Sunday, September 18, 2011

Is a win-win solution possible for Bukit Brown?

The magnificent tomb of Ong Sam Leong and his wife. This was uncovered in 2006.
Recently (on 12 Sep 2011), on The Straits Times, there was a report that a new dual four-lane road will be built from early 2013 to alleviate congestion along Lornie Road and Pan-Island Expressway during peak hours. This new road will cut through parts of Bukit Brown.

Many lovers of heritage as well as nature-lovers have expressed concerns regarding the building of the road that is proposed to cut through parts of Bukit Brown. There were also people who wonder if the new road may indeed be the long-term solution to the identified problem, i.e. traffic congestion.

Where on earth is Bukit Brown?

Here is a map that I have taken from wildsingapore news. Bukit Brown is bordered by Lornie Road and the Pan Island Expressway. It was named after George Henry Brown.

Source: www.wildsingapore.com
Bukit Brown is actually an area made up of several hills. I learnt from one of Raymond Goh's posts on Bukit Brown Cemetery that the tallest hill in Bukit Brown is Tai Yuan Hill. The magnificent tomb of Ong Sam Leong and his wife that you see on this post rests on Tai Yuan Hill in Bukit Brown.

From the look of the map, it appears that Tai Yuan Hill may be affected by the recent proposal of building dual four-land road across Bukit Brown. Many pioneers of Singapore and notable people have their final resting places at Bukit Brown, including the areas affected by the road building.

This is one of the stories from the twenty-four stories of filial piety:
Ding Lan serving wooden statues of his parents, so as to serve them.
刻木事亲

Who goes to Bukit Brown?

Interestingly, other than the descendants of the people who were buried in the more than 100 000 graves in Bukit Brown, many people have found Bukit Brown a place for respite and nature.

I understand that a number of nature lovers visit Bukit Brown to enjoy the rich biodiversity of birds and other living creatures that could be found in Bukit Brown. Others are fascinated by the rich heritage of Bukit Brown and visit it as a form of recreation and heritage-appreciation. I heard that horse-riders also enjoy riding about Bukit Brown.

From reliable sources, I heard that academics are also making their way to Bukit Brown to document and understand the rich heritage that this place has to offer.



Is building the dual four-lane road across Bukit Brown the best answer?


In this post, I invite readers to start to look for win-win solutions to solve the complex issue of urban planning to ensure adequate lands to meet the needs of the people and to resolve traffic congestion without sacrificing our nation's collective memory and heritage unnecessary. What are the win-win strategies that will  ease traffic congestion, ensure adequate lands in Singapore to meet the needs of the people, and at the same time, ensure that places like Bukit Brown which is rich in heritage and a wonderful place for Nature lovers remain for posterity to connect with and to learn from?

As an individual, I do not have the answers and solutions. Yet I believe that we as a nation and community can collectively find the better solutions to the complex problems of our times.

Perhaps engaging multidisciplinary discussions with various stakeholders could help us as a nation find win-win and long-term solutions to solve many of our nation's complex concerns?

I wonder if the previous National Library building along Stamford Road, whom a lot of people have collective fond memories of, would have suffered the fate of demolition had more people in the community voiced up and acted on their concerns?

Back to Bukit Brown, surely with the local and foreign talents in Singapore, surely as a nation, we could have came up collectively with a long-term way to document and preserve its rich heritage while meeting the critical needs of the nation.

Perhaps if we can work more collaboratively as a nation and be willing to invest in a bit more time and resources to look for win-win solutions, we may gain more as a nation because we do not unnecessarily lose the invaluable intangibles that often makes up a vibrant and strong nation.

What are the needs that the key stakeholders hope to meet? How can we as a nation and community find a win-win solution that will meet the various needs?


Resources to learn more about Bukit Brown
If you would like to enhance your awareness of Bukit Brown so as to determine if it could be worth preserving, here are some of the web-pages to visit:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Some noteworthy exhibits from the Sculpturing Life exhibition

(This post was posted on Yesterday.sg in 2008. Here is a repost.)

Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


This post can be considered as a sequel to one of my earlier posts titled Remembering Ng Eng Teng. As mentioned in the Remembering Ng Eng Teng, the archival display-cum-exhibition Sculpting Life - Ng Eng Teng Collection is now being held at NUS Museum till 31 December 2008. In this exhibition, the exhibits are being presented under three broad sections: Formative Years, Body / Form / Perspectives and Materials / Processes / Public Works.

