The end of the Middle

3 04 2014

Long abandoned, a reminder of a time we have well forgotten, the former Bras Basah Community Centre, lies crumbling as it awaits a fate that does seem almost inevitable. For the moment, it serves as a reminder of the once gentle world that the new world seems to have little place for, one in which humble urban spaces for the community such as these were ones we could celebrate.

Patterns of a discarded world - ventilation openings from simpler and less energy dependent times.

Patterns of a discarded world – ventilation openings from simpler and less energy dependent times.

More patterns from forgotten times.

More patterns from forgotten times.

The former community centre, with group of single-storey buildings is set in a very generously provided space - unlike the compact, cluttered and overly crowded ones we have gotten used to seeing today. Opened in November 1960 as the Middle Road Community Centre, it was built to provide the community, at a time when the area did host a large resident population, with a point of focus. It also provided a safe place where the young  could expand their energy in with the provision of facilities such as two basketball courts which could also be used for badminton and sepak-takraw, as well as those for games such as chess and table-tennis.

An aerial view of the former Middle Road / Bras Basah Community Centre - the Empress Hotel, where the National Library now stands, can be seen at the top of the left hand side of the photograph.

An aerial view of the former Middle Road / Bras Basah Community Centre – the Empress Hotel, where the National Library now stands, can be seen at the top of the left hand side of the photograph.

A view of the grounds of the former community centre from high above where the Empress once reigned.

A view of the grounds of the former community centre from high above where the Empress once reigned.

The former centre provides a contrast against the new and modern world that has come up around it.

The former centre provides a contrast against the new and modern world that has come up around it.

One of the basketball courts was indeed where some of the young did, in early 1963, expand some energy in. An article I did come across in the National Library’s newspaper archives from 20 April 1963′s edition of The Straits Times, tells us of children discovering a hoard of banknotes and coins – believed to have been buried by residents of the area prior to the fall of Singapore to the Japanese , in digging a hole for a game of marbles on one of the centre’s two basketball courts.

A stash of buried money was found under one of the centre's two basketball courts in 1963.

A stash of buried money was found under one of the centre’s two basketball courts in 1963.

One of the basketball courts today.

One of the basketball courts today.

The centre was closed in 1987, after the area was cleared of its residents in the decade of what I term as the Great Wipeout. It found use for a while as a kindergarten called the Kinder World Educare Centre, but has in more recent times, remained vacant and has suffered from neglect. With the state of the grounds of the community centre and its buildings are in, it perhaps may not be long before holes are dug to remove the former community centre, and with that what’s left to remind us of the various communities it did once serve.

A view of the centre from a service road..

A view of the centre from a service road.

Reminders of the use of the former community centre as a kindergarten.

Reminders of the use of the former community centre as a kindergarten.

 

 More views around the former Community Centre

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We did once enjoy getting hit by a ball

28 03 2014

This photograph, which was taken at a school yard during my wanderings to Kathmandu in Nepal in April 2011, takes me back to my own days in primary school some four decades ago, when children looked forward to the opportunities for physical activity and outdoor play that presented itself during recess time as well as before and after school hours. It didn’t matter then that we would be sweaty, our uniforms often bearing the marks left by balls or through falling during play. It was pure fun and a perfect way to interact.

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Many of the games we played in the expansive fields involved a good run around. Games such as “catching”, football, rounders were popular, as was the game that the photograph does remind me of, “hentam bola“, or as we did pronounce it, “hantam bola“.

Translated from Malay as “hit with (or by) a ball”, although grammatically not quite correct, the game involved a player, singled out as one who “pasang” - who initially would have drawn the short straw through a selection process that might have involved mini-games of chance (a common one used was “oh-bey-som“, similar to rock, paper, scissors).

Played in an open field, the objective of “hentam bola” for the “pasang” was to chase the other players (who would be trying to give the “pasang” a run around), and attempt to hit another player by throwing a ball with as much strength as one could muster. A successful hit would mean that the player hit would be the next to throw the ball. The ball we used was a small compressed air filled rubber ball, which could sometimes do some damage, not just to the players, but to glass panes in windows and doors.

It is sad that the outdoors feature less in children’s play in Singapore these days, not just due to the gadget age, but also with open space at a premium - many schools have sacrificed parts of their great outdoors for the greater indoors in the form of sports halls and the opportunity for such outdoor play does seem to be greatly reduced.





