Saturday, August 20, 2016

Coloring Places - Tiong Bahru

This coloring book is about real places and real people, it captures the Genius Loci of Tiong Bahru, a place that is constantly changing, reflecting the pulse of the young and spirit of the entrepreneur generation. The creative spirit and innovative approach to life is part of the everyday scene of Tiong Bahru. Though it is constantly moving, it has tried to hang on to its rich history. However, the sweeping economic forces and social changes would slowly shift and mould its current history. Its history is also influenced by global trend through the huge influx of both foreign and local creative class. The hip and trendy, late twenty to late thirty, artists, writers, designers, architects, lawyers, accountants, economists form the proactive residents of Tiong Bahru. Contrary to popular myth of authority's gentrification as the impetus for the changes in Tiong Bahru, causing rental to rise and displacing the existing residents, it is the economic forces and flow of foreigners vacating from the town center to the peripheral accelerating these changes, for some it is for the better, but for those being displaced it would seem that it is going down hill.
Since the sketches had been made, many places had changed, trees had fallen and landscape had been  re-moulded, people came and left, shops opened and shifted away. Many of the sketches become a figment of the memory of those yesterdays, for the new comers it is the history of the place, for those who lived through them, it is a certain loss and erasure of their existence. Perhaps through these sketches and colouring them, it would bring back fond memories.

This shows the unique Art Deco architecture of Tiong Bahru from the back alley. It is the few places where one could stand far enough to take in the vast stretch in one sweeping panoramic view. One interesting that I noticed, is the vertical handles that line the left of the back door. I wonder what was the purpose of this handle. Could it been install during those days where people were using horses and buffalos to pull carriages? Perhaps. Maybe it needs more investigation and would make an interesting tale. This Art Deco architecture could be traced to the influence of Europe architecture trend and practice.
This is a common fixture outside some residential units. It is a small artefact that is used for praying to Heaven for prosperity and good fortune. The middle line of words from top-down is ‘Heaven bestow good fortune’, the strings of words on the right and left is some form of instructions saying, ‘Look up and bow three times, every morning and evening a single joss stick’. This is primarily a Taoist practice that had been pass down from generation to generation. The younger generation has a choice of other religions. Perhaps we would see their numbers reduced as the younger generation has a wider choice for their religion. 

This was the last proud owner of the only grocery retail shop left in the vicinity before economic lure set foot on his shop. He was offered at least six thousand for monthly rental of this property. It was a good deal as his finance will be secure and he could retire comfortable, perhaps even travel the world! His children are professional and there are no one to take over his shop. Anyway, the retail business is not very lucrative compared to the monthly rental it could fetch. We see why some shop with more than 30 years of history has to be displaced. It was taken over by ambition youngsters selling Cupcakes. I watched their business did not take off and the shop have to close within half a year. Then another business took over. This turnover rate is fast. Shop opened and closed. 

This is the sacred tree draped with a silky yellow cloth in the front entrance of the Tiong Bahru Market. Beside it is a small shrine constructed in stainless steel. Offering can be seen left inside it and burning joss stick spew smoke from it. The market had been through many additions and alterations while the tree stood firmly, as if, watching over the space. It seems the tree with its sacredness and a devoted caretaker had lasted much longer than the concrete structure which was hacked and altered at human’s fancy. I thought to myself that for things to have a long life, it must be sacred and human must be the custodian to ensure its longevity. I was perhaps proven wrong. One day, the tree was gone, perhaps it was struck down by lightning one day. In its place was a bundle of twigs. Maybe the caretaker was trying to grow a new tree using parts of the old tree. It turned out the grafting was not successful. Heaven is unpredictable would be my conclusion. However, human can replant another tree in its place and continue to honour the god in the shrine.

It was because of my exhibition at Orange Thimble that I started to take note of Tiong Bahru. I saw a certain vibrancy which is still morphing and changing incessantly till these days. It has been a place for the young and arty generation, from as far flung as Beijing, northern Europe, and Shanghai. It is featured in many table top books and magazines. Tourists and backpackers come with guide books in their hands looking for a piece of arty experience in Singapore. Perhaps, the world has taken noticed of this special place in this little red dot.
I grew fonder of Tiong Bahru and took to documenting Tiong Bahru in fountain pen. It culminated in an exhibition titled 'Portraits of History IV' in Orange Thimble the following year. It was well received and I had a great time. Fellow musicians, Justin Chin and Jason Ang (Sporkey) performed their new creation at the opening of the exhibition and fellow artist, Yen Phang painted on the spot onto my sketch which had been enlarged for the evening opening. The mood was fabulous and enchanting as the music mixed of 'Ye Shanghai' played in the air. I have to thank all that were there that night especially fellow artists, friends, and supporters of my work. Thank you!

Opening speech by Master Abstract Painter Mr Choy Weng Yang on artist Choo Meng Foo's work. 
This is a quick recording of the Preview night of Solo Art Exhibition by Artist Choo Meng Foo, guest of honour Master Abstract Artist Mr Choy Weng Yang. Collaborating friends
Zhu Hong (Artist) • Pamela Yee (Artist) • Tay Lim Lim (Artist)
Yen Phang (Performance Artist) • Karen Mitchell (Artist and Art educator) • Meei-Ling Ng (Creative/Installation Artist)
Bhavik Bhatt (Senior Brand Strategist) • Henry Ong (Creative Director)

Yen Phang (Performance Artist) doing a painting on the spot.
Music by  Justin Chin (Musician) • Jason Ang (Musician).

Some links where my works are featured:


All about coloring Tiong Bahru and converting my fountain pen drawing into a book form

A skip.
Here is one Physic teacher that will inspire anyone. He has a series, but here is the introduction.

Click here for the series: