Bishan’s brick-red HDB facade painted over with ugly colours

From ‘Some see red over colourful facade for Bishan’, 17 Sept 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

A FRESH coat of paint usually brings cheer, but a splash of colour on Bishan’s beloved red-brick flats has upset some people instead. Some terracotta housing blocks, like those in Bishan Streets 22 and 24, will be doused in a medley of colours, with combinations such as grey, silver and golden yellow, as part of ongoing repairs by the area’s town council.

But the mishmash of colours has upset some residents, architects and heritage experts. Architectural and urban historian Lai Chee Kien said the paint job will change the feature of an estate known for its red-brick facade. “Red-brick panels and bands were probably chosen by the estate’s original architects to present a common, unifying aesthetic identity. Today’s town councils must look at this from a larger scale and keep the entire town in mind when making these changes,” he added.

…At Blocks 201 to 219 in Street 23, residents were presented earlier this year with three colour palettes starkly different from the original. They included a pink and purple combination.

Resident Charlene Koh, 27, a designer, was upset. “The rows of red-brick blocks evoke a sense of warmth… They are iconic and distinct. I don’t want to look out my window and see a horrible colour on the next block.”

HDB’s palette used to be restricted to neutral tones of grey, white or brown, but in the eighties some designers decided to boldly go where no bureaucrat has gone before, add a PRIMARY colour to the mix. Red, however, was considered too ‘loud’, and you don’t want a colour that’s universally associated with rage splashed all over your flat. Nor do you want to drop random stripey rainbow colours and end up looking like a rastacap, or some kid’s toy xylophone.

I personally don’t really care what colour scheme my block has unless it’s a genuine eyesore, like yellow polka dots. Some stark combinations like Rochor’s foursome of bright red, blue, yellow and green have become recognisable icons (though rated as one of the ‘worst buildings in Singapore’ by CNN), while others betray a dismal lack of imagination, or if they have no idea what colour to douse your house in, they add an orchid mural, or a giant Cupid. Overdo the cuteness and you’ll have people mistaking your block for a multi-storey kindergarten, especially if it has rainbows splashed all over it.

There’s even an FAQ on the Bishan Town Council page to address ‘awful colours’. The response is typical.

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What ‘experts’, exactly HDB? Are they the brains behind the Teletubbies? Maybe they’re psychologists who specialise in colour-mood matching who’ve done extensive research to determine what are the best colour combinations to lull HDB dwellers into a state of passive obedience. Granted, you can’t get two people to agree on a preferred colour scheme, might as well choose a combination scientifically proven to stop people from leaping to their deaths.

Here’s a quick list of things that HDB’s ugly colour combinations have been compared to:

1) Chocolate cake (brown brick with shades of darker yellow, Jurong, 1985)

2) Old people’s phlegm (green/yellow, unknown, 2008)

3) Menstrual/hospital sanitary pads (pink, green, unknown, 2014)

4) Pigeon coop, Lego, Tupperware

5) Puke

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6. Disneyland (suggested pink, purple, blue palette for Tiong Bahru, 2008)

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Arts group at Night Festival wants you to kill stray cats

From ‘Kill stray cats’ flyer taken out of context’, 1 Sept 2014, article in CNA

Flyers reportedly urging people to “kill stray cats”, which earned the ire of animal welfare groups and online readers over the weekend, were revealed to be taken out of context, TODAY reports. It was part of a satirical performance-exhibition against evil acts by art collective Vertical Submarine, which was commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) for the recently concluded Singapore Night Festival.

The art collective issued a statement on its Facebook page clarifying the flyer — of which an image of a sample circulated on social media on Sunday — was taken out of context and was part of a series of flyers highlighting other similarly evil actions as part of the piece Eville.

“The flyers were not distributed to the public for the purpose of advocacy but scattered as part of the performance. We do not advocate or condone the killing of stray cats. On the contrary, we are pleased that the issue of cat abuse is highlighted,” said the group’s statement.

…The flyer on stray cats explains how “charitable elderly lonely widows” spend a total of S$6.6m on cat food and supplies, which could be spent on themselves. These were signed by a so-called Red Herring Conservation Society. The term “red herring” is an idiom referring to something that distracts or misleads people from important issues.

