Art Open House in Potong Pasir

Ong Kian Peng is presenting two kinetic sculptures using sand. Titled Fractal Dunes, they recall Potong Pasir's beginnings as a sand quarry.
Ong Kian Peng is presenting two kinetic sculptures using sand. Titled Fractal Dunes, they recall Potong Pasir's beginnings as a sand quarry.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

The sixth edition of popular art walkabout OH! Open House takes people around the estate to look at artworks in HDB flats, void decks and a hidden black- and-white colonial bungalow

Its slanted HDB blocks, old-world vibe and even some hidden architectural gems have drawn the organisers of OH! Open House to Potong Pasir.

The sixth edition of the popular art walkabout will take people around the estate, to a school, HDB flats and a house to look at artworks specially created for the spaces.

OH! Potong Pasir will run over three weekends this month, starting on March 12 and ending on March 27.

In choosing Potong Pasir, OH! Open House artistic director Alan Oei, 39, says: "For the longest time, Potong Pasir was the longest held opposition ward. It felt like it was stuck in the 1980s. A lot has changed in the last five years. But it also has other equally interesting spaces that have disappeared - such as Bidadari cemetery and Alkaff Gardens."

OH! Potong Pasir, he says, intends to explore these "forgotten histories" within the context of "perpetual construction and upgrading. You sense a palpable sense of transition now".

The starting point of the art walk is the centre of the Jacob Ballas Bridge that overlooks the Kallang River. To access it, visitors need to walk through St Andrew's Junior School, making this the first time a school has been involved in the walkabout, which was launched in 2009.

  • VIEW IT / OH! POTONG PASIR

  • WHERE: Various locations in Potong Pasir. Meet at Potong Pasir Community Centre.

    WHEN: March 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 & 27, 2 to 10pm (last tour leaves at 8pm)

    ADMISSION: $25 for regular tours. $45 for Director's Cut which includes behind-the- scenes showcases as well as rejected proposals.

    INFO: Go to ohopenhouse.org for more details and tickets

Standing on the bridge, people get a panoramic look at what Oei calls "the best view of the estate".

Here, the 2015 President's Young Talents joint winner Ong Kian Peng is presenting two kinetic sculptures using sand.

In an almost direct nod to the placement of the pieces, titled Fractal Dunes, one work features sand trapped in an acrylic case where it moves, driven by fans hidden under a black case. Another work has a looping water feature which changes the shape of the sand.

The result, as the artist explains during the media preview yesterday, is to "recall Potong Pasir's beginnings as a sand quarry".

Similar experimentations continue in the void decks of two HDB blocks, where artists use materials as diverse as potted plants to materials reclaimed from a playground that has been torn down.

In all, there will be 12 new artworks by 12 artists. Organisers have also introduced a new fringe outreach programme titled OH!pen Call, with seven additional artworks.

Some of these will be presented in HDB flats, while others will take visitors to hidden and unexplored parts of the estate.

One of these is a beautiful black- and-white colonial bungalow with a tree house. It is one of only two bungalows tucked away in Woodleigh Road and is the rented home of British social worker Nicola Waring.

The 52-year-old says that when she was approached by the organisers, she thought "it was for a school project and I wanted to encourage young artists".

"It was only when I said yes that I looked it up and realised how huge Open House is," she says.

She is gearing up for a steady stream of visitors as artists take over different parts of her home.

In the garden, ceramic artist Michelle Lim is working on a piece titled Home Ground. She will be excavating garden soil to build mud houses. It is a nod to found materials and an evocative response to the many changes in the area.

Lim, 33, who has a bachelor's degree in ceramics from Australian National University, calls her work in progress "quite a loaded act". The bungalow is near Bidadari cemetery and through the act of excavating and re-creating, she hopes to offer "a visceral ode to the cycle of creation, construction and destruction".

Such themes will be explored in other works as well, such as art collective Evil Empire's interactive performance that remembers the ghosts of Bidadari. The cemetery was exhumed by 2006 and most of it is now sectioned off for the construction of new HDB flats.

One of the big draws of OH! Open House has been its ability to call for reflection on such issues and themes, without the journey being overly laboured and the works too dense.

The tours have taken art lovers to Joo Chiat, Selegie, Marine Parade and Tiong Bahru. As in the past, organisers are hoping to draw at least 3,000 visitors over their three weekends this month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'Art Open House in Potong Pasir'. Print Edition | Subscribe