There are some exhibits at this exhibition which I personally find to be worthy of notice. While I am neither an art historian nor art-critic by profession, it is hoped that this post would give visitors who are novice to Ng Eng Teng's art some ideas of where they could start exploring if they should visit this exhibition.

Ng Eng Teng, Tension 1972, ciment fondu.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


Admittedly, I have been rather influenced by the documentaries that are being shown at the exhibition. After watching them, I was led to realise that Tension, 1972, is a work that has a significant place in Ng Eng Teng's journey to strive to create his own art and yet survive as an artist. Look at the closed-up photo of Tension and one may find that the figurine on this rocker appears as if it would fall any moment. I learnt from the documentaries that this was the effect that Ng Eng Teng was striving to achieve in Tension. As best as I understand, Tension is intended to depict that as one struggles for survival, if one is not careful, one may just slip and fall off.

Putting things into context, Tension was created some years after Ng Eng Teng had returned to Singapore from Ireland. He had worked as a Resident Designer at the Carrigaline Pottery in Ireland from 1964 - 1966. Following his return in 1966, I learnt from one of the documentaries Sculpturing Joo Chiat (1999) that Ng Eng Teng had experienced two years of unemployment. The curriculum of art schools in Singapore back then did not have sculpturing as a core subject for students to study. That meant there was no avenue for Ng Eng Teng to teach the art of sculpture in Singapore back then. In addition, in his early years of establishing himself as an artist in Singapore in the 1960s and early 1970s, it appeared that Ng Eng Teng had met with much challenges and struggles with reality. I remember vaguely the following words that Ng Eng Teng had said in an interview shown in Sculpturing Joo Chiat, "(Tension reminds us of) the importance of keeping oneself sane during hard times". This is one statement that one should be mindful of during difficult moments.


Ng Eng Teng, Tension 1972, ciment fondu.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


Interestingly, Tension was constructed based on the balancing principle of the Kelly doll (similar to the Chinese' 'bu dao weng' 不倒翁). Such a doll is designed to regain equilibrium even when it is tilted at extreme angles. The construction based on such a principle allowed this work to move and rock. I learnt that it was the movement of this work that helps to create the desired sense of tension. Look at the muscles and tendons of the body of the figure in this work, they appear contorted and strained, hence accentuating the sense of tension in this work. The spread-eagle pose of the figure also adds a touch of dramatic tension. Admittedly, I did not feel it was appropriate to touch Tension while I was at the exhibition. Nevertheless, I had managed to see a footage on one of the documentaries of how it would respond like if a viewer were to tilt and rock it. I sensed that it would be pretty tensed experience to be clutching a rocking object for the sake of survival.

Compared to some of Ng Eng Teng's larger iconic sculptures, Tension is much smaller, and visitors may unknowingly miss taking a good look at it. The thing is that do not judge the significance of an art-work merely by its size. Look beyond.

Tension, together with other exhibits on display.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


Another exhibit in this exhibition that is worthy for viewers to study and take a good look is The Last Masterpiece.

On the right: The Last Masterpiece, undated.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


The Last Masterpiece is one of Ng Eng Teng's last works. If I am not wrong, it was completed with the help of Ng Eng Teng's friends and family. Ng Eng Teng was diagnosed with renal problems in 1995 and this condition was kept a secret. It was only made known to others when Ng Eng Teng had undergone a heart bypass surgery in 1998. The Last Masterpiece is largely made up of cotton swabs. These cotton swabs were collected by Ng Eng Teng himself after his renal dialysis treatment. Do take a close look at this work.

The theme of humanity is one of Ng Eng Teng's favourite subject matters. I like his interpretation of human emotions. Somehow, his works seem to speak with a soul. Look at the work below, Do we look down?. Do you feel as if the figures moved you so much that you wish to offer them a coin or two?


Ng Eng Teng, Do we look down?, 1968, ciment fondu, paint, lacquer.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


Personally, I think Ng Eng Teng had been a very resilient man with a very strong yet humble character. Despite being plagued by poor health, he remained dedicated to his goals of creating his own art. Adversities did not stop him. Even though he was already very weak when he was working on one of his last commissioned works, The Explorer, he persisted to complete it with the help of his family and friends. I learnt from one of the documentaries that despite his ailing state of health, Ng Eng Teng insisted on doing the finishing touches of The Explorer. The Explorer is placed outside the Singapore Art Museum for all to view.

