Interview: Singapore muralist Yip Yew Chong on why he loves street art

Aug 18, 2017

Singaporean muralist Yip Yew Chong (main photo) is inspired by his childhood growing up in the Lion City during the ’70s and ’80s. To capture scenes from the past realistically, he looks to
 old photographs – and his memories. A full-time finance director, Yip began dabbling in street art after chancing upon Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic’s murals in 2014. Each artwork takes him between one and 20 days to complete.

How did you get into painting murals?

I’m currently a finance director at a UK-based MNC. I was taking a break from work in 2015 when I chanced upon street art in Singapore, and thought I would give it a try. So I approached the owner of a house near my own, and asked if I could paint on the perimeter wall of his home. After some persuasion he agreed and we jointly applied to the authorities for approval to work on the wall. The mural received warm responses from the public, which motivated me to continue painting. You can still see this mural at Spottiswoode Park Road.

What do you love about creating street art?

I enjoy the process of applying brush stroke upon brush stroke of paint onto a blank wall and seeing it being transformed into a piece of art that passers-by will stop to appreciate. The heritage theme of the murals also gives the area life and meaning.

SEE ALSO: PHOTOS: Beautiful murals of old-time Singapore by local artist Yip Yew Chong

Why do you like depicting scenes from the past, in particular?

I’m inspired by memories of growing up in Singapore’s Chinatown in the ’70s and ’80s. Singapore is developing so fast that many things have been lost. I hope that my murals will bring back fond memories for the older generation, as well as serve as education on our country’s heritage for younger people.

Tell us about your aesthetic. What sets you apart from other artists?

I try to paint scenes realistically, in life size, so that people can interact with them. I also do proper research and refer to both my memories and photographs to recreate the past in an authentic way. I’m particularly inspired by the works of Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic, which I stumbled upon while walking through Singapore’s Kampong Glam.

SEE ALSO: Interview: Singapore illusionist Ning Cai on finding magic on Pualu Ubin 

What types of feelings do you hope to evoke through your work?

I hope that they can create a sense of nostalgia for old Singapore and our childhood years. Based on the social media posts I’ve seen, the public seems to be having fun with the murals. I am still amazed by how they can come up with all sorts of creative poses when being photographed with my artwork.

Have you discovered anything new and interesting about Singapore as a street artist?

I’ve learnt a lot about our country in the course of my research that takes place before I actually start painting. For instance, not many know that Telok Ayer Street once faced the beach. All the buildings on Cecil Street, Robinson Road and Shenton Way sit on reclaimed land.

SEE ALSO: Interview: The Singapore Girl immortalised at Madame Tussauds

How long does it take for you to complete each artwork? Which is your favourite piece?

Depending on the size and design complexity, plus weather conditions, it can take between one and 20 days. I paint only on weekends, and have begun being more selective in accepting requests to paint – time poses a big challenge. My favourite mural is the one in Tiong Bahru that reflects two of my previous homes in Chinatown. Everything in it is familiar to me.

Any plans to become a full-time muralist?

Not strictly a muralist, but when I retire, I want to become an artist. I also enjoy painting on canvas and filmmaking.

For more of Yip’s works, visit www.yipyc.com

– BY CARA YAP

PHOTO: SUPPLIED