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Considering the strict laws surrounding vandalism in Singapore, the existence of graffiti across the island is probably unexpected to most. Just to be clear, street art is not entirely outlawed here. These works of art are only considered vandalism when done without official consent.
Beyond the well-known underpass murals located at Clarke Quay along the Singapore River, charming wall murals can be found across the city, adding vibrancy to our everyday lives in urban areas that might seem dull otherwise. So, if you find yourself yearning for some artsy cultural adventure in Singapore, here are some of the noteworthy street art and artists to keep an eye out for!
Nostalgic Throwback Pieces to the Old Days: Chinatown
A historic enclave for Singapore’s Chinese immigrants, modern Chinatown has transformed to become a vibrant district that has perfected the balance of the old and new. Encompassing five districts, you’re bound to find modern works of art in this age-old precinct.
Works of Art by Wall Artist Yip Yew Chong
The Brits have their elusive British street artist, Banksy. As for Singapore, we’ve got Yip Yew Chong — the prominent mural artist renowned for providing a modest window into Singapore’s yesteryears. You’d easily find his commissioned works sprawled across the city.
Take the iconic mural ‘Letter Writer’ mural found in Chinatown for example. As its title suggests, the mural depicts a Chinese man writing a heartfelt letter to his loved one. It’s a scene that’s familiar among many Chinese immigrants in the early days of our nation.
Where to find it: New Bridge Centre wall, along 336 Smith Street
Continue to trudge along bustling Chinatown and you’ll soon come across another piece titled ‘My Chinatown Home.’ To be exact, it can be found in an alleyway between Smith Street and Temple street. The work screams #throwback — a scene based on his memory that depicts the artist’s first home in Chinatown in the ‘70s.
Take a moment to spot some old-school details in the painting: long wooden beds, a traditional stove, and even red wooden clogs. It also makes for a great photo opportunity since you can easily insert yourself into the scene - be sure to grab your smartphones and tripods to snap up the best shots for the Gram'!
Where to find it: Alleyway along 30 Smith Street, next to the Singapore Food Street
Along the back of Thian Hock Keng Temple, you’ll find another one of the artist’s creations. In fact, it’s a huge 40m mural that spreads horizontally across a long wall, portraying the various lives of Singapore’s early Hokkien immigrants from Southern China whose hard work and dedication helped to lay the foundation for modern Singapore. Located near the Amoy Street Food centre, take a stroll to the foodie haven that is home to Michelin Bib Gourmand awardees and explore some of the best fusion eats in Singapore.
Where to find it: 158 Telok Ayer Street
Instagrammable Street Art by Ripple Root
That’s not all! More abstract murals can be found at Chinatown Singapore by local art duo Ripple Root, whose works are often inspired by wildlife and naturalistic elements. Ask graffiti or art lovers where the most Instagrammable street mural is, and the famous painting by muralist Estella Ng and Liquan Liew is sure to come up. Next to the lane of chic cafes in the vicinity, you’ll find splashes of pastel paint resembling Peranakan tiles. They make an interest backdrop for your next #OOTD shot and a great pit stop when you’re cafe hopping!
Where to find it: 6 Keong Saik Road
Paying Tribute to a Historic District: Little India
If you’re keen to learn more about Singapore’s Indian community, try embarking on a walking trail at Little India. Aside from the area’s bustling eateries, quaint shops, and local markets that deliver the most authentic heartland experiences, you’ll also find breath-taking murals that’ll most certainly stop you in your tracks.
A True Reflection of the Culture
A prominent piece titled ‘Working Class Hero’ by ZERO can be found at the heart of Little India — this portrait depicts Rajinikanth, an Indian movie star known as a working-class hero, for he originated from a humble and modest background himself. It's the artist's way of paying homage to migrant workers and the Indian community in the district.
Where to find it: 11 Hindoo Road
While you’re there, remember to keep an eye out for another great piece located just a stone’s throw away. Beside Little India MRT Station Exit E, at Kerbau Road, you’ll spot an enthralling painting by Eunice Lim titled ‘Cattleland 2’ — a vibrant depiction of buffaloes, clouds and flowers that serve as an emblem of Singapore’s history, back when cattle trading was a common practice within the precinct. A fitting one too, since ‘kerbau’ translates to buffalo in Malay!
Where to find it: 67 Kerbau Road
A Play on Flowers and Textiles
Just around the corner on the wall of a shophouse lies another great work of art titled ‘In The Clouds’ by SpeakCryptic. A play on repetitive patterns like that of the famous works by Phetus, it’s made up of elements such as traditional textiles inspired by the Indian Sari, as well as Chrysanthemums, Jasmine, Marigold and Orchids — flowers that are often used in the creation of garlands found across Little India. With the weaving of varying elements, this mural shows how, despite our differences, we can still exist as one.
