT Admiralty Station, the empty void deck has been transformed into a whimsical world with three zones by Mr Yip. It is divided into three zones featuring nostalgic murals of the farmland and kampung, nature murals and futuristic city murals. The murals resonate with people in a nostalgic way. I feel that Mr Yip did an amazing job. I also think that his artwork itself has the capacity to engage people in conversation and to look at landscapes and physical environments differently. I hope the community will appreciate it and feel that it's their space.
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.