Putting the art in heartland

Another van Gogh masterpiece, Starry Night, is reproduced as a wall mural in Pipit Road. The "void deck art gallery" in Holland Avenue features artworks in the cubism style inspired by Pablo Picasso. The mural on Block 805, French Road, in Jalan Besa
The mural on Block 805, French Road, in Jalan Besar depicts scenes from the now-defunct New World Amusement Park, which used to be in the Jalan Besar area.PHOTO: SOCIAL CREATIVES
This "void deck art gallery" ln Pipit Road, MacPherson, features reproductions of Vincent van Gogh's artworks. The project helped to curb vandalism and littering in the area, and earned a Special Community Project Award for the MacPherson Zone C Resi
This "void deck art gallery" ln Pipit Road, MacPherson, features reproductions of Vincent van Gogh's artworks. The project helped to curb vandalism and littering in the area, and earned a Special Community Project Award for the MacPherson Zone C Residents' Committee.PHOTO: SOCIAL CREATIVES

The recently opened National Gallery Singapore is not the only art site you should visit. You may find more artworks just around the corner from your home. In recent years, Singaporeans have transformed bare and boring walls in housing estates into canvasses painted with colourful murals.

The walls are painted in Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh's signature yellow and blue, with reproductions of his famous artworks such as Sunflowers and Starry Night.

But this is no art museum or retail gallery. The murals are found in void decks in MacPherson, and arts charity Social Creatives calls it a "void deck art gallery", said to be the first of its kind here.

They are among more than 200 murals painted by the charity in void decks in about 30 places.

Social Creatives aims to promote community art - painting for and with the community. Set up in 2008, it has about 70 artists, including full-time ones and volunteers.

It works with grassroots leaders, residents, students and volunteers to decide on the themes of the murals and to paint them.


(Left) Another van Gogh masterpiece, Starry Night, is reproduced as a wall mural in Pipit Road. (Right) The "void deck art gallery" in Holland Avenue features artworks in the cubism style inspired by Pablo Picasso. The mural on Block 805, French Road, in Jalan Besar depicts scenes from the now-defunct New World Amusement Park, which used to be in the Jalan Besar area. PHOTOS: SOCIAL CREATIVES

In MacPherson, the first segment of the gallery was painted at Block 56, Pipit Road in 2011. About 350 people worked with Social Creatives to help create the murals.

That project, which even helped to curb vandalism and littering in the area, earned a Special Community Project Award for the MacPherson Zone C Residents' Committee.

The gallery was also featured online in a travel article by CNN and in a music video by Singaporean singer Corrinne May.

Last year, the gallery was extended to four more Housing Board blocks nearby.

There are another two void deck art galleries - in Block 8, Holland Avenue and Blocks 749 and 750, Jurong West Street 73.

The one in Holland Avenue features pop art, while that in Jurong features artworks in the cubism style, inspired by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso.

Mr Kelvin Tan, 37, a grassroots leader in Hong Kah North, said of the gallery in Jurong: "Initially, the area was quite rundown, but the murals have made it brighter and more colourful. It gives a refreshing kind of feeling."

He added: "It's good to take these artworks to the layman near their homes, so that everyone, and not just professionals in the arts industry, can enjoy the pieces."

There are also murals with other themes in other void decks and exterior walls of Housing Board blocks, such as one in Jalan Besar that depicts life there in the past.

The mural, in Block 805, French Road, was painted earlier this year.

It features bullock carts and scenes from the now-defunct New World Amusement Park - all of which used to be in Jalan Besar.

Social Creatives' chief executive Faris Abdulkadir Basharahil, 27, said the group hopes to make an "artistic and social impact" through its murals, promoting artistic appreciation and a sense of belonging to Singapore.

He told The Straits Times: "The first form of communication was cave drawings - (the predecessor of) the paintings and drawings on walls now more commonly known as murals.

"So we are not promoting something new; we are just re-introducing a fundamental tool of communication and interaction."

• For more information on Social Creatives' other murals, go to www.socialcreatives.com.

SEE HOME

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'Putting the art in heartland'. Print Edition | Subscribe