Windows into Singapore: juxtapositions of time

27 03 2014

A view out of the window from the POD atop the National Library building, out towards what would once have been an almost clear view of the sea off the promenade that ran along Nicoll Highway.

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Part of what has been a landmark along Beach Road since its completion in 1976, Shaw Towers, can be seen on the right of the photograph. Built over a site that had previously been occupied by the Alhambra and Marborough cinemas, the 35 floor Shaw Towers was at the point of its completion, the tallest kid on the block at Beach Road. It was also the first building in Singapore to house two cinemas, Prince and Jade, built in a decade when cinema going took-off in Singapore. Prince was at its opening, the largest cinema in Singapore with its 1952 seats. Prince occupied the second to the seventh floors of one corner of the building’s podium. Its screen, at 28 metres wide, was the widest in the Far East. Jade was to provide a more intimate setting, holding less than half the crowd Prince would have held. The cinemas were converted in the late 1980s to cineplexes – the first multi-screen cinemas to make an appearance in Singapore.

A close up of the boats in the Kallang Basin close to Nicoll Highway (posted in Facebook group, On a Little Street in Singapore).

Nicoll Highway, Singapore’s first highway, did once run along the coast right behind Shaw Towers. Completed in 1956 - after the closure of Kallang Airport permitted a much needed link to be built along the coast, it provided an artery to take vehicular traffic from and to the populated eastern coast into and out of the city. Offering a view of the sea and the scatter of boats up to the early 1970s,  a drive today provides a view of a scattering of trees and isolated structures that herald the arrival of a brand new world - where the wooded patch is in the foreground of the first photograph.

Nicoll Highway, the Merdeka Bridge, Beach Road and the Kallang Basin, 1967 – before the 1970s land reclamation (posted in Facebook group, On a Little Street in Singapore).

A view down Nicoll Highway. A new development South Beach is seen rising beyond Shaw Tower.

A view down Nicoll Highway. A new development South Beach is seen rising beyond Shaw Towers.

Another view down Nicoll Highway during peak hour.

Another view down Nicoll Highway during peak hour.

The body of water beyond which we can see the Benjamin Sheares Bridge rising, is itself one that has seen a significant change. Where it once was the sea, it now is a body of fresh water, forming a part of the huge Marina Reservoir, having been cut-off from the sea by land reclamation and the construction of the Marina Barrage. The barrage, closes up the channel between Marina East and Marina South, Marina East being land reclaimed off Tanjong Rhu, a cape once referred to as a “curious ridge of sand” on which shipyards, the charcoal trade and a flour mill had once featured.

An advertisement for Khong Guan Flour Mills. The grain storage silos once dominated a landscape at Tanjong Rhu now dominated by condominiums.

An advertisement for Khong Guan Flour Mills. The grain storage silos once dominated a landscape at Tanjong Rhu now dominated by condominiums.

A more recent landmark on Beach Road, the 41-storey The Concourse and a view toward Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

A more recent landmark on Beach Road, the 41-storey The Concourse and a view toward Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

Reclaimed land by Nicoll Highway, the Kallang Basin area of Marina Reservoir and Tanjong Rhu beyond it.

Reclaimed land by Nicoll Highway, the Kallang Basin area of Marina Reservoir and the Marina South area beyond it.

It is at Tanjong Rhu, where Singapore first million-dollar condominium units were sold, that the eastern end of the iconic 1.8 km long Benjamin Sheares Bridge comes down to earth. Opened to traffic on 26 September 1981, it provided the final link for a coastal highway that had been built to take traffic around and not through the city centre, the planning for which went back to the end of the 1960s (see The Making of Marina Bay).

Land reclamation in the Kallang Basin / Tanjong Rhu area in 1973 (posted in Facebook group On a Little Street in Singapore).

This stretch of that coastal highway, East Coast Parkway (ECP), did take up much of the traffic that was being carried on what was becoming an increasingly congested Nicoll Highway that had been built some 25 years before it. Now, some 32 years later, as with the highway it took traffic away from, it sees its role taken up in a similar fashion by a new highway, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE). Built at the cost of S$4.3-billion, the 5 kilometre MCE runs mostly underground and partly under the sea and see the series of coastal highways move with the shifting of the coastline. The MCE features a 3.6 km tunnel and has a 420 metre stretch that runs under the sea.

