If you’ve taken a walk around the underpasses connecting Singapore’s three main river quays recently, you may have noticed that they’ve received a colourful facelift. Gwen Pew talks to the artists behind some of the murals.
8 Mar 2013: To encourage people to see the historical quays – Clarke, Boat and Robertson – as more than just party central, Singapore River One, a nonprofit organisation tasked to manage the river area, has decided inject some art and culture into the underpasses that connect the three quays with their ‘Mural Art @ Singapore River’ project.
The idea behind it is simple: to open up six bridge underpass spaces – at both sides of Clemenceau Bridge, Coleman Bridge (at New Bridge Road) and Elgin Bridge (at South Bridge Road) – for artists to use as their canvas. ‘We’re trying to improve the connectivity among the Quays through various initiatives,’ says Ty Tabing, SRO’s executive director. ‘[Mural Art] is one of several initiatives designed to increase footfall in the precinct and attract new audiences to the river.’ He adds that ‘other future plans include installing urban furniture and activating underutilised spaces along the River with more design and art installations’.
For now, the Mural Art project is up and running, with the underpass pieces installed at the end of January, following an open call in November last year that called for works based on the area’s history and themes of water. Out of approximately 30 submissions, six designs were selected by SRO’s panel of art experts (with representatives from the NAC, Lasalle and The Substation). They will be on display for at least nine months, after which another open call will be held for new designs. Here, we chat to some of the artists behind the murals.
The urban art collective – whose name is pronounced ‘Rascals’ and whose core members consist of ZERO, ANTZ, CLOGTWO, SKLO and SHEEP – is the only group out of the six that was specially commissioned without having to go through the Open Call process, as the SRO believed that they were the top local street artists and wanted to send the message that this was the type of art they wanted for the project. After completing their research and going through a brainstorming session, ‘we just drew nonstop,’ according to Anthony Chong (aka ANTZ). Their piece features various characters from the past that have played important roles in shaping Singapore. ‘A parallel is drawn to the present, where the many business suits of our current labour force form a new metaphorical building of Singapore. [They] still drive the city with the equivalent hard work,’ says Chong. He adds that ‘this is an opportunity [for us to] try out new techniques and learn from each other, but we seldom expect or stick to the plan. Art is organic and therefore our piece will evolve according to the previous elements or the negative space left.’
See their work: At Elgin Bridge or look them up on Facebook (search ‘RSCLS’)
Seet Yun Teng
Although she’s still a student at Raffles Institute Junior College, the 18-year-old Seet has already exhibited at Sculpture Square’s second Small Sculpture Show in 2011 and participated in Noise Singapore’s Apprenticeship Programme. She’s worked with a wide range of media including painting, illustrations, sculpture and photography, but has never worked with such a large-scale art mural until now. ‘To me, this was an invaluable chance to try my hand at something new – and being able to paint an entire underpass is pretty darn awesome!’ Seet has chosen to interpret the set themes quite literally, and her final work incorporates crashing waves, bumboats, as well as warehouses and even a cameo by the Merlion. ‘I wanted to retain the hand-drawn, handmade effect of the original illustration, hence I opted to print and then paint over instead of directly printing and installing the piece,’ she says. ‘It did turn out quite well – especially with the many friends I got to help me!’
See her work: At Coleman Bridge or dropr.com/yuntengseet
A collective of tattoo artists consisting of self-professed ’80s kids Peenut Lee, Emmeline Koh and Valerie Yang, Vagabond Ink operate from their Chinatown-based store, which opened in 2010. While the idea to participate in the River Art project was first suggested by Lee, her two accomplices immediately came onboard. ‘It was tricky to have different artists keeping to Peenut’s style of work especially when it was done on a massive scale of two walls,’ Koh says. ‘But the workload was distributed such that [Lee] could focus on the art direction while [Yang] and I filled in the rest.’ Drawing inspirations from people and things that she comes across in her daily life, Lee wanted to portray an honest picture of the pace of the city, and at the same time remind passers-by the importance of pausing to take a breather every now and then. But beyond that, there’s also a deeper message that they would like to bring across: ‘We just hope that the public will show some respect to street art,’ Koh explains. ‘Not just for the sake of the artists behind the work, but more so for the sake of art itself. Instead of vandalising it, lend art and artists your support. Be pro-art simply by viewing and appreciating.’
See their work: At Clemenceau Bridge or http://www.vagabondink.com More info: http://www.singapore-river.com