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.
Street art at Little India.
The early 20th century was a defining period that made Little India what it is today as migrants from India, China and Britain settled in the area then and established a diversity of trades and institutions.
Inspired by Siyamala Bookstore’s 30-year history in Little India, this mural 'Book-A-Meeting" by Eunice Lim at 82 Serangoon Road, is a look into how information about heritage, histories, traditions and stories are discovered. Tiny hints are embedded into the mural by the artist, inviting visitors to embark on a journey of discovery about the bookstore and its occupant.
Didier Jaba Mathieu, a Columbian-born graffiti writer and street artist, created this mural based on his inspiration from Kathaka, a type of Indian dance. He also incorporates a wide array of colours to depict the vibrancy and movements of this dance. He is the same artist for many of the eye-catching murals at Kampong Glam.
“Traditional Trades of Little India” by Psyfool at 4 Belilios Lane, aims to highlight the trades common to Little India when merchants and traders settled in the precinct many years ago. The various trades include the dhobi, the parrot astrologer and others that were common businesses and important to the sustenance of the settlers residing in the area. As social and economic landscapes shifted, these businesses became obsolete but today, they are held in high regard by locals who take pride in the eclectic trades that form Little India’s heritage.
This “I Am Still Here’ mural by DYN Poli Site at Clive Street puts a face to a place that holds a lot of tradition and history, and continues to stand the test of time in a city with an ever-changing landscape. The face also represents the identity of the place, marrying elements of the old and new.
I took this Trishaw man mural by local artist Ceno2 at Clive Street in January 2021 and apparently according to some recent online news reports, the mural has been removed from the exterior of the building in May 2021. The mural showed an Indian man in a turban sitting in front of a trishaw and sipping on a beverage.
Its interesting composition and contrast with the bright red building naturally made it a population tourist attraction and photo-taking spot.
It is sad to see such an iconic piece of street art disappear from the Little India landscape. Many people have strong feelings and there was a strong sense of community ownership over the existing mural. There seemed to be a lot of pressure for the new piece of art to have the same positive impact and connection with people.
This “Working Class Hero’ by ZERO at 11 Hindoo Road is a portrait of an iconic figure, the superstar Rajinikanth. A hero to the masses coming from a humble background, Rajinikanth is revered in Indian cinema. The mural pays homage to the community that frequents Little India.
“Future Reminiscence” at 107 Rowell Road by Didier Jaba Mathieu, depicts an architectural style that is preserved and continued throughout the journey of time, with characters that represent the connection between the old and the new.
The detail on this mural “Light in Little India” by Elmac, up close is hauntingly beautiful, depicting a man looking downcast – a sight that is pretty common in Little India, given the number of migrant workers who visit the area.
“Dancing in Unison” was painted on Broadway Hotel at 195 Serangoon Road, which is a result of many months of virtual collaboration between Indian artist Bhajju Shyam and Singaporean artist Sam Lo, made possible through the curation of ST+art India Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in India that works on public art projects.
“Daily Delivery” at 212 Serangoon Road was also done by Didier Jaba Mathieu, emphasising the idea of balancing the mix of tradition and modernisation, this mural is a tribute to the legendary tiffin meal businesses that contributed to the history of the precinct, with a suggestion on how this traditional trade could have sustained alongside rapid developments in technology.
“Layers” at 240 Serangoon Road by Shah Rizzal who believes in the necessity for preserving the architecture of a space that outlasts the need for progressive urban redevelopment. He seeks to convey this message by bringing our attention to the shophouses in Little India and highlighting the contribution of brick makers that once resided in that district, both of which are an invaluable fragment of history within the precinct.
On 50 Dunlop Street is 'Vilakku bb', which depicts the lighting of an oil lamp. As part of Artwalk Little India 2021, visual artist Mithra Jeevananthan has created a landscape inspired by the colours used in Kolam-making and the Enney Vilakku to symbolise the hope of bringing colour back to life during these hectic and dreary times.
“Alive at Clive” by Traseone portrays a traditional dancer in Little India and is easily spotted due to its location at Clive Street, one of Little India’s busiest roads. The exact location of mural is 106 Dunlop Street.
This colourful graffit-style piece called "A Scent of Lights" by local street artist SONG is meant to visually represent the hodgepodge of smells and sights you get in Little India, from burning incense and jasmine flowers, to glittery gold bangles and rainbow hued spices.
“Weaving Through Time” at 2 Veerasamy Road also by local street artist SONG draws inspiration from the religious sculptures and architecture of Little India. The location is a really narrow alleyway and it poses difficulties to get a full picture of it.
"Mayura" by local artist Boon Baked, which is located at the end of Belilios Road. I like the sheer scale of these peacocks parading down the alleyway but it is impossible to get a good shot of all three of them at a go.
“Folding Dreams’ at 130 Syed Alwi Road, another artwork by Eunice Lim. This mural shares the story of how humble beginnings can create a business legacy, inspired by the history of Mustafa Centre.
Another artwork by Eunice Lim on “Cattleland” at 67 Kerbau Road, contains images of buffaloes, clouds and flowers, was inspired by stories from the residents about the precinct’s history and how it used to be a street filled with buffaloes due to cattle trading.
“A Ride Through Race Course Road” at 74 Race Course Road by Jaxton Su, (with the help of Raffles Institution Art & photography Club students and migrant workers staying and working in the area) is a community mural that aims to evoke a sense of belonging and nostalgia by showcasing the shared history and cultural diversity.
This “Madan Mogra, Jasmine of the City” mural by Nadiah Alsagoff at 27 Chander Road, looks at migrant workers as individuals and how their lives are affected by the circumstances that they are born into. The Jasmine is symbolic of their growth, longing, and determination for the families they sacrifice so much for.