Tanjong Rhu and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

Tanjong Rhu and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.

The expressway, which opened to traffic on 29 December 2013, was built so as to remove the constraints that the ECP, in running right smack through the centre of Marina South, had placed on the development of Singapore’s new downtown (the expansion of the city to Marina South that was really an afterthought, having come after urban planners had realised the potential that land, which had initially been reclaimed for the construction of the ECP, had in providing much needed space for the expansion of the city). The availability of new and undeveloped land through reclamation did allow parts of old Singapore slated for redevelopment, to be spared the wreckers’ ball.

A view over the Marina Reservoir and Marina East, with the Benjamin Sheares Bridge seen to the left of the capsule.

A view over the Marina Reservoir and Marina East, with the Benjamin Sheares Bridge seen to the left of the capsule.

The deceptively blue waters in the first photograph’s background, is that of the Eastern Anchorage. It is at the anchorage that ships lie patiently in wait, far removed from the frenzy at the wharves of what is one of the world’s busiest ports. It is one place in Singapore where time does seem to stand very still, at least for now. Time doesn’t of course seem to stand very still in a Singapore constantly on the move, and time will certainly bring change to shape of the distribution of the shipping infrastructure along the coast- with the journey to west for the city shipping terminals, at Keppel, Pulau Brani and Tanjong Pagar, due to completed by 2030.

The Eastern Anchorage.

The Eastern Anchorage – where time does seem to stand still.

There is of course the potential that developments away from Singapore has for influencing change. One possible game-changing development we in Singapore are keeping our eyes on is the possibility that of a dream long held by Thailand, the cutting of a shipping canal through the Isthmus of Kra, coming true. If a recent report, purportedly from the Chinese media, is to be believed, work is already starting. The cutting of the so-called Kra Canal is an idea that was first mooted back in the late 17th Century (see: How a Thai Canal Could Transform Southeast Asia on http://thediplomat.com) and talk of building it does crop up from time to time – the effort required and the associated costs in recent times serving as a huge deterrent. If built, the canal would save shipping a 1,500 nautical mile journey through the Straits of Malacca and around Singapore.

The proposed canal does have the potential to undermine Singapore’s so far unchallenged strategic position with regards to shipping, although it would probably take a lot more than a canal to do that. In the meantime, it is the change that is driven within that we will see add to another area in Singapore in which change does seem to always be a constant.





Light after dark: Twilight falls on West Hill

24 03 2014

7.44 pm, Sunday 23 March 2014. Night falls on an area around where West Hill had once stood, at  the end of extremely hot day in Singapore.

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The now forgotten West Hill was a relatively high point that rose above the swampy ground around Sungei Sembawang. It had lent its name to West Hill Village – a village that grew around the south-eastern fringes of the huge naval base that once dominated Singapore’s northern coast. The village that was in more recent times known to us as Chong Pang Village in which names of schools such as West Hill School and Si San (西山 – West Hill in Chinese)Public School served to remind us of the village’s original name. There is little that remains of this part of the area’s past and much of the area is now dominated by the public housing estate that has come up around the Sembawang area.





A headless Chairman Mao

22 03 2014

Offering a fresh perspective on the great Surrealist master Salvador Dali, one that does look at him on a very personal level, SALVADOR DALI: The Argillet Collection opens its doors today at the REDSEA Gallery. The exhibition, featuring 112 of the artist’s works, a great number of which are etchings with which he collaborated with long time associate and friend Pierre Argillet on, is being brought in by Argillet’s daughter Christine and the gallery for what is the largest display of the collection as well as one that is seen for the very first time in Asia.

Madame Argillet on the Poems of Mao Zedong.

Madame Argillet on the ‘Poems by Mao Zedong’.

The works, all of which are available for private acquisition, span from traditional interpretations we see recurring in much of the artist’s work, to the ones influenced by the contemporary. In the series, Mythologie, we see works in which Dali reinterprets the symbolism in Greek mythology, often starting with a smudge. The series also sees the employment of Dali’s creative genius in which he experimented with various unconventional tools in working on the copper plates, including using a real Octopus immersed in acid in the etching for his work Medusa.