In the statement, Vertical Submarine added: “As part of the Eville exhibition at the Singapore Night Festival, the flyers and other Eville exhibits explore the theme of evilness and depict several acts of evil happening in our society. Satirical didactics were used throughout the show with the intention to provoke reflection within the arch of the Eville exhibition. The flyers were one such device and this would have been clear if the exhibition had been viewed in its entirety, rather than looking at one flyer outside of its context.”

If the flyer had read ‘KILL ALL HUMANS’, it probably wouldn’t get as much attention, though that is just about the most evil thing anyone can do. ‘Satirical didactics’ is an excuse for something that wasn’t very ingenious or witty to begin with, and ended up slightly more serious than satirical, like a New Nation article about PM Lee unfriending his Indonesian counterpart on Facebook. No cats were harmed in the exhibition, of course. Though many butterflies had to die for someone else’s gruesome piece of taxidermal ‘art’ some years back.

Not sure why the Singapore Kindness Movement got involved in macabre performance art of all things, or maybe they just ran out of things to do after the departure of Singa the Lion (who also happens to be a member of the cat family). Cat abuse doesn’t need highlighting, really. We’ve read enough high-profile, grisly stories of how cats are mutilated, disembowelled or thrown 10 storeys off HDB blocks.  To hide an anti-abuse message that we’re used to experiencing on a sickeningly visceral level behind an obtuse ‘context’ isn’t helping matters at all. In fact, it even seems patronising. By resorting to headscratching ‘schlock’ tactics, the arts collective responsible did exactly what a ‘vertical submarine’ would do. Sink to a new low.

Here’s the reason why the joke isn’t funny anymore. In 1952, the government declared all out WAR on stray dogs and cats during the rabies frenzy, issuing ‘shoot to kill’ orders and screening ‘propaganda’ films to alert the public against this vermin scourge. In 2007, it was reported that the AVA kills 13,000 stray cats every year, replying to animal lovers that culling was a ‘necessary sin’. Some residents even complained to their Town Council that they were ‘afraid of cats’ and wanted them put away. If Eville intended to raise ‘awareness’ about unnecessary animal deaths, they should target the government agencies who are the real culprits behind this secret kitty genocide, rather than bring up ‘elderly lonely widows’ (or ‘crazy cat ladies’, which is also a case of lazy stereotyping).

So yes, we already know there are people killing strays out there. What’s really scary is that some are doing it as part of the job and they call the slaughter by a different name. Now let us all enjoy this clip of Maru jumping into random boxes.

Tan Jee Say forming the ‘Singaporeans First’ party

From ‘Tan Jee Say announces Singaporeans First party’, 25 May 2014, article in Today

Mr Tan Jee Say, former presidential candidate, has announced the formation of a new political party, Singaporeans First, which pledges to put “Singaporeans at the heart of the nation“. At a press conference today (May 25), Mr Tan announced the formation of the party and unveiled his founding man team, which include ex-grassroot leaders, architects and former members of the Young PAP.

Of his team, eight have formerly worked in government agencies, seven are scholarship holders, and three are former PAP activists, Mr Tan said.

…Mr Tan said that Singaporeans First aims to be different from other political parties by focusing on specifics, such as the economy. “We also have the advantage of someone like me who knows a lot more about the economy,” he said.

screen_shot_2014-05-25_at_am_10.56.06

This is Heartcore

The Singaporeans First logo looks familiar. Tan Jee Say himself used a heart logo during his 2011 presidential election campaign. He also wanted to be the ‘heart of the nation’. It’s obvious who in the party is the brainchild behind the logo.

Some have called it a ripoff of the Walls Ice cream logo. Maybe because like ice cream, the universal symbol of the heart is soft and mushy, and the party wants to swaddle you with hugs and kisses, unlike the ruling party’s harsh lightning bolt of Zeus. I think it’s more likely that it was inspired by the Care Bears. So much love. Incidentally, ‘Heart’ is also a key word of a blog that specialises in debunking the CPF, which should go right up Jee Say’s alley. That website is Heart Truths by none other than Roy Ngerng. Potential candidate, maybe?

Tan Jee Say ‘bears all’ with his new party

Or perhaps it’s a smart choice designed with ingenuity and foresight. If this party ever runs for the next elections, you could even pull this off in your promotional material. Hey Jee Say, how about hiring me as campaign manager?

screen_shot_2014-05-25_at_am_10

Here are some interesting facts about some of the more prolific members of Jee Say’s starting 11.