Sculpturing Life - Ng Eng Teng Collection is held at NUS Museum, located at the University Cultural Centre Annex, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent, National University of Singapore, Singapore 119279. The NUS Museum is closed on Mondays and Public Holidays. For more information on the museum's opening hours and on the guided tours, please visit: http://www.nus.edu.sg/museum/information_getting.htm


***
Acknowledgements:
Once again, my heartfelt appreciation to NUS Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts for granting me the permission to take non-flash photography of this exhibition.

Many thanks to Siva for introducing me to staff of NUS Museum.

Thank you to the staff of
NUS Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts for arranging for the insightful guided tour to the exhibition on 2 Aug 2008 and for making my visits to the museum enjoyable and educational.

References:
- MediaCorp News. (1999). Sculpturing Joo Chiat. (video)

- MediaCorp News. (2003). Portraits (Episode 6: Ng Eng Teng). (video)

- Sabapathy, T.L. (1998). Ng Eng Teng, art and thoughts. Singapore: NUS Museums, National University of Singapore.

- Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. (1977). Profile of an artist - Ng Eng Teng. Sculptor.

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ng_Eng_Teng (Accessed on 9 Aug 2008). (video)

Remembering Ng Eng Teng

(This was previously posted on Yesterday.sg in the year 2008. Here's a repost.)

Above: Ng Eng Teng, Wealth, 1974.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


Some local readers who are my contemporaries or who are older may remember seeing this very sculpture Wealth, together with another sculpture Contentment, at the previous Plaza Singapura building in the 1980s. In those days, Plaza Singapura was one of the fairly popular shopping malls to shop in and to visit. It was rather hard to miss these two sculptures given their fairly imposing size. At the very least, when I was speaking to one of my contemporaries about these two sculptures, she could remember seeing these two sculptures when she was young.

These two iconic sculptures are now located just outside the University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge campus. Frankly speaking, I prefer the current location of Wealth and Contentment compared to the original location at the previous Plaza Singapura building. Somehow, the sculptures looked less scary and more approachable when placed outdoors.

Most of the local friends whom I have spoken to have actually seen at least one of Ng Eng Teng's sculptures at some point in their lives. Who was Ng Eng Teng?

Ng Eng Teng (1934 - 2001) was a local artist who was probably best known for his sculptural works. I later learnt that his training was in painting and pottery. In recognition of his excellent artistic achievements, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1981.

I remember that during the Art History lessons in my Secondary School years, I learnt that the pioneer artist, Georgette Chen, had some influence on Ng Eng Teng. At the very least, it was through her encouragement that Ng Eng Teng headed to England to pursue the study of ceramics. Perhaps his study of ceramics could have helped him to build the necessary foundation to create many three-dimensional masterpieces throughout his career as an artist. He was one of the very few sculptors that I have studied during Art History lessons. As such, whenever anyone asks me to name a local sculptor, Ng Eng Teng would be one of the first names that would come to my mind.

Other than Wealth and Contentment, Ng Eng Teng had created the following sculptural works that most people in Singapore would have probably come across at some point in their lives:

Ng Eng Teng, Mother and Child.
Location: Orchard Rd outside Far East Shopping Centre.
Photo taken by Jeremy in 2007.


Ng Eng Teng, The Climb, 1987, ciment fondu.
Location: HDB Hub, Toa Payoh.



Ng Eng Teng, Spirit of Man, 1984.
Location: Changi International Airport, Terminal One.


Ng Eng Teng, The Explorer, Dec 1999, ciment fondu, stainless steel, gold leaf.
Location: Singapore Art Museum.


For those of you who are interested to learn more about Ng Eng Teng, there are a couple of publications that would provide indepth information on this artist. Here is a link to a list of these publications: http://nus.edu.sg/museum/publications.htm#net

I have a liking for a number of Ng Eng Teng's works. Somehow, his works felt as if they could speak to the viewers, and communicate various emotions. I fondly remember that I used to frequent the Ng Eng Teng's museum almost everyday when it was located at the National University of Singapore's Central Library.

Driven by a search for nostalgia and a general interest in his art, I could not help but visit the NUS Museum for a couple of times over the past few months so as to check out the latest exhibition, Sculpturing Life, featuring some of Ng Eng Teng's works.


