Feast on affordable art

Nine triptychs and 15 sets of painted objects by Yip Yew Chong are on sale, with prices starting at under $1,000

Painter Yip Yew Chong, who has done more than 50 murals, turned to painting on canvases after the pandemic erupted and the circuit breaker kicked in.
Painter Yip Yew Chong, who has done more than 50 murals, turned to painting on canvases after the pandemic erupted and the circuit breaker kicked in.ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

Fans of painter Yip Yew Chong can now take home a piece of his most popular murals from his first solo show.

Nine triptychs and 15 sets of painted objects by the artist are on sale, with prices starting at under $1,000 for small objects, such as a chopping board painted with an apple, to up to $6,400 for paintings.

Something, Somewhere, Somewhen opened at Art Porters Gallery on Tuesday. Fans will recognise the date as the artist's birthday, a little Easter egg reference which appears in his murals.

The affable 52-year-old, who was a finance director before quitting in 2018 to paint murals, says with a laugh: "Normally, I don't celebrate birthdays."

The tradition of painting his birth date into works began almost by accident with his first mural of a barber scene in Everton Road. "I had a calendar and I was wondering what date I should put. A single number didn't look nice."

He decided to put his birth date and, voila, a tradition was born.

Tradition is something he is often associated with. He has painted more than 50 murals of scenes from yesteryear around Singapore. Many of the most popular and elaborate can be found in Chinatown, his childhood home.

The triptychs for his solo show extract details from some of his early murals, such as a water tank in My Chinatown Home and paper masks from Paper Mask And Puppet Seller.

"These are early works people can easily connect with," adds the artist, who is married with two children.

While canvases may seem easier to work on, since they are smaller and can be painted indoors, Yip found them more challenging. "It's tougher because it requires you to paint in finer details. For murals, you can use big brush strokes. They don't need to be perfect because, most of the time, people step back to see the whole mural."

When the pandemic erupted last year and the circuit breaker was imposed, he turned to painting on canvases, something he had always wanted to pursue.

  • SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE, SOMEWHEN

  • WHERE Art Porters Gallery, 64 Spottiswoode Park Road

    WHEN Till March 14, 10.30am to 7pm (Tuesdays to Sundays); Mondays by appointment only

    ADMISSION Free

    INFO www.artporters.com

His friendship with Art Porters owner Guillaume Levy-Lambert, which started when he was painting murals nearby in the Blair Plain conservation neighbourhood, led to the gallery hosting the show.

Mr Levy-Lambert, 57, says he was worried about the business impact of Covid-19, and when thinking about what to show this year, Yip's works fit the bill.

"We knew that Singapore Art Week wouldn't have foreign collectors visiting, so we started thinking about what we can do for Singaporeans, something for the general public, not just traditional collectors."

Hence the accessible price points for the works, some of which can also be customised by buyers. A couple of chairs are painted with trompe l'oeil images of a mobile phone and an airmail letter, and Yip will customise the text on these items for buyers.

The show marks his migration to a different medium. He says he will be more selective about painting murals from now on.

Having painted them since 2015, he says half-jokingly: "People will get tired of my murals."

Last year, he worked on more than 30 canvases and has already finished enough for another exhibition. Stories From Yesteryear, which will open on Feb 18 at an undisclosed venue, will feature larger panoramic paintings filled with scenes of people, including a Peranakan wedding and vignettes of kampung life.

"Murals are meant to be transient," he says. "That's another reason I am moving to canvases. Canvases have the opportunity to be collected, taken care of and passed down through generations."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline 'Feast on affordable art'. Print Edition | Subscribe