1. Retired colonel Tan Peng Ann wrote a book called ‘Create Your Rainbow’, and runs cafes with names like ‘WILD POT’.

2. Dr Ang Yong Guan is also a founding member of the ABC Runners, an interest group about, erm, running.

3. Fahmi Rais wrote a motivational book called ‘A Thousand Pearls’. He lives in a 4000 sq ft mansion in Taman Daya, Johor.

4. Architect and former URA scholar Winston Lim used to be from the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party).

5. Tan Jee Say was once trained by former DJ and now Public Speaking Coach Petrina Kow.

But what caught my attention was the party’s unusual name. A history of Singaporean party names will reveal that most convey a sense of commitment to action, unity or a political ideology, with words like ‘Labour’, ‘Solidarity’, ‘Democratic’, ‘Socialist’, ‘People’ and ‘Front’ making up the brand. ‘Singaporeans First’ sounds more a cute campaign tagline than a party . PM Lee himself launched a series of ‘Singaporeans First’ policies in 2011. The SDA (Singapore Democratic Alliance) used ‘Singaporeans First’ as a title for their 2011 Manifesto, while rival presidential elect Tan Cheng Bock used ‘Think Singaporeans First’ for his slogan.

There’s also an unrelated ‘Singaporeans First’ Facebook page that already exists, which means there will be some complications with setting up a party page. Unless you call it the ‘Singaporeans-First Party’ on FB, or SFP (Not to be confused with the Singapore Police Force). You also can’t abbreviate it as ‘SF’ and expect to be among the first search results in Google (because of ‘San Francisco”, or ‘Sci-Fi’). ‘Singaporeans First’ is like the ‘Happy’ song of political branding. Twee and overused, and something suspiciously ‘Gilbert Goh’ about it (who had a stint with NSP, by the way).

Anyway, here’s a rundown of the strangest party logos to ever grace our political landscape. Rather a Walls Ice Cream copycat than any of these, I suppose.

1)Singapore Congress’s LADDER. Not much is known about this party other than it was established in 1960 and dissolved 2 years later. It probably focused on career advancements, or building homes.

Step up Singaporeans

2) People’s Liberal Democratic Party’s SPACE SHUTTLE. If you view this clip of founder Ooi Boon Ewe singing a song about voting, you’ll realise that the far reaches of outer space is exactly where this party belongs.

To space and beyond

3) Citizens’ Party. A goddamn STICKMAN. With them in charge, that is exactly what you’ll look like. Hungry and emaciated, with your head detached from what’s left of your body. Even the traffic light green man has a better life than this skeleton.

Stick it to the Man

4) United Democratic Party’s brainteaser. How many triangles do you see in this figure? Also a bit too esoteric for its own good, like the symbol before a portal into a parallel ancient Egyptian universe, where you have to chant in an alien language in order to pass.

Mmm..Toblerone

 

 

Toa Payoh HDB rooftop vandalised by graffiti

From ‘Roof of HDB block in Toa Payoh vandalised’, 7 May 2014, article in CNA

The roof level of a 22-storey Housing and Development Board block was painted with graffiti containing vulgarities and criticism of a political party in an apparent case of vandalism. Pictures of the graffiti were circulated on social media sites on Wednesday morning.

Police said they received a call at 6.47am requesting for assistance at Blk 85A, Toa Payoh Lorong 4. “Upon police’s arrival, it was established that a case of vandalism had occurred at the said location,” a police spokesman said.

A contractor at the scene told Channel NewsAsia that residents had called the Town Council’s 24-hour hotline to complain about the graffiti. The access hatch to the block’s parapet was locked when the police tried to enter the site on Wednesday morning.

According to a Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council staff member, who did not want to be named, the water tanks on the roof top had not been tampered with. “I don’t know how they managed to get up here. The police are investigating,” said the staff member.

My grandfather's rooftop

My grandfather rooftop

Graffiti and PAP go together like waffles and honey. Breaking into a MRT depot to spray-paint a train is nothing compared to this aerial spectacle of a middle finger to the ruling party, provided that the culprits abseiled the block rather than break their way onto the roof. (Incidentally, there’s a rooftop bar at Carlton Hotel called GRAFFITI SKY BAR.)