Foreground: Ng Eng Teng, Tension 1972, ciment fondu.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


I very much like the fact that in this exhibition, there are archival materials on Ng Eng Teng on display. I strongly recommend this exhibition to art students and anyone who is keen to research on the art of Ng Eng Teng. This exhibition puts on display a number of copies of the sketches that Ng Eng Teng had done prior to working on his actual works. Through looking at these sketches, one could better appreciate the thinking processes that Ng Eng Teng had went through before deriving at the final form of his works. Interestingly, I learnt from this exhibition that the Contentment was inspired by a yoga pose.


The maquettes of Contentment and Wealth.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


Ng Eng Teng, Contentment.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


Other than the sketches, there are also copies of old newspaper articles on the sculpture scene in Singapore, and on Ng Eng Teng himself. There is even a multimedia corner whereby visitors could take time to watch a few documentaries on Ng Eng Teng. The duration of these documentaries vary from 20 minutes to about an hour. It is worth putting aside at least two hours to view these documentaries.


Copies of newspaper articles and Ng Eng Teng's sketches.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.



I am pleased to share that I have managed to watch almost all the documentaries on display. These documentaries contain footages of interviews with Ng Eng Teng himself, and offer viewers a window to better understand the artist, Ng Eng Teng. When I was watching certain segments of the documentaries, I had felt as if Ng Eng Teng himself was speaking to me. After watching the documentaries, I felt a deepened sense of respect towards Ng Eng Teng for his strong dedication towards his art, his humility, his sense of compassion towards humanity and his resilience.


Documentaries on Ng Eng Teng that are worth watching.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.


This is an exhibition worth a visit. There is so much to learn at the exhibition that I have visited it at least four times this year. I was lucky that when I visited the exhibition on 2 Aug 2008, there was a guided tour to this exhibition. Attending the guided tour has helped me gain a deeper appreciation to the artworks on display. Many thanks to the dedicated museum guide who had given me the insightful tour.

Sculpturing Life - Ng Eng Teng Collection is held at NUS Museum, from 11 January – 31 December 2008.

The NUS Museum is located at the University Cultural Centre Annex, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent, National University of Singapore, Singapore 119279. It's closed on Mondays and Public Holidays. For more information on the museum's opening hours and on the guided tours, please visit: http://www.nus.edu.sg/museum/information_getting.htm

****
Acknowledgements:
My heartfelt appreciation to NUS Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts for granting me the permission to take non-flash photography of this exhibition.

Many thanks to Siva for introducing me to staff of NUS Museum.

Thank you to the staff of NUS Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts for arranging for the insightful guided tour to the exhibition and for making my visits to the museum enjoyable and educational.

Reference:
Sabapathy, T.L. (1998). Ng Eng Teng, art and thoughts. Singapore: NUS Museums, National University of Singapore.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mid-Autumn celebration at Marina Bay Singapore



A delightful home, a playground, a dynamic place to work, Marina Bay is envisioned to be a thriving place in Singapore where people from all walks of life come together to explore, exchange and entertain. As the Chinese festival of the Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, how do people celebrate this traditional festival at Marina Bay?

During the second weekend of the month of September 2011, Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrations at Marina Bay brought families and friends together to share special moments. Many of the festive activities were held at the Marina Bay City Gallery. These activities include Chinese calligraphy demonstration, Taiji performance, free balloon sculptures give-away, lantern walkabout and more.

A special guest named Walter, the curious colossal bunny, appeared at the Marina Bay City Gallery. Walter appeared to be adored by people of every age, both the young and the old. The charming Walter seemed to draw out its admirers' creativity.

I was at the Marina Bay City Gallery to participate in the Mid-Autumn Festival events on 10 September 2011. I saw visitors to the gallery having fun taking photographs of the balloon sculptures of Walter with various exhibits and displays at the gallery.

Walters with orchids.
Walter at Marina Bay.

Visitors to the Marina Bay City Gallery enjoy free guided tours that enable them to better appreciate the vision and plans behind Marina Bay. After the tour of and the visit to the Marina Bay City Gallery, I could not help but feel thankful for the visionary and thoughtful urban planning that has been put in to make the Marina Bay development possible.