Medusa, Mythologie Series, 1963. 57 x 77 cm. Mixed-media print incorporating heliogauvre and drypoint etching. Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Medusa, Mythologie Series, 1963. 57 x 77 cm. Mixed-media print incorporating heliogauvre and
drypoint etching. Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Beside the many works from the period of the artist’s collaboration with Pierre Argillet, the exhibition also features a series of works that traces its origins back to the 1930s, The Songs of Maldoror. The work stems from a commission the artist received from Albert Skira to provide illustrations for the book Les Chants de Maldoror – a literary work by Lautreamont that serves as a source of inspiration for the Surrealist movement, for which 44 copper etchings were produced. 42 original plates were purchased by Argillet in 1971 with Dali reworking 8 of the plates – and what we do see at the exhibition will be the suite of 50 prints.

The entrance to the exhibition with an Aubusson tapestry 'Burning Giraffe'.

The entrance to the exhibition with an Aubusson tapestry ‘Burning Giraffe’.

What I did think were particularly interesting were two series being exhibited and on which Madame Argillet elaborated on at the media preview. One, the Poems by Mao Zedong, was commissioned in 1967 by Argillet and involves eight illustrations some of which were political satires. The works were executed during the cultural revolution was to include one that had told Argillet would be a portrait of Mao – what turned out to be a headless figure. Dali’s explanation for this was that the Mao was so tall that he could not be depicted in full in the illustration. The works also needed the blessings of the Chinese embassy for which Argillet was somehow able to obtain.

Portrait of Chairman Mao.

Portrait of Chairman Mao.

The Hippies, based on photographs from a visit Argillet made to India, involves an etching that had originally been worked on during a rare public appearance by Dali. As related by Madame Argillet, Dali had appeared in the presence of a huge crowd of journalists with a strange look in his eyes – producing nothing but a series of swirls on the copper plate, following which he promptly left despite Argillet’s attempts to convince him otherwise. He was to ask Agrillet for the plate a few day following that, saying that he had no recollection of the appearance as he had, at someone’s suggestion, taken LSD. From that – he was to produce Women in Waves, a etching that was to be one that would be very well received.

Madame Argillet on the Hippies series and 'Women in Waves'.

Madame Argillet on the Hippies series and ‘Women in the Waves’.

Women in the Waves.

Women in the Waves.

Beside the many striking etchings that bear many elements of the artist’s style, there are also three tapestries hand-woven in Aubusson. One, the Burning Giraffe, greets visitors at the entrance to the gallery. Despite its rather macabre depiction of a bullfight, with a burning giraffe that is depicted in several of the artist’s work, the tapestry does somehow have a rather charming quality.

Madame Argillet on 'Piano Under Snow'.

Madame Argillet on ‘Piano Under Snow’.

All works in the collection have been authenticated and signed by Salvador Dali and have never before left the Collection. The collection will be on display at the exhibition from 22 March to 20 April 2014 at the REDSEA Gallery located at Block 9 Dempsey Road.





New journeys to the west

20 03 2014

Once a place in Singapore that drew in the crowds, the gory, somewhat gaudy but mystical gardens that a tiger built, Haw Par Villa or Tiger Balm Gardens, has worn the look of another discarded icon of the past. It would have been a place that would have featured in many a childhood outing in simpler days. I for one, have an abundance of snapshots taken from times when I was held in my parents arms to the latter stages of my childhood. It really was such a shame to see an attraction that had once captured the imagination of local residents and tourists alike, suffer from neglect as our attention turned towards the new-age attractions of a Singapore we were not.

The gory Haw Par Villa - a one time favourite outing destination.

The gory Haw Par Villa – a one time favourite outing destination.

It is certainly a welcome sign to see that an attempt is now being made by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to revive interest in the fascinating world that Aw Boon Haw, the “Tiger Balm King” had built around a villa erected for his brother Boon Par, especially in a way that is very much in keeping to the spirit of what Boon Haw had wished for, expressing just prior to his death in 1954 – that the gardens should be kept open to the public to enter for free.

A journey to the west.

A journey to the west.

Getting Singapore residents to reconnect with its attractions of the past is what the STB – the custodian of the grounds since the Singapore government’s acquisition of it in 1985, aims to do as it celebrates its fiftieth year of promoting tourism, starting with Haw Par Villa.  The effort sees a three-phased approach that will attempt to get us in Singapore to Reminisce, Rediscover, Celebrate.

Riding not the tiger but the leopard in 1976.

Riding not the tiger but the leopard in 1976 – Singapore residents are encourage to relive Haw Par Villa’s past.