Those in the street art scene label such vandals ‘extreme taggers’, amateurs who risk life and limb to mark territory. One such tagger died from such a stunt hanging from a rope by the 16th floor of a building in Sacramento. Another in the same city fell to his death while trying to mark a bridge. No vandal here has died while pretending to be Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa so far, but we may see the first if this high-rise FUCK PAP mural triggers a spate of copycat HDB tagging. The moniker ‘Mike Cool’ sounds like a 80’s rapper, reminding me more of bright baggy pants and inverted caps than a mohawked punk with a taste for anarchy.

Artists have put roofs to more creative use in other cities, drawing entirely opposite reactions from residents, who view urban graffiti like how they view their child’s first scribblings on the wall. One even proposed to his girlfriend using 5 rooftops as his canvas. If you did this in Singapore, you’d be spending your engagement anniversary in jail, lashes on your back still warm to the touch.

In New York, high rise graffiti has assimilated into the urban landscape, and no one questions how the vandals got up there in the first place. Graffiti artists there are the stuff of fable and magic who sprinkle rainbow fairy dust while you sleep and then disappear before you wake. Maybe it’s because they don’t spray-paint FUCK OBAMA in CAPS all over the place.

Only in Singapore does one see this obsessive urge to deface the Government in public using the ‘language’ of graffiti.  Campaign banners in Aljunied GRC, for example, were subject to a blue streak of vandalism in 2011.

PAP, you’ve been Tagged

Then there’s the rampage of digital vandalism that culminated in the hijacking of the Istana website, with the hackers putting up unflattering comments about President Tony Tan. Well that’s one way to get noticed, but a silly risk to take since the Government knows your IP address and all. The tricky part about nabbing rooftop vandals is that the perpetrators are unlikely to be caught in the act by eyewitnesses, and nobody really sneaks up there unless they want to dispose a body in the water tank, have sex, or SUNTAN.  Maybe the litterbug-catching CCTVs would have some leads for the Police.

A minor embarrassment for the PAP really, but they should take comfort in knowing that for every dozen pieces of graffiti cursing the government, there’s always that rare, diehard pro-Government fan who would break the law just to declare his love for it. Like so.

UPDATE: ‘Mike Cool’ and his 4 friends were arrested within days of the incident, similar to the speed at which the Cenotaph vandal was captured. I don’t know what they were doing to the 17 year olds in the police van, because they seemed to be in some kind of pain. One of them was allowed access to a lawyer, but denied a gag order because the law ‘protects victims, not accused persons’. The last time a gag order request was rejected was an appeal made on behalf of a certain Cecilia Sue. Meanwhile, another infamous 17 year old’s identity remains gagged to this day, as more than 30 men and counting, their names splashed all over the news, get charged one by one for having underaged sex with the ‘victim’.

Or maybe it was just hot that day

 4 of them (Boaz Koh, Reagan Tan, Chay Nam Shen, Goh Rong Liang) were alleged to have committed criminal trespass, while David Graaskov has been charged of conspiring to commit vandalism, the latter also accused of ‘removing a reflective vest worth $5 from another rooftop in Toa Payoh. (Teens in vandalism case face more charges, 17 May 2014, ST). Boaz was also playing with a fire extinguisher at the Marina Bay Suites, causing $70 worth of damage to property. Why bother with expert witnesses to solve crimes when you have Instagram? (Boaz and Graaskov have since closed their accounts).

Hawt

New age construction worker

National Gallery logo should have a dome on the taller box

From various letters, 12 April 2014, ST Life! Mailbag

(Chia Ai Tong, William):…My main complaint is that the new logo looks odd and incongruous. Having tried my best to look for beauty, I’m afraid all I can see is a long row made up of two rectangles of different sizes and proportions standing side by side. And why have two logos of the same design, one in grey and the other in red?

(YG Yap): The National Gallery logo is simple. It is the two buildings it is housed in. Good. But it is a little too simple. How about adding a dome on top of the taller box? That will make it look like the former Supreme Court building.

Add an artistic and nostalgic touch by making the lower edge of the dome slightly embedded in the top of the box. That should fix it.

(Lim Fang Kiat):…As if to pre-empt the anticipated slew of brickbats the renaming of the the art gallery will likely engender, National Gallery director Eugene Tan has said: “We want to be known simply as the National Gallery. Gallery itself implies the word art.

This renaming comes after several names had been bandied about in the past two years or so. These names included National Art Gallery of Singapore (NAGS), The National Art Gallery (TNAG) and National Art Gallery (NAG). These acronyms have been the butt of jokes, but at least the word “art” tells us what the gallery is about.