Street art at Armenian Street.
Armenian Street has some pretty interesting buildings in its vicinity, like the Peranakan Museum and Singapore Philatelic Museum. It’s usually one of the major venues for the annual Singapore Night Festival and in recent years, it has been converted into a pedestrianised street and is home to some pretty cool murals as well.
These works here seem to rotate fairly frequently. Click here to view my old blog post for throwback on what street art at Armenian Street looked like in 2012. Some artworks had been painted over.
This mural is found on the side wall facing Singapore Management University at Stamford Road named "Rasa Sayang" by Lab Six Five.
"Singa' by Boon Baked for Straits Records at the Substation.
The Substation is Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts centre and occasionally has some pretty avant-garde performances or exhibitions on show. It was announced in March 2021 that the Substation will close its doors permanently and move out of this conserved building in July 2021. I hope that at least the walls can still remain there as home to various interesting artworks, as some of those on the side alley lower walls rotate often enough, whereas others have been there for a long time.
This wall is by Suan Toh Bee for the Substation done in August 2020.
This SpeakCryptic work high up on the wall from 2019 is called "Sing Along If You Know The Words" and based on the idea of a mosh pit. It’s done in his signature black and white style.
"All Good In The Hood" by Hellopigu (2019) for Singapore Night Festival 2019.
Towards the back of the alley is a large collaborative mural called the Solidarity Project by Singaporean crew RSCLS with an Indonesian crew in 2013.
Street art at Kampong Glam (Victoria Street).
Undeniably Kampong Glam district is my favourite street art area in Singapore. I have documented so much street art in this district since 2012. Some murals at Kampong Glam had begun to look tired in recent years and had lost its energy and vibrancy, so this seemed like the right time for a change.
For example, the murals of "Children in Wheeling Trolleys", "Children in Shopping Trolleys is Boys Climbing In and Out" and "Boy in Window" at Jalan Klapa road by Ernest Zacharevic or ZACH as he calls himself which often attracts people taking interactive photos because of the supermarket carts attached to it, were given a brand new look in November 2020. There is an amalgamation of five artworks by 22 creatives and students, most of whom work at the marketing company behind the project, amc asia!. The new mural covers the entire side of the building along 18 Jalan Klapa.
Click here to view the old look of the original mural which was documented in 2016.
This gigantic mural wall is another work by Didier Jaba Mathieu. His style is highly refined and complex, taking inspirations from his travels and experience as a concept artist and digi-matte painter with Lucasfilm.
Yip Yew Chong is a self-taught artist who has painted over many murals in Singapore neighbourhoods. Inspired by his memories of old Singapore, his murals evoke a sense of nostalgia.
Street art at Kampong Glam (Sultan Arts Village).
Right next to the Malay Heritage Centre is the Sultan Arts Village where you’ll find fascinating street art and graffiti by both local and international artists. It’s also home to The Blackbook Studio, Singapore’s first physical graffiti store and the official distributor of loop colours. In the courtyard, there is a long practice wall where artists will meet and just paint for fun, so the artworks on the wall change very often. You may even chance upon the artists at work.
Street art at Kampong Glam (Aliwal Street).
Pop into the alleyway behind the Aliwal Arts Centre and you’ll find an ever-changing canvas of works on the back walls. This is thanks mostly to local crew RSCLS, who have a studio space in Aliwal Arts Centre alongside many of Singapore’s prominent performing arts groups.
There is a new (and massive) masterpiece at 61 Aliwai Street by Didier Jaba Mathieu added to Kampong Gelam and it's splashed on the facade of Cuturi Gallery. The mural depicts ships that allude to Singapore's seafaring past and nods to the Lion City's flora and fauna.
Street art at Kampong Glam (Haji Lane).
Click here to view my old blog post for throwback on what street art at Haji Lane looked like in 2012. Some artworks had been painted over.
Below is another piece by Didier Jaba Mathieu, commissioned by the owner of Blu Jaz Cafe, a popular eatery known for live band performances (currently closed due to COVID-19 Phase 2A restrictions). This wall is by the side of Punjaby Dawat that shares the same alley as Blu Jaz Cafe. Its bold and vibrant colours instantly grab one’s attention.
Funky pop-art by multi-disciplinary artist Idris Johor, who goes by the handle PrettyFreakyFantasy, line the pillars and the interiors of the cafe. Almost all of his artwork radiates a feel-good factor; in his words: “I want people to smile when they see my work”. You can find another of his equally vibrant wall mural at Gelam Gallery, which I documented in September 2021.
Hipsters love Haji Lane for its many indie boutique retail outlets – but what attracts the photographers are the Insta-worthy murals that cover the walls of the shophouses near the Beach Road junction.
Street art at Orchard Cineleisure.
The youth-oriented *SCAPE hub has both indoor and outdoor walls covered with friendly, bright murals by young street artists that are refreshed every few months.
"Peace and Tranquillity" landscape mural by SONG from RSCLS done together with Ledania at the SCAPE.
Wherever possible, I always try to describe where the following street art is located, but in truth, I didn’t always know. I scootered around with the intention of getting lost; taking a left turn here, right turn there, I had no idea where I was on occasions. But that was always the plan.
Scootering with no other agenda, than to get lost in search of art.
I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. It’s been a challenging year but it feels like 2021 or next year 2022 could be the year for positive change. Street artists paint street art hoping it would bring some happiness to the area its in. It’s an incredibly diverse and varied art movement, one that is growing in popularity as work being exhibited in the streets continues to develop in terms of size, style, and sheer skill. With street art beginning to gain real popularity in Singapore, this is definitely a part of the world to watch for new and exciting examples of this urban voice.
You may click here to browse all my street art blogs to-date.