Where to find it: 60 Kerbau Road
Art Comes Alive: Monochromatic to Vibrant Pop of Colours at Kampong Glam
Did you know? Kampong Glam is a conservation area bounded by areas such as Haji Lane, Aliwal Street, Jalan Sultan and Baghdad Street. Aside from being a site rich with heritage, another big draw of the precinct is its vibrant urban art scene.
Distinct Paintings and Iconic Style
Fans of the distinct face collages, vibrant hues, and iconic style of Phetus are sure to be in awe of this artwork. On the side wall of Mexican restaurant Piedra Negra lies a gigantic intricate work of Didier Jaba Mathieu, a Columbian-born artist. It's a chic piece that’s futuristic in nature, with intricate details of colourful people and animals dressed in what looks to be Iron Man-esque suits.
Where to find it: Junction between Ophir Road and Beach Road
Take a stroll and wander among the back alleys of the district and you’d be surprised to find a piece by pioneering Singaporean artist, Slacsatu — a breathtaking explosion of looped colours inspired by traditional Batik prints.
Where to find it: 28 Aliwal Street
Hidden in a different back lane sits another great gem that many may not know of. When you're around the area, be sure to keep a lookout for another ZERO art piece titled ‘Rise Up’. In this work of art, you’ll see a suited figure with a hand as its head; standing ahead of familiar landmarks such as the Sultan Mosque.
Where to find it: Baghdad Street
Celebrating Multiculturalism of the Nation in Monochrome
If loud colour is not your cup of tea, that’s fine too. Take a moment to appreciate the work of Ceno2, a street wall artist responsible for the giant monochromatic mural located at The Singapura Club along Haji Lane, which features familiar figures like an old man in a turban and a Samsui woman.
Where to find it: 36 Haji Lane
Murals in the East: A Feast for the Eyes
While street art can be easily found around Singapore’s touristy sites, consider exploring the Joo Chiat area in the east for more fascinating murals!
Behind Rumah Bebe, a Peranakan bakery, sits a vibrant work of art on a bright blue wall. Interestingly, it was painted by the owner of the bakery. It portrays a row of dancing ladies in Nyonya Kebaya, along with other traditional motifs such as the peony flower and Chinese guardian lion.
Where to find it: 113 East Coast Road
Nearby the Scanteak showroom, you’ll stumble across a large mural etched on a wall of a carpark. Titled ‘A History of Healing,’ the work was painted by design house Tell Your Children. The piece was executed as a homage to the building’s history — it used to be a maternal and children health clinic back when the infant mortality rate was still high in Singapore’s early days.
Where to find it: 341 Joo Chiat Road
Explore further around the district to locate The Kway Guan Huat Popiah stall, a long-standing business since the 30s. On the left and right of its stalls are murals by Jaxton Su, a multidisciplinary visual artist and curator in Singapore.
It depicts a scene where a family prepares handmade popiahs — a traditional method that the stall owners follow to this day. Why not head down to snap some photos and get a taste of some OG delights?
Where to find it: 95 Joo Chiat Road
More Art Pieces that Wow: Pleasant Surprises on Legal Graffiti Walls
Contrary to popular belief, not all street art in Singapore is commissioned work. You’d still be able to find practice pieces on legal graffiti walls in Singapore — if rawness is what you’re looking for.
The Somerset Skate Park, SCAPE Youth Park and Sultan Gate are such places where you can discover artists honing their craft. These are popular practice spots for both big names and rising artists.
Studio MoonChild, a collaboration between popular street artists Anacathie and FreakyFir, had once created a personal piece titled ‘Spirit Animal’ at Somerset Skate Park. The duo share a mutual love for pop culture and manga art, which translates beautifully into their distinct art style.
Other street artists such as ClogTwo and Katun have organised jams with close friends at the walls located at Aliwal Arts Centre. These impromptu collaborations make for great explosions of creativity — and if you’re lucky enough, you’d get to chance upon such displays. Or even better, catch the artists in action.
Because they hold similar origins, graffiti and street art are often used interchangeably. Street art, however, tends to be image-based, whereas graffiti is more commonly text-based; where graffiti artists often leave their signature, known as tags.
As you explore, pay attention to graffiti artists such as KLEM and Pedmons, who have gone around several legal walls to leave their signature tags for all to uncover. Over time, this could even grow to become a fun art-spotting activity.
Due to the limited space, artists have to continuously paint over each other’s work on such legal walls. That means it’s a continuously evolving canvas, and you never know what you can find each visit. That makes it even more exciting — not to mention a sign that the scene is alive and kicking!
It's hard to imagine a country as conservative as Singapore to have gone such a long way with street art. If you’re mulling about your next cultural hangout spots, you know just where to go. Take some time to explore the streets and back alleys, and remember to have a digital or instant film camera in hand!
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