One of the activities of the Mid-Autumn celebration at Marina Bay that had captivated my interest was the Chinese calligraphy demonstration. I personally find it an art to master Chinese calligraphy. The Chinese calligraphy master who was giving the demonstration on 10 September 2011 gave the visitors a pretty good introduction to Chinese calligraphy. I have learnt how the seals were used. I have also learnt a bit more about how a single word in Chinese could embrace many profound meanings.


The most exciting part of the celebrations was the Marina Bay Waterfront Walking Tour held on 10 September 2011. A picture says a thousand words so here is a snapshot of one of the lanterns that were carried by the participants.


When I had thought that the lantern walking tour was the climax of the celebration, I was happy to be proven wrong. When the tour led the group to Marina Bay Sands, we were treated to "Wonder Full". Wonder Full is Southeast Asia's largest light and water show. The use of electric light and lasers in this show provided visual entertainment. For more information of Wonder Full, please visit: http://www.marinabaysands.com/Singapore-Attractions/WonderFull/

This beautiful and dream-like photograph of Wonder Full is contributed by Ms Belinda Tan.


With a thoughtful team working to make Marina Bay a place to live, work and play, Marina Bay is gradually becoming a place where people will go to to embrace modern living as well as to celebrate traditional festivals.

***
Marina Bay City Gallery
11 Marina Boulevard
Singapore 018940

Opening hours:
Tuesday - Friday*: 10:00am to 8:00pm
Saturday, Sunday, Public Holiday: 10:00am to 9:00pm
Free Admission

For more Marina Bay related events, please visit the following sites for more information:

Walter, adventures of a curious colossal bunny (1 - 30 Sep 2011): http://www.marina-bay.sg/walter/activities.html
Marina Bay events: http://www.marina-bay.sg/

***
Acknowledgements:
Special thanks to Marina Bay Singapore, Urban Redevelopment Authority for the invitation. Many thanks to Belinda Tan for facilitating the linking up.


About Mid-Autumn Festival:
Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is a popular harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese. To read about Mid-Autumn Festival, please visit: http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/Festivals/78311.htm

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Growing up in Ang Mo Kio: My Primary School

Teck Ghee Primary School.


The Primary School that I had studied in was previously located at the very same spot where Teck Ghee Primary School now stands.

I was a student of Townsville Primary School from 1986 to 1991. Back then, it was a relatively new school in the Ang Mo Kio area. According to Townsville Primary School's website,
Townsville Primary School started functioning at its former premises in Ang Mo Kio, Street 32, in 1983. The school was officially declared open on 25 July 1985 by BG Lee Hsien Loong, then the Minister of State for Defence, Trade and Industry and Member of Parliament for Teck Ghee Constituency. The school moved to its brand new premises at 3 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 in December 2000.
Today, I understand that Townsville Primary School has established itself as one of the better Primary schools in the Ang Mo Kio neighbourhood.

The former school building of Townsville Primary School that I had once studied in no longer exist now. I can still remember the quadrangle of the former school building. To some extent, I felt it was like a white elephant most of the time. While it allowed for ventilation, the quadrangle was usually not my favourite place to be at since it was either too hot due to the tropical sun or too wet due to seasonal rain. However, strangely, I missed it after I had graduated from my Primary School partly because my Secondary School compounds had no quadrangle.

By the way, there was a distinguished visitor, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who had visited Townsville Primary School in the year 1989. I was one of those students who had to go through a few rehearsals to prepare for the visit of our very distinguished guests. My role, like many of my fellow schoolmates, was to line at specified location of the school and wave our hands at our distinguished visitor when she walked past us.

Today, the school building that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited no longer exist, but the school's motto "Do Out Best" remains unchanged. There were a number of changes though. For example, other than the change in the location of Townsville Primary School, the school song that is now being sung by current students of Townsville Primary School is different from the one that I had sang when I was just a student of the school.

While I don't have any emotional attachment to the new school building, at the very least, I can still remember the name of my Primary School.

The current Townsville Primary School premises at 3 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10.


By the way, Townsville Primary School was not the only school in Ang Mo Kio that has moved its location. Teck Ghee Primary School was one other one. I remember it used to be located nearby Teck Ghee Secondary School.

Bowen Secondary School used to be located in Ang Mo Kio but it later moved to Lorong Napiri. Mayflower Primary School used to be located at 20 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, and today, it sits at 200 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5.

Is your Primary School still in the same location that you had once studied in?