Through the effort, Tourism50, STB hopes to raise awareness and appreciation of past as well as more recent tourism developments, and more importantly, encourage interest and participation. And as part of the series of events STB has planned for Tourism50, Haw Par Villa will host two weekends of activities, Reliving Haw Par Villa. The first on the weekend of 15/16 March, drawing the crowds – the very welcome downpour not at all dampening the spirits.

Haw Par Villa, a hidden treasure.

Haw Par Villa, a hidden treasure.

The weekend activities  - there is one more weekend to look forward to on 22 and 23 March 2014, include free guided tours from 9.30 am to 4 pm (registration is required at the Tour Registration booth). The tours will be conducted by local heritage tour specialist, Journeys, in both English and Mandarin. The will also be cultural performances such as storytelling, skits, puppet shows and acrobatic displays, to look forward to, as well as a vintage flea market and most importantly, food! On the subject of food – do keep a look out for the to-die-for Durian Creme Brulee, for which I would return to hell (one of the attractions Haw Par Villa is very well known for is the Ten Courts of Hell) many times over!

Reliving Haw Par Villa through food.

Reliving Haw Par Villa through food.

The activities do go on throughout the day with the first at 11 am and the last starting at 5 pm. Admission as is in more recent times is free. It does pay to be early though as the first 1,000 visitors each day can look forward to a Tourism50 goodie bag. If you do intend to visit, do note that car park will be closed during the event and getting there by public transport is probably the best option.

The popular cure-all balm being marketed at Reliving Haw Par Villa - must have cured Singapore of the long dry spell.

The popular cure-all balm being marketed at Reliving Haw Par Villa – must have cured Singapore of the long dry spell.

Besides the goodies in the bag, do also keep a look out for the Tourism50 postcards. Designed by local freelance illustrator and Architecture student Richard Li, the postcards feature icons of the past like Haw Par Villa, Sentosa Monorail and Raffles Hotel. Besides being made available at the event, you will also find the cards at the ZoCard racks, in all community libraries, at the Singapore Visitors Centre, the Chinatown Heritage Centre, all Sentosa ticketing counters and at the Singapore Tourism Board (Tourism Court) from 15 March 2014.

The Tourism50 Postcards.

The Tourism50 Postcards.

Local residents who mail the postcards to their friends and loved ones will get to enter a Lucky Draw that offers a top prize of a 2D1N Grand Hotel Suite Staycation at Raffles Hotel Singapore (includes Limousine Transfer + Breakfast & Dinner for 2). Other prizes on offer include 50 Sentosa Islander Family Membership (1 year), and 50 paris of FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX Walkabout Tickets.

The rain did deter not visitors over the first weekend.

The rain did deter not visitors over the first weekend.

More information on Tourism50, activities, on Haw Par Villa, the event at Haw Par Villa and also the lucky draw can be found at www.xinmsn.com/rediscoversg and at lifestyle.xin.msn.com/en/rediscoversg/reliving-haw-par-villa

Singapore's most photographed archway in the rain.

Singapore’s most photographed archway in the rain.



Haw Par Villa over the years
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Haw Par Villa did once feature in the lives of many of us in a Singapore. A place to head over to for a school excursion or a family outing, it must, judging from the many photographs of it over the years, possibly have been one of the most photographed attractions in Singapore in days well before the modern icons of tourist Singapore were created.
Once by the sea, Haw Par Villa has seen the shoreline gradually being moved away over the years. The Pasir Panjang terminal is now seen on more recently reclaimed land.

Once by the sea, Haw Par Villa has seen the shoreline gradually being moved away over the years. The Pasir Panjang terminal is now seen on more recently reclaimed land where the sea once was.

For me, it was one of the places from which I do possess an abundance of photographs taken through my childhood and a place I did enjoy that occasional visit to. This, in spite of it being the source of more than a few nightmares, that is, until the time a dragon gobbled it up.

A photograph from a visit in November 1976.

A photograph from a visit in November 1976.

Stupa-shaped memorials to the Aws are now seen in the grounds.

Stupa-shaped memorials to the Aws are now seen in the grounds.

The dragon, Haw Par Villa Dragon World, was a vain and rather costly attempt by the then Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB), which in its current incarnation is the STB, to turn the previously free to visit gardens, into a theme park.  The theme park had been an attempt to revive interest in an attraction for which time seemed to have left well behind – it was literally crumbling in the face of its huge maintenance costs, following the acquisition of it in 1985 by the Singapore government.