To have the word “art” removed from this new name when all the proposals in the past have included it is a surprising turnaround and I wonder how much of this decision is due to the need to avoid the negative connotations of the acronym.

It may seem a matter of semantics, but some of us feel that having “art” in the name will provide some semblance of identity for this new gallery, especially when we already have a National Museum, until such time as the name of the National Gallery can stand on its own for the visual arts.

national-gallery-singapore-e1396845995825-700x407

Where Art thou?

Below is my interpretation of how a domed taller box for the much maligned logo would look like, with it overlaying the current facade of the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings.

logodome

The NG Singapore

Now it looks like 2 Duplo blocks or a man with a big nose lying on his back, making it harder for the layperson to, according to the logo description, interpret the design in ‘every imaginable way’. There’s a limit to what you can do with 2 rectangles, really. Corrie Tan of ST thinks the use of boxes smacks of our ‘baggage of over-pragmatism’, and ironically, this ‘geometric abstraction’ of two boxes befits our reputation for being ‘square’. If this were the eighties, we’d have no shame because, as Huey Lewis and the News once sang: It’s HIP to be square. To most people who don’t over-analyse simple geometrtic shapes, it’s just two bloody rectangles.

Asylum lead for the logo project Chris Lee was actually flattered when critics cried ‘My child could do that!’ (‘it speaks of a young child’s purity’, he says, which is really an excuse for ‘lack of imagination’). He also explained that its ‘reductionism reflects the museum’s dynamism and confidence in its vision….It could also represent two platforms, two dialog boxes etc… Art should be a two way conversation’. With a child’s purity. That’s the thing with art, you can explain away rubbish with snappy buzzwords like ‘dynamism’. I could come up with a National Gallery logo in less than 3 minutes, not to mention 3 months as the designers did, using nothing but the letters and symbols on my keyboard and say the following without the slightest hint of satire:

.<National>.
(Gallery)

The parentheses symbolise the ‘implicitness’ that defines modern art, the brackets and embracing periods melding the disciplines of art and language into one seamless, universal dynamic whole – an ironic, playful dualism of words being bounded, yet at the same time designed without boundaries in all its emoticonesque, symmetrical simplicity.

Surprisingly, most of our current museum logos don’t consist of anything beyond some fancy fonts. The National Museum has its acronyms floating in mid air like it were suspended in alphabet soup (NMS also stands for Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.)

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 2.41.29 PM

The Peranakan Museum has a bold, flowery typeface that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jurong Bird Park logo. If I had to suggest an acronym for this, I’d go with PAM.

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And there’s SAM, which is an exercise in stark black-and-white minimalism, which you can also replicate using Microsoft Word. Yes, you don’t even need WORDART for this.

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The only one with a graphic is the Asian Civilisations Museum, which depicts the Empress Place building’s facade casting a shadow. Nothing Asian about its ‘neo Palladian’ style at all. Its acronym ACM sounds like an insurance company by the way.

Asian-Civilisations-Museum

Those who look beyond the logo complain about the dropping of ‘Art’ from the former NAG, or more bizarrely, NAGA (The additional A is part of the word ‘GAllery’). Naga is also the name of a serpent deity in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, one that would resonate with anyone who plays World of Warcraft. TNAG or TNAGS look like a typo horror dying for the autocorrect treatment to TANGS (the shopping centre). I’m not sure if the new acronym NG is any better, which not only spells out a common Singaporean surname, but can be an abbreviation of ‘No Good’, in reference to bad takes when shooting a film, while NGS resembles an acronym for a government hospital or a convent girls’ school. Personally I’d prefer NAG to TNAG any day, the latter sounding like an annoying adolescent rapper.

Contrary to director Eugene Tan’s assertion, not all ‘Galleries’ imply art. The Singapore Maritime Gallery exhibits stuff that allows you to play a Captain or a ‘Matey’ for a day. The Sustainable Singapore Gallery shows you how the Marina Barrage works. The HDB Gallery shows you how living space has shrunk over time (probably also the LEAST visited gallery ever). There’s a KINDNESS Gallery devoted to Singa the Courtesy Lion. You can even have a gallery of ICE CREAM. In our context, a ‘gallery’ is just a general space to showcase stuff, whether it’s artifacts, toys, photography, paintings, food or campaign paraphernalia. So don’t be surprised if you invite someone for a trip to the National Gallery, the response you get is ‘Gallery of WHAT?’ To which you’ll reply ‘Erm, ART?’. And then you’ve already wasted 1 second of your life explaining as such.

If naming and logos aren’t problematic enough, some have even opposed the use of the existing building facade to house a modern art gallery, that the stuffy English ‘neo-classic style’ just isn’t ‘shocking enough’ for an institution like NAG. The building needs to be ‘dynamic, contemporary and confident’ like its logo and ‘Akzidenz-Grotesk’ typeface. It needs to ‘push boundaries’, something which the logo has failed to do, and rival the Art Science Museum’s lotus dome in terms of instant iconic recognisability. If it weren’t already too late, they could have come up with an architectural style that shouts ‘playful’ and ‘geometric abstraction’ at the same time.

Something like this, perhaps.

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 3.20.01 PM

The National Gallery logo is simple. It is the two buildings it is housed in. Good. But it is a little too simple.

How about adding a dome on top of the taller box? That will make it look like the former Supreme Court building.

Add an artistic and nostalgic touch by making the lower edge of the dome slightly embedded in the top of the box. That should fix it.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/life/story/national-gallery-logo-draws-heated-debate-20140412#sthash.0sKFVS4v.dpuf

My main complaint is that the new logo looks odd and incongruous. Having tried my best to look for beauty, I’m afraid all I can see is a long row made up of two rectangles of different sizes and proportions standing side by side. And why have two logos of the same design, one in grey and the other in red? – See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/life/story/national-gallery-logo-draws-heated-debate-20140412#sthash.0sKFVS4v.dpuf

UOB Painting of the Year is an ‘indignity’

From ‘UOB painting win: Calls to tweak rules’, 28 Nov 2013, article by Deepika Shetty, ST Life!

The new rules for the United Overseas Bank Painting Of The Year have kicked in, but the winning work by German- born, Singapore permanent resident Stefanie Hauger, 44, has generated talk in the arts community that the rules might need to be tightened further.

Hauger, a former interior designer who became a full-time artist two years ago, snagged the South-east Asian painting prize worth US$10,000 (S$12,500) and the Singapore award of US$25,000 for her 170 by 170cm acrylic on canvas, Space Odyssey.

…Singapore artist Aaron Gan said the fact that Space Odyssey trumped Suroso’s more nuanced and detailed painting titled Indonesian Artist’s Studio was an “indignity”.

Said Gan, 34: “I understand that artworks are judged on message, creativity, composition and technique. While Space Odyssey may score highly in message and creativity, it should accordingly score equally low points for composition. The technique is nothing to write home about. You pour paint on a canvas and turn it around. That’s it. You do not have to be trained to do it.”

It was a point picked up by Indian classical vocalist and visual arts lover Krishnapuram Venkatachar Godha. She felt Space Odyssey was “not that impressive” to win a first prize in such a prestigious competition.

“The painting reminds me of the artworks we did in school. Essentially pour some three to four poster colours, fold the paper into half and get this effect. It looks exactly like that except for the size of the painting,” said Mrs Godha, 42.

A swirl of controversy

A swirl of controversy

Hauger’s painting looks like a bird’s eye view of our blue planet from the perspective of an astronaut dropping acid in space, a psychedelic portrait of her morning coffee just after stirring with colours inverted and distorted, or what the worst oil spill ever would look like. It seems too splashy and accidental a work to be a winner in the eyes of fellow artists, professionals who come out harping every year about unworthy champions. Bai Tianyuan simply ‘copied’ a photograph, while 17 year old Esmond Loh’s victory was a slap in the face of ‘established’ artists who slog day and night to hone their craft. Both young winners weren’t even born when veteran participants were already showcasing their work.

This year, you have a 44 year old PR upstart whose work some claim can be accomplished by a kid in a blindfold during art class. I’d like to see Aaron Gan pour cans of paint on a canvas while turning it around and achieve what Hauger did with ‘Odyssey’. Or better still, rub 4 colours on your naked body and roll around on paper in a circle. If you can replicate a UOB Winner by throwing random buckets of paint on a wall, then point taken, though by the sheer element of chance, you can still create crazy, fantastic ‘art’, like a monkey typing out a couple of stanzas of poetry on a keyboard. In other words, winning the UOB Fluke of the Year.

