Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Reflecting at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital's Lotus Pond.

Lotus Pond at Kandang Kerbau Hospital
People often ask me if I have had formal art lessons before. That question always sends my head working overtime. Honestly, I don’t know what is considered “formal art lessons”. My impression of a formal art lesson involves years of proper lessons, easels, paints and materials culminating in a certificate or diploma of some sort.

I have nothing of that sort.

What I do have that are directly linked to fine arts are art classes at the neighbourhood residents’ committee centre, art lessons in primary school and secondary school and then finally, art elective modules during my university days. Other than that, I have had no formal lessons. Not like those who have gone through years of painting and drawing lessons and have created a portfolio before they finally graduate with a piece of certifying paper with words written in some sort of manuscript ala “Black Adder”.

But what I did have, as I fondly recalled while sketching and doing some work the other day at KK Hospital’s lotus pond, are excellent teachers in those classes and electives. My art teacher during my pre-teen years at the residents’ committee was 陈淑娟老师. An alumnus of The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, she is a patient and humorous lady who saw my ability and threw away her syllabus to teach me watercolours instead of just crayons and oil pastels. She was the one who inspired and allowed me to believe that there can be something that I am really good at; I was a very late bloomer, academically speaking.

Much later, during my university days, I was privileged to sit under the tutelage of the late 蔡逸溪老师 – a Cultural Medallion for Art recipient. I don’t think further introductions are required.

Anyway, I was just practise-painting watercolour lotus when I recalled, fondly and with a chuckle, these little episodes in my life and quite aptly, at the namesake hospital where I was born: Kandang Kerbau Hospital:

KK Women's and Children's Hospital (abbreviation: KKH; Chinese: 竹脚妇幼医院; Malay: Hospital Wanita dan Kanak-kanak Kandang Kerbau), formerly known as "Kandang Kerbau Hospital", is the largest hospital specialising in healthcare for women and children in Singapore.[2]

From its humble beginnings as a small general hospital in 1858 to a 30-bed maternity hospital in 1924,[2] KKH has grown into an 830-bed hospital providing obstetric and gynaecology, neonatology and paediatric services. Often affectionally referred to as "KK" amongst locals, it is the birthplace of a sizeable proportion of Singaporeans, delivering over half of total newborns in the country as early as 1938.

In 1966, the hospital entered the Guinness Book of Records for delivering the highest number of newborns within a single maternity facility for that year, and it continued to hold on to this record for a full decade,[2] delivering 85% of the population.[3] 

In 1997, the hospital moved to its present site.[3] In 2003, the old premises was marked as a historical site by the National Heritage Board,[2] a tribute to an institution that has been the birthplace of over 1.2 million Singaporeans since its inception.[3]

The hospital's come from the Malay term for "buffalo shed" (kandang = shed / pen + kerbau = buffalo), reflecting the area's past link with buffalo rearing. While the hospital started as one catering to health care for women, mainly for gynaecology and obstetrics, it has since expanded its role.

First, the paediatrics department was added for the care of the babies after delivery, but over the years it expanded into a full paediatric service, treating younger patients for all kinds of illnesses up to teenage. An offshoot, the neonatology service, was then added. Thus the expanded role of the hospital warranted a renaming to KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

Over the recent years, the scope of care has expanded even more to provide holistic care to women and children patients. It strives to become the "Healthcare Leader for Women and Children", which has become its slogan. New departments were added to the hospital. Paediatric surgery was first added, followed by others such as colorectal surgery, psychiatry and orthopaedics for women with illnesses requiring expertise in those areas.

As a result of a restructuring exercise in the local healthcare scene, the hospital became a member of the Singapore Health Services on 1 April 2000.[3]

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Sketchwalk to Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park

View of Bishan Park from Public Shelter
 Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park
At 62 hectares, Bishan - Ang Mo Kio Park, with its ponds and bridges, colourful shrubs and lush greenery, is one of the largest and most popular parks in Singapore. Divided by Marymount Road into two plots, Pond Gardens (formerly Bishan Park 1) and River Plains (formerly Bishan Park 2), the park caters to park users of all ages. Some interesting features include three exciting playgrounds, a community garden, a vantage point on a hill that gives one a landmark view of the park, and a Riverside Gallery.

One of the highlights of the park is the stretch of Kallang River that used to run in a concrete canal but is now a naturalised, meandering river teeming with life. The result of a joint collaboration between NParks and PUB, under the latter's Active, Beautiful and Clean Waters Programme; this river brings park users closer to the water to enjoy its beauty and serenity, and to appreciate the flora and fauna that flourish in the park because of the waterway.