Spider spirits who have seen their levels of modesty adjusted through the years.

Spider spirits who have seen their levels of modesty adjusted through the years.

Some S$80 million was expanded during a two year makeover that took place from 1988 to 1990. That saw the gardens being refurbished and several displays removed. Rides were also installed, including what some of my younger friends tell me was a memorable water ride in their childhood, for the wrong reasons, into the horrifying ten courts of hell. Reopened as Haw Par Villa Dragon World in 1990, it did not live up to its promise and as soon as the novelty wore off, visitor numbers fell and huge running losses were incurred. It eventually closed in 2001 and with its closure, there were fears that the dying embers of an attraction that certainly was like none on the island, was soon to be extinguished.

Dioramas high on messages of morals and Confucian ethics are found ih the gardens,

Dioramas high on messages of morals and Confucian ethics are found in the gardens.

It was nice to see that the park not only was kept open by the STB, but also that admission to it was kept free in keeping with what Aw Boon Haw had wished. It does now draw a steady stream of visitors although not in anyway near the visitor numbers of its heyday when it would be packed with local residents especially on public holidays. It was initially on certain public holidays that Aw Boon Haw had opened what was really the private grounds of a villa that offered a magnificent view of the nearby sea in Pasir Panjang, which he had built for his younger brother Boon Par.

Hell freezing over. The second court in which being hell is frozen for sins such as robbery and corruption.

Hell freezing over. The second court of hell in which hell is frozen for sins such as robbery and corruption.

The actual villa, a model of which can be seen at Haw Par Villa today, was erected in 1937. Boon Haw filled the sprawling grounds with figurines and dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese mythology such as the 8 Immortals and the Journey to the West, along with many that offered lessons in Confucian values. The gardens were said to be badly damaged during the Japanese occupation during which time Boon Par passed away in Rangoon in 1944. Boon Haw was said to have demolished the villa out of anguish when he returned after the war.

Steps to a lost villa. The terrace where the villa that Aw Boon Haw built for his brother once stood.

Steps to a lost villa. The terrace where the villa that Aw Boon Haw built for his brother once stood.

The entrance archway leading to what had been Boon Par's villa.

The entrance archway leading to what had been Boon Par’s villa.

The archway seen in 1976.

The archway seen in 1976.

Boon Haw did however restore the gardens to it former glory adding to it over the years until his death in 1954. Following his death, new flavours were added to the grounds by his nephew, Aw Cheng Chye, creating “international corners” within the gardens. In the corners, Cheng Chye erected figurines associated with countries he had travelled, adding them through the 1960s until his death in 1971. While some of these are still around such as the Statue of Liberty and the Sumo Wrestlers all seemingly a curious addition to the largely Chinese themed gardens, several did get gobbled up by the dragon. One that did get removed was one of my favourites – a 4.5 metre Maori tiki (with two accompanying kiwis) at what had been a New Zealand corner that was installed in January 1966.

The tiki at the New Zealand corner in 1976.

The tiki at the New Zealand corner in 1976.

One part of Haw Par Villa that will be difficult for any visitor to forget is the Ten (previously eighteen) Courts of Hell. It was through the Ten Courts – stages through the Chinese interpretation of purgatory in the process of reincarnation, living souls were taken on a slow boat to see its many gruesome scenes, then tucked away in belly of the theme park’s dragon. It was seeing it on foot during the pre-dragon world visits that must have been the source of many of my nightmares, the scenes all very graphic in depicting the many horrible punishments that awaited the souls of sinners in their journey to reincarnation. 

A graphic journey through the Chinese interpretation of purgatory in the journey to reincarnation.

A graphic journey through the Chinese interpretation of purgatory in the journey to reincarnation.

It is perhaps a journey of reincarnation that Haw Par Villa is itself embarked on, one in which it has been punished for sins not entirely of its doing. It would certainly be wonderful if the journey is one in which we will see the return of what has for too long, been a lost and wandering soul.