Hauger’s swirly work represents the muddle that local art is in when it comes to recognising and rewarding true talent. Or someone was spinning the work around and got the judges hypnotised into giving it full marks. People are questioning how the categories are defined, or how skilled the winner is, but not the credibility of the judges, who are the ones selecting paintings of the year in the first place. If your judges are supposed to be able to discern the work of an amateur from an experienced hand, it doesn’t matter if your participants are a mix of wannabes, snobs or greenhorns painting for the first time trying their luck. We’ve seen how a piece of ‘emerging work’ has been deemed to be no lesser in quality than an ‘established’ one, a fact proven a few times already from past shockers.

Perhaps I should start training and submit a still-life of fruit as my entry in next year’s contest under the ‘emerging’ category. I could call it ‘Sour Grapes’.

Orchard Xmas colours similar to traffic lights

From ‘Orchard lights up – in safer colours’, 23 Nov 2013, article by Jermyn Chow, ST

GREEN, red and gold may be traditional Christmas colours, but they are also similar to the ones on traffic lights. Given that this could lead to motorists confusing yuletide decorations with traffic signals, the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) has decided, from this year, to avoid the use of these colours for the shopping belt’s annual light-up that it organises.

“While we want to create the festive mood, we have to ensure that motorists will not be distracted by the displays,” Orba’s executive director Steven Goh told The Straits Times. He explained that initial plans to use silver and gold – which is similar to the amber signal of traffic lights – for this year’s display were altered.

Instead, the panel of senior Orba and STB representatives which plans and chooses the decorations decided to turn Orchard into a winter wonderland with giant diamonds and snowflakes – all blue and white. Called Christmas on A Great Street, the lights for the 2.2km stretch from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura will be turned on by President Tony Tan Keng Yam tonight in a ceremony at Shaw House Urban Plaza.

…Said marketing executive Lynn Seah, 33, who drives down Orchard Road at least three times a week: “What is Christmas without its iconic colours? Safety is important but which motorist can be so clueless as to mistake fairy lights for traffic lights?”

The Orchard Road Xmas lights are like the Miss Singapore Universe costume; you can never please everyone. Last year’s generous decking of red and gold, the ‘traditional’ colours of Xmas, reminded some shoppers of Chinese New Year instead of a ‘warm Yuletide ambience’ that is supposed to simulate a nostalgic misletoe-draped, pine-scented family gathering by the fireplace.

Cai Shen Night

Cai Shen Night

In 2005, someone complained about a structure that looked like a God of Fortune hat sitting on top of a season’s greetings banner.  And yes, it was in ‘Christmassy’ Red too. I’m not sure if they recycled that for the following CNY celebrations. Not enough red and Singaporeans complain. Too much of it, and we accuse you of defiling tradition.

Huat the halls

It looks like for ‘safety’ reasons, we’ll have to settle for monotonous Winter wonderland blues and silvers for good, though it may not just be the red, gold and green lights of Orchard that causes accidents, but the very distraction of having Xmas lights along ANY road in the first place. This precautionary measure may have been triggered by a video of a car sent flying last Xmas, though it’s impossible to tell if the driver was spellbound by the Christmassy atmosphere, plain reckless, or pissed drunk.

In 2000, a man was killed by a motorcycle while taking photos of the Takashimaya lighting in Orchard Road. (Man killed in Orchard Rd accident, 10 Dec 2000, ST). 9 years later on Xmas eve, a driver responsible for killing an Indonesian maid on pillion along Whitley Road blamed Christmas decor for misleading her into ‘running a red light’.  In 2010, someone ploughed into a Xmas float along Orchard.  But why take it out on Christmas decorations when the yuletide season is known for a more probable cause of accident deaths, drunk driving?

You can judge for yourself how dangerous red Xmas lights are to motorists from this 2012 video below. Note how the amber roadwork beacons are contributing to the kaleidoscopic confusion as well.

If we’re so certain that Xmas decor is confusing to drivers, we should ban the same colours along EVERY street in Singapore, not just our famed shopping district, especially areas where drivers would LEAST EXPECT to be dazzled by Xmas lighting. Or maybe even ban cars from Orchard Road altogether during the festive season, just so that thousands of shoppers can have their fill of iconic Xmas lights in all colours of the rainbow instead of, you know, boring stuff like spending time at home with loved ones.

I’m just wondering what’s to become of CNY, and Cai Shen Ye, now.

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