Monthly Archives: May 2016

These Shophouses

had me at hello. Although that’s true for most shophouses as far as I’m concerned. But Bukit Pasoh Road is something else with its row of spectacularly bejewelled mid-20th century buildings that have been painstakingly refurbished by the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority).

Bukit Pasoh

“They have it all, don’t they?”, said our guide alluding to the ornate architectural style of these shophouses called Late Shophouse Style or Late Straits Eclectic Style that became popular between 1900 – 1940s. Of all the six different architectural styles China town’s shophouses can be grouped into, this one is the most spectacular with decorative stuccowork on everything from architraves, cornices and pilasters to even brackets, dramatic iron grilles of the balconies, wooden louvered windows and so much more.

Bukit Pason Shophouses

As a part of the ongoing Singapore Heritage Fest 2016 (29April – 15 May),  URA had organized a heritage walk in Chinatown in collaboration with the Friends of the Museum, focussing on the Bukit Pasoh Area. We started a little after 9 am from the URA building on Maxwell Street, passed by the Maxwell Food Centre and the Fairfield Methodist Church, then crossed the road towards the imposing Jinrikisha Station on the opposite, walked along Neil Road, across Duxton Hill and finally reached Bukit Pasoh Road around 11. Along the way, we stopped at several junctures to hear fascinating stories about the architecture and history of these places from our guide who seemed incredibly adept at bringing the past alive.

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A section of Bukit Pasoh Road as seen from the roof top of Gan Clan Singapore.

If no one was minding the scorching May heat, it was because of her muscular narrative chops . “Why do you think these shophouses have backlanes?, she asked and matched the blank stares with another interesting fact.”..so the night soil collector could visit each night and discreetly pick up the buckets filled with waste from each house without disturbing the owner”. Judging from the look of surprise on the faces followed by immediate relief considering our much advanced living conditions, I guessed there would be newfound admiration for flush toilets at least within this group of participants.

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My painting at the ‘Sketches of Da Po – Old and New Chinatown’ exhibition at Gan Clan Singapore

“Bukit is a Malay word for hill and Pasoh stands for Alibaba pots (earthenware pots) “, said our guide. Apparently in 1846, Bukit Pasoh was recorded to be 1281 feet in elevation and was home to many 19th century kilns that produced these pots used in homes to store water and rice. This street was also home to many clan associations (which were basically societies that helped 19th century immigrants from China to settle in Singapore and find their footing) , some of which still survive today and in one such building on 18 Bukit Pasoh Road called Gan Clan Singapore (formerly known as The Gan Clan Association) there’s an art exhibition happening on the 4th floor where one of my sketches is sharing space with many beautiful pieces of work, all based on the theme Da Po – Old and New Chinatown.

The exhibition is open from 10 am till 5pm, until 18th May (Closed on 14th May and Sundays) and is interesting to visit because there’s an incredible array of drawing styles on display, sometimes of one particular building or scene, proving how different people perceive and express the same things differently.

Don’t leave without trying the scrumptious blueberry muffin with chia seeds at The LoKal cafe just round the corner, at the intersection of Bukit Pasoh Rd and Neil Road. Here’s the sketch –

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The LoKal Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

What if

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…I had a key that could open my head so I could put in and take out anything I wanted? This bewitching thought that I’ve been mulling over came to me from something I read two weeks ago. In Vol. 2 of Joe Hill’s epic comic book series called Locke and Key, one of the characters named Kinsley dug out all her fears and the ability to cry while her older brother Tyler jammed in textbooks to ace school exams!

 

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If I were to play along and assume that the lid on my head was off, what would I put in? After a bout of gruelling self-assessment I came up with the answer which believe it or not is ‘nothing’. Yes, I’d pass it up, coz I can’t bear sabotaging the masochistic sense of achievement I derive from learning anything new. I revel in that sort of thing. But, that’s just me.

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On the other hand there’s a lot I want to get rid of. All kinds of fears starting from facing a blank page to a room full of people at a party. A long standing one has been that of drawing people. I sort of stiffen when faced with this task and the lack of spirit shows in the drawing and then these insipid drawings gnaw at my courage to start afresh. Hence the beguiling temptation of this fantasy key.

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Fantasy it may be, but what if it’s also a metaphor for our willingness to open our minds? What if a single turn of this key can unlock our courage to explore new ideas, challenge our beliefs and make mistakes, learn from them and then build up confidence? I put the key to test. In other words I started drawing even more people and in a style that felt most natural to me and decided to focus only on the process, enjoy it without worrying about results.

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These 5 drawings above are the fruits of my dogged efforts and reflect my altered mindset. I used watercolours and crayons to make the process even more exciting and developed this gestural style that I’m growing quite fond of and wish to explore further. Rest assured there’s going to be one overworked key in this house!