It may be of interest to visitors to note that the transformation of the canal into a river involved a series of bioengineering techniques and the use of a combination of natural materials such as vegetation and rocks. Civil engineering techniques were also used to stabilise the slope and control soil erosion.

The water quality in the ponds and river is maintained, without the use of chemicals, by a cleansing biotope located in Pond Gardens. It consists of carefully selected plants which filter out pollutants while absorbing nutrients from the water.

The use of soil bioengineering techniques (a combination of vegetation, natural materials and civil engineering techniques) to stabilize the river banks and prevent erosion was a first for Singapore and is a new reference for soil stabilisation in the tropics, which have otherwise rarely been used or documented. In 2009, a test bed was constructed, testing about 10 different soil bioengineering techniques and a wide variety of tropical plant species along a length of 60 metres at one of the side drains in the park. Seven of these techniques were then selected for use along the main river. These include fascines, rip-rap with cuttings, geotextile wrapped soil-lifts, brush mattresses with fascines, reed rolls, planted gabions, and geotextile with plantings. The test bed was used to refine the selection of appropriate techniques and plants, as well as the most efficient and effective construction methods. Extensive systematic testing was carried out, including measuring the depth and tenacity of root development.

Cleansing biotopes  
Cleansing biotopes offer effective water treatment while maintaining a natural and beautiful environment. They consist of carefully selected plants in a filter medium which helps to cleanse the water by filtering pollutants and absorbing nutrients. Located upstream in the park, the cleansing biotope helps to maintain the water quality of the ponds without the use of chemicals.

Within the park, a new water playground was designed to increase the attractiveness and visitor enjoyment of the park. Water for this playground is supplied by cleansed pond water that has been filtered through the cleansing biotope and has undergone an ultraviolet (UV) treatment to eliminate any harmful biological contaminants without introducing any chemicals into the water.

Park features
Three new playgrounds were constructed for children to enjoy. New bridges, stepping stones in the water and a riverside gallery were also built to encourage increased interaction with water. Existing features such as the foot reflexology feature, community garden, dog run and fitness areas were refurbished to update the overall look of the park.

No wildlife was introduced to the park but the introduction of the naturalised river into the park has seen the park’s biodiversity increase by 30%. Singapore lies within the East Asian – Australasian Flyway so the park can expect to receive some special migratory bird visitors. A few surprise visitors have already been spotted including Zanzibar Red Bishop, a native to Africa, the Spotted Wood Owl, native to the jungle forest in Indonesia, Long-tailed Parakeet, native in the Andaman islands and the Orange-cheeked Waxbill, native to western and central Africa. Birds (such as the Purple Heron, Scaly-breasted Munia and the White-breasted Waterhen) that are seldom seen in a high-dense urban neighbourhood have also been spotted roosting among the new vegetation. The Malay Archipelago is one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots, second only to the Amazon, and the tropical rainforest climate is home to an abundance of lush vegetation.

The restoration of the river has created a huge variety of micro-habitats which not only increase biodiversity but the resilience of species within the park, meaning their long term ability to survive is greatly improved.

Friday, 26 April 2013

March 2013 Sketchwalk at Bishan Park.

Here is the plan for this Saturday's sketchwalk:

At 9.30AM, We will meet outside the Toastbox at Junction 8 (just outside the Bishan MRT station).
We will draw around the Bishan central area. You can draw the Junction 8 shopping mall, the bus interchange there and the Bishan library with its cubby holes.

At 1030AM, let's start to fan out in the general direction of Bishan Park (See map below). Feel free to form your own small groups and form your own trails through the neighbourhood. You are encouraged to spread out and not cluster together so much. If not, everyone will be drawing the same thing. Explore freely.

From 1030 - 1230PM, take your time to explore and sketch Bishan Park which has been renovated. See the site here: Bishan Park.

At 1230AM sharp, let's meet outside the McDonald's at Bishan Park, circled in the map. We will find an open space there to view all our sketches there and end the sketchwalk.

This is just a recommended time plan. If you'd like to head to Bishan Park earlier because you are tired of drawing HDB flats, please go ahead.

If there happens to be a thunderstorm on that day, we will stick to drawing around junction 8 and the areas around.

If you are in Singapore, your are invited to join us. No joining fee or attendance. Just bring your drawing tools, paper and show up. Travel light.

Only if you are seriously lost, call Andrew at 91070735 . We will not be deviating from this mapped out route. So if you are late, please find us along this route. Thanks!:)

Saturday, 20 April 2013

It's a small commision; but it speaks volumes in its significance.

