Chalkboard art

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I saw the above artwork at City Square Mall. I’m a fan of such work. Some time ago, I came across pictures of chalkboard art online and immediately fell in love with them. I find them fascinating, because they can be so ornate and obviously require a high level of artistry, and yet have a down-to-earth tone to them, I guess because we associate chalkboards with childhood and school.

Another thing about them I find interesting is how strong and ‘masculine’ it looks to me even when the piece features intricate calligraphy which can be very frilly. I think this is due to the art being in stark black and white.

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Day 51

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My favourite Liu Kang

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‘Artist and Model’ (1954)

It was a very nice surprise coming face to face with this painting a few days ago at the National Museum. It is part of the ‘A Changed World‘ exhibition ongoing there until this Sunday.

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I was introduced to the artist Liu Kang while taking some night classes in graphic design about ten years ago, and art was one of the subjects. To be honest I didn’t even know of this exhibition. I was just at the Museum with a friend, saw the posters for this, remarked “that looks interesting.” so we went down to the basement where it was located to check it out. It was therefore an unexpected treat to see it.

A bit about the artist from Wikipedia:

Liu Kang (Chinese: 刘抗; pinyin: Liú Kàng) was a Singaporean artist famous for his Balinese-themed figurative paintings. He was a founding member of the Singapore Art Society, and was credited with developing the Nanyang Style.

He was born in Fujian Province and he spent his early years in Malaysia, studied art in Shanghai and Paris, and taught art in Shanghai during the 1930s. Under the influence of Chinese artist and art teacher Liu Haisu (1896–1994), Liu admired, and often appropriated the styles of French-based modernist painters such as Cézanne, van Gogh and Matisse.

Liu Kang came to Singapore in 1942 and had been credited with numerous contributions to the local arts scene. In 1952, Liu Kang, Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng went on their historic field trip to Bali in search of a visual expression that was Southeast Asian. Liu drew much inspiration from this trip which inspired some of his latter works.

In 1970, Liu was awarded the Public Service Star by the Singapore Government. He was honoured by the same agency in 1996 with the Meritorious Service Medal. His works, spanning from 1935 to 1997, are a testament of his contributions to Singapore art.

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Day 50 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Haw Par Villa

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I have fond memories of the theme park Haw Par Villa from my childhood. There used to be a kampung (village) right behind the theme park where my aunt and her family lived. My family would visit sometimes especially when my late grandmother was staying with her. We would make our way through the park first because there was a side entrance from it that led to the village.

I took my Swiss tourist friend for a walk there for a couple of hours before we headed to Harbour Front. There is now an MRT station there since 2011, named after it and located right beside the entrance of the park.

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It’s a bit run down, but there obviously is still effort at restoration. Most of the paint on the statues look fresh, or at least still looks good, and we could see some ongoing restoration works there. But it still looks like considerable work needs to be done to polish it up better, especially water features like ponds, and the signs explaining the stories, many of which are faded. Remarkably, entrance is still free. I’d rather there be a nominal fee (like Sentosa Island’s S$1 entrance fee if you walk there instead of taking the monorail) if it could help with better maintenance, or at least the relevant park authorities contribute the funds and manpower for this.

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Whatever it is, I hope it’ll always be around because it’s part of our country’s heritage. Even if it’s not profitable, it should be maintained well as it’s a historical venue, like a museum. And museums are never profitable, right? But we always still have museums because they are a necessity, to preserve our history, or at least the history as written by the writers or whatever.

The park was built in 1937 by the Burmese-Chinese brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the developers of Tiger Balm, as a venue for teaching traditional Chinese values. That’s before World War 2, and pretty old at least in terms of the young age of our nation.

Me, I just like it a lot because I find it so fascinating and unique. An entire park made up of artistic statues, and not only that, but they tell stories of legends and folklore.

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Day 41 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: nostalgic

Warning and other signs

I was at Sentosa Island today taking a walk with a Swiss tourist friend. He made an observation that there are so many signs around. What to do, what not to do, this is allowed, that is not allowed. So many rules. It feels a bit like a nanny state where the people are not trusted to do the right thing, or not trusted to use their common sense, so they have everything spelt out for them.

And while talking about that, he mentioned he noticed that when he waits for a train at an MRT station, there are many announcements blaring from the speakers. Give way to alighting passengers! No eating! Report suspicious people and articles! I laughed because it’s true. There are many announcements, and I think most times they come in all four official languages, so yes sometimes it can seem a bit much and annoying.

The discussion of this subject started when we were at Sentosa because we were taking photographs at what looks like this Gaudi-inspired place near the Merlion, and he remarked the following pesky “Please do not enter the pool” sign spoils the view and photo-taking. The same sign was at various points along the whole stretch of the sculpture and water feature.

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I had to laugh and agree with him. At first glance it looks silly. Who on earth would jump into the fountain? But we later decided there would be people crazy enough to jump in and play, kids and adults alike, including to pose for photos. It may look harmless but people may forget it takes just one slip on the wet slippery tiles to knock one’s head against the surface and that’s it. Nasty bruises, if not a lot worse. I’ve actually been there a few times and I recall the signs not being there before, so I won’t be surprised if they were put there after accidents had actually happened. So, it’s ugly, but safety before aesthetic, I guess. Just that it’s a pity that it’s necessary, if really so.

Two of the other signs we came across.

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I guess some admin staff of Sentosa could have felt the same way too about the signs and made an attempt at a sense of humour with these. I didn’t find them very funny, but they did draw out a smile and a sad chuckle from me.

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Day 40 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: tickled

Henderson Waves

I’ve seen pictures of this gorgeous bridge and been wanting to visit it for the longest time. Now I’ve finally had the joy of seeing it in person and crossing it. It’s truly a remarkable thing of beauty.

Opened in May 2008, Henderson Waves Bridge stands 36 metres above Henderson Road and connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Belangah Hill Park.

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Here’s a video by YouTube user market2garden:

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Day 39

happy meter: fascinated

Tan Hak Heng in Jawi

This brought a smile to my face when I saw it, walking along a road in Johor Bahru. A Chinese name written in Jawi script as well.

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What is Jawi? Wikipedia explains it:

Jawi (Jawi: جاوي‎ Jāwī; Pattani: Yawi; Acehnese: Jawoë) is an Arabic alphabet for writing the Malay language, Acehnese, Banjarese, Minangkabau, and several other languages in Southeast Asia.

Jawi is one of the two official scripts in Brunei, and is used as an alternate script in Malaysia. Usage wise, it was the standard script for the Malay language but has since been replaced by a Latin alphabet called Rumi, and Jawi has since been relegated to a script used for religious and cultural purposes. Day-to-day usage of Jawi is maintained in more conservative Malay-populated areas such as Kelantan in (northern) Malaysia and Pattani (in southern Thailand).

It interests me because I am learning Arabic, in weekly lessons, and as I learn every new word in the regular Roman script, I find myself looking for the word as spelt in the actual Arabic script. It’s not listed in the course I’m using, so I have to look for it online. And it has slowed down my learning quite a lot ever since I started doing this, because I’m basically learning to spell with a different script than the Roman letters I’m used to. The effort is worth it, though. It helps with making sure I get the correct pronunciation, I find.

And sometimes as I do that, I think of how wonderful it would be if the Malay language still solely uses Jawi, because I think it’s largely a lost art in many parts of the Malay-speaking world. In terms of everyday usage by the Malays, I mean. We already learned the Roman script in school to read and write English, so it would be nice to have ‘our own’ script for our Malay language, just like the Chinese has for their Mandarin language, and the Indians for their Tamil language, here in Singapore.

I regret not taking an interest to learn it from my late father, who was not only well-versed in writing Malay in Jawi script, but was skillful in Arabic calligraphy, so he wrote beautifully. He was very artistic. Whereas here I am, my writing so comically awful, as I practise writing in Arabic alphabets as I spell out the words I learn. I hope it will improve over time.