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Artistic radiators growing up with Salvador Dali

19 03 2014

Opening at the REDSEA Gallery on Saturday is an exhibition that will offer a very personal perspective of the surrealist artist, Salvador Dali. SALVADOR DALI: The Argillet Collection will feature 112 etchings, drawings, and tapestries from the renowned Pierre Argillet Collection, all of which will be available for private acquisition. Seen for the very first time in Asia, the collection provides a glimpse into the bond Dali had with Pierre Argillet,  his publisher, through their many years of collaboration and friendship.

Dali with Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Dali with Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The collection is being brought over to Singapore by Pierre Argillet’s daughter, Christine Argillet, who in growing up in the presence of the great artist, will offer a personal insight into the collection. Madame Agrillet, who was also kind enough in allowing me to put some questions to her via email (see below), had this to say about bringing the exhibition in:

“This presentation is a tribute to the work of my father, Pierre Argillet, as an extraordinary publisher of the Dada and Surrealist group. This collection reflects his constant endeavour and his close collaboration with the artists of these two movements, especially Salvador Dali. My goal is to have this collection presented in the finest galleries and museums throughout the world,”

Argus in color, Individual Etchings, 1963. 57 x 77cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Argus in color, Individual Etchings, 1963. 57 x 77cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

All works in the collection have been authenticated and signed by Salvador Dali and have never before left the Collection. The exhibition will be opened from 22 March to 20 April 2014. 

Portrait of Marguerite Faust, 1968. 38 x 28cm. Drypoint etchings with roulette, ruby & diamond Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Portrait of Marguerite Faust, 1968. 38 x 28cm. Drypoint etchings with roulette, ruby & diamond Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


An interview with Madame Christine Agrillet

Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

Christine Argillet. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Growing up around Dali: Dali was a very kind uncle for me, simple in his daily life, yet very inventive. Anything at home was subject to turning it into another use, another tool. Dali had a very special way of envisioning or reconsidering things. 

For instance: one day, his wife Gala had told him that their radiators were really ugly. Dali decided to hide them behind a wood panel and painted radiators over it. The most artistic radiators…

There was always this kind of light humor, this way of making fun out of everything with a gentle surrealist attitude.

Dali was at the same time a workaholic and a very free person. He would strive to paint with a one-hair brush or he would throw acid on copper plates to create uncertain smudges that would challenge him to create a very figurative subject next to these abstract shapes. We have exhibiting here in Singapore the series of the Mythology etchings that was created using this process.

Dali’s influence on her: I think both Dali’s incredible work on himself and his total freedom have impressed me and certainly have had an influence on my life.

Behind the public persona: Dali could be very eccentric in public to grab attention, but he could be totally absorbed in his paintings and forget about anything around him for hours or days. I think that the public persona he created was at the opposite of his real character.

Have her impressions of Dali been changed since childhood: No, there was a very charming Dali, elegant, simple, and creative that I knew and there was this opposite: the public persona. For me, they were two different persons. My father used to say that Dali was shy and that he was exaggerating everything while facing a public.

The collection: Many works in our collection mean a lot for me. My father had a passion for Dali’s drawings and he would often meet with Dali, speak of his projects with him. The Aubusson tapestries became something extraordinary as Dali wanted to cover the walls of his museums with this traditional technique. We have a film where we see Dali discovering these hand woven pieces in my father’s castle. There were also watercolours, drawings, sculptures, incredible telegrams between Picasso and Dali. All these constitute a part of my childhood.

On bringing the collection over to Singapore: This collection has never been seen in Singapore. My intention is to the show the wonderful collaboration of an artist and a publisher. The strong friendship between both Dali and my father allowed wonderful artworks to come to light. This is at the same time a tribute to Dali as a great etcher and a tribute to my father as a talented facilitator.

Individual Bullfight, Individual Etchings, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Colour-printed heliogravure with stencil, Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Individual Bullfight, Individual Etchings, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Colour-printed heliogravure with stencil, Arches. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


About Pierre Argilllet:

The 1914-18 War Apollinaire (Secret Poems), 1967. 39 x 28cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint. Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The 1914-18 War Apollinaire (Secret Poems), 1967. 39 x 28cm. Original etching reworked in drypoint. Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Pierre Argillet was an avid collector of works by futurists, dadaists and surrealists, and very early on, met the major artists of the 20th century. In 1930, at the age of twenty, Argillet was deeply impressed by the “Les Chants de Maldoror” of Lautreamont. He began a spiritual journey along a path that was originated by Rimbaud and later pursued by Lautreamont, Marinetti, Andre Breton, Tzara