A very significant project 26 years in the making...
I received my first commission the other day: a project to reflect the venue of PassionArts at Bedok organised by the PA. It is exciting as a personal project and a personal affirmation.

When I was 12 and selecting secondary schools and programmes that I would be interested to go to after my national exams (PSLE), the then-newly implemented Art Elective Programme caught my eye. My parents, especially my mum, were supportive and encouraged me to go for it. But there was an obstacle.

Despite having helped with the illustrations of several ‘big books’ (the drawings were A3 in size), my form teacher stated that my school (i.e. herself) needs to endorse on my application and maintained matter-of-factly that I was “not good enough for the programme”.

More recently, despite being a graduate and having practiced as an interior designer and architect, I was told by the local Ministry of Education that I am “not qualified to teach art because [I am] not certified by the National Institute of Education”.

To me, it’s all right. I have already practiced as an actual designer, taught art for at least 10 years and had my works published. Now, I have at least one commissioned piece to add to my portfolio. I suppose I don’t really need their qualification for affirmation or confirmation.

Although this is a simple piece of work, its very existence speaks volumes in its significance.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Our Neighbourhoods: We Love Bedok by Urban Sketchers Singapore x Epigram

Design & Photography: Wee Editions

>> View Sample
Our Neighbourhoods: We Love Bedok

Urban Sketchers Singapore


Tucked away in the East is a sleeping giant: Bedok, a paragon of the heartlands. Previously bordered by the beach, this neighbourhood was known for its scrumptious seafood. Bedok, or Bodo, as it was once called, is now the district with the largest resident population—and the oldest.
Journey with Urban Sketchers Singapore as great change sweeps eastward. Dodge through major construction at the beloved Bedok Town Centre, where Princess Theatre still stands, for the quiet of Bedok North’s songbirds. Have a dip at Bedok Swimming Complex, then replenish your energy with the famed rojak and cheng tng at Bedok South. The artists delightfully depict Bedok Reservoir too, where a certain Wall has travelled all the way from Berlin to Bedok.
“Memory is the ultimate thing that makes a place come alive. I was a Bedok kid, and this book beautifully preserves the diversity and colour of Bedok!”
—Royston Tan, director of Old Places
ISBN: 987-981-07-5432-7

Format: Paperback

Size: 125 x 175mm

Pages: 96

Published: Apr 2013

Also in the Our Neighbourhoods Series:

We Love Tiong Bahru by Urban Sketchers Singapore

We Love Toa Payoh by Urban Sketchers Singapore

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A fresh cool day after the morning storm.

Ad hoc Plein Air at Sungei Buloh
Just felt like being amongst the greens with the air being washed afresh after the morning storm.

Bishan Columbarium 广惠肇碧山亭

Pavilion at Bishan Columbarium
Went with my family for ancestral prayers earlier this month: my paternal grandparents' remains are placed here. While hanging around at the place in between the prayers, I did a quick sketch of the picture postcard setting of the pavilion there and then filled it with colour later.
Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng (广惠肇碧山亭) was a cemetery in Singapore that was established in 1870 by immigrants largely from the three prefectures of Kwong Chow Fu (广州府), Wai Chow Fu (惠州府) and Siew Heng Fu (肇庆府) in Guangdong Province, China. It was originally solely for the Cantonese community, but within a century, Peck San Theng (PST) became one of the biggest Chinese cemeteries in Singapore, holding more than 100,000 graves over 384 acres (1.55 km2) of land.

In 1979, the Singapore government decided to acquire all its land to create the present Bishan New Town. Many graves were exhumed and remains cremated during the 1980s. To enable Peck San Theng to continue with its tradition, the government leased 8 acres (32,000 m2) of land to Peck San Theng for accommodating an office block, a Memorial, two temples and a columbarium. The columbarium houses some 100,000 niches which are available to the to public irrespective of race, language and religion since 1980. It was and will continue to be a place for ancestral worship in Singapore. Peck San Theng is currently managed by a federation of sixteen clans of the Cantonese community in Singapore.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

"We've decided to include two of your sketches..." ~ Epigram

Just received news that TWO of my paintings from the Bedok sketchwalk has been selected for publication in a commemorative book by Epigram for the estate.

Tres-tres excite!

The sports area in Bedok estate.
Bedok Community Centre

Urban Sketchers Singapore featured on the Singapore American magazine.

The expatriate publication, Singapore American has published their April issue and USKSG has a full-page feature  in their arts section.