Artist Yip Yew Chong Has Finished His 60m Long Masterpiece Of Singapore
STORY: Sim Ding En
15 January 2023
Singapore artist Yip Yew Chong, famed for his detailed murals and lifelike paintings, has completed his 60m-long artwork – that’s the length of five double-decker buses.
Inspired by “清明上河图” (“Qing Ming Shang He Tu” or “Along the River During The Qing Ming Festival”) by the Song Dynasty artist Zhang Ze Duan (1085-1145) – a panoramic scroll painting that captures daily life and characters from all strata of society – the 54-year-old accountant-turned-artist began this passion project in Aug 2021, intending it to be 50m in length.
“It’s not the length that I’m going for – it’s the meaningful content that I want to focus on. What is important is that the overall content of this painting is as inclusive and representative as possible of Singaporean everyday life – whether it is urban, natural, heritage, people, buildings, food, culture,” said Yew Chong when we spoke to him last year.
In Apr 2022, he decided to increase the length of the artwork. “The painting will now be 55m long instead of 50m as initially planned,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “I wanted to insert two iconic scenes – the Padang and the Caldecott/Bishan area, as well as to smoothen out the transitions between the panels.”
As it turned out, Yew Chong decided to add another two more panels to make the full work 60m long. Comprising 27 panels, the project is a visual feast, and features, among other things, the CBD area, a Chinese Opera performance, an HDB void deck funeral, Little India, an army camp, buildings with walls removed so we can look “into” apartments, and countless characters going about their daily life – all depicting scenes of Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s.
“In my eyes, Singapore transformed most visibly from a city of villages to a modern city of tall buildings during these two decades,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
The artist's references are from open sources – such as Google aerial view, Google street view, old maps, old street photos – and, of course, his own memory of what he has seen and experienced of life in Singapore.
On New Year’s Eve 2022, Yew Chong announced that he would be completing the artwork at Tiong Bahru Community Centre and the public would be able to view the process on 10 and 11 Jan as well as 13, 14 and 15 Jan.
The artist was visited by the young and young at heart, many of whom were enthralled by his technique and the details in his work. The most common feedback he received: “Wow, I would like to see this in its entirety: Where? When?”
All Yew Chong will reveal is that it will be displayed in a semi-circle later in the year in a public place. “Everybody can come to see it - free of charge! But I won't say [where] now - nothing's confirmed. But I will give ample notice as soon as I can,” he said.
We were fortunate and privileged to see the master at work, and put the final touches to this mammoth feat on 15 Jan. He summed up his feelings for its completion in one word: “Relief! So that I can move on to other things.”
What's next? In the months to come, look out for several large mural projects on our streets as well as more additions to Yew Chong's “World Series” of global cities, which includes paintings of Hong Kong and Bangkok.
“By then, my style would have evolved already lah,” said Yew Chong. “I think it will be nice!”
Watch this space.
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