My Perfect Weekend with Barry Yeow

Artist Barry Yeow has made a life and career out of art since his release from prison in 2015. PHOTO: COURTESY OF BARRY YEOW

Who: Artist Barry Yeow, 54, an ex-offender who has made a life and career out of art since his release from prison in 2015. He runs daily informal art classes - there are no fixed number and timings - at 5seventeen, his studio in Commonwealth. He also does commissioned work like mural projects.

"Art, and teaching it to other people, is my passion and life, so my classes run even on Saturdays and Sundays.

I start my morning with tea with milk from a coffee shop in Commonwealth. By the time I get around to eating, it's usually brunch. I like the noodles, dimsum and carrot cake at Commonwealth Crescent Market and Food Centre, which is just a few minutes' walk from my studio.

Recently, I've been heading to Lengkok Bahru to support the S17 community kitchen on Saturday mornings. It's a little cafe in Block 57, and on Saturdays, it gives out free meals to elderly residents in the area. It employs people living in the neighbourhood. The cafe is known for its nasi padang. I also enjoy its tea and samosa sandwiches.

My classes start at 1.30 to 2pm. But I do commissioned work as well, so I go to the studio a bit earlier to work on that.

As someone who has gone through his own issues in life, the classes are a way for me to help other people discover themselves through art. They are quite cosy - just four to six students in each class. The students in my weekend classes are younger.

On some weeks, I volunteer with the Singapore Prison Service, which I've been doing for almost six years. I mentor the artists in prison. My friend and I also created a support group for them, to help them continue their practice when they come out of prison.

For dinner, I often drive to Two Chefs Eating Placein Commonwealth. It is known for zi char-style food, which I find to be quite authentic. I usually order its soup of the day, which tends to be old-school flavours such as melon or lotus root.

After dinner, I decompress by watching YouTube videos. I'm travelling to New York in April, so I'm learning about the city.

I also enjoy archaeology documentaries and videos. Lately, I've been watching videos by a YouTuber called Praveen Mohan, who makes content centred on the architecture of temples in India. It's fascinating to learn about their centuries-old design and artwork.

I also do outdoor mural projects and, on weekend nights, I'll drive down after dinner and work on them until 1 or 2am.

If you are at Ang Mo Kio Central, you might notice the murals there. I roped in an international team of artists from countries such as Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia - friends I made during my travels for art symposiums. It took us two years to complete the murals."

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