Looking at the name ‘Tan Hak Heng‘ in Jawi in the photos made me smile and laugh to myself because it reminded me of when I first tried to write my own name months ago. I was embarrassed to discover I got it so wrong, haha! Fortunately for us Malays in Singapore, our name in Jawi script is actually provided in our national Identity Card (which is pretty cool, actually), so I know the correct spelling.

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Day 35

happy meter: pleasantly surprised

Whimsical mosaic work

I went for a long walk earlier today with a tourist friend. One of the places we came across was HortPark, which I will surely write in detail one day soon as it’s such a gorgeous surprise. But first I’d like to put pictures here of this beautiful mosaic wall, located near the entrance.

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What I really like about it is how the illustration depicted, which looks like something from a children’s book, is presented with so many mirror tiles. I would expect the glamorous sparkle of these tiles to be more on a stylishly modern work. But for this kind of illustration style, it gives the otherwise quietly pretty scene a surreal quality in a startlingly unexpected, and wonderfully playful way.

And I really like the cluster of flowers below the glass panel, simply because it makes me think of a painting by Gustav Klimt, one of my favourite artists.

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Day 33

Happy meter: fascinated

Festive mood at City Square Mall

We went to Mustafa Centre at Serangoon Road in Little India today, to shop for some particular grocery items we like to get from the supermarket there. To get there we got off at Farrer Park MRT station. The exit  of the station is linked to the basement level of City Square Mall. When we left the mall we were greeted by a mini funfair of sorts, set up for the Chinese New Year season.

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I was impressed, especially since I didn’t see anything of this scale in terms of decoration by an individual mall when we were in Chinatown a couple of weeks ago. And here we were in Little India, where we found this big effort by City Square Mall. It’s so charming and cheerful.

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A massive and incredibly beautiful tangerine tree. There are two of these at the front entrance, and two more at a side entrance of the mall.

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When we were walking past this air slide, they were just beginning to have it blown up with a blower machine. I turned around barely a minute or two later and it was already all completely done. I didn’t know it was going to be that amazingly fast. It would have been fun to record it on video.

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There were also these gorgeous boards featuring all twelve animals of the Chinese Horoscope, with signboards featuring predictions of what’s in store this Year of the Horse.

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That’s my sign, going moo moo. Ox, or to be specific for those born in 1973, Water Ox. According to the prediction, it might suck to be me this Year of the Horse. I might even fall sick and everything. Dammit.

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I do love how the pink shades of the Indian lady’s elegant saree matches so well with the theme colour of the funfair. I also love how she’s nonchalantly rocking the grey in her hair, with a girlish ponytail! And that pretty pink on her! Surely it indicates a fun spirit. Effortless chic.

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This post is Day 16 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: cheery

A colourful stroll in Chinatown

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Descending from the heavens above, wildly and joyously galloping through the city to usher in peace and love in the Year of the Horse.

We met some friends for lunch and I wanted to drop by Chinatown afterwards to check out the street decorations for Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner this Friday the 31st.

I don’t normally go for these things. For example, last year I didn’t visit Geylang for the lights during Ramadan. Neither did I go to Little India for the Deepavali festive season, nor Orchard Road for the Christmas light-up. But the venue for lunch was near the South Bridge Road/Pagoda Street part of Chinatown, and as I got closer I was drawn to the flying horses I could see from a distance.

It was only about 2.30pm when we started and it was already packed. At some parts we could barely move. But I really enjoyed the walk, even though normally I don’t like crowds. I guess the time of day we were there was good, as I imagine it would be far more crowded and festive later in the afternoon and evening. But on the other hand that’s when it will all be magically lit up and becomes a whole other experience.

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I love these tassels. I got some to hang from drawer handles. The bigger ones look pretty hanging from doorknobs.

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Pussy Willow! I love that name, and the stalks themselves.

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This post is Day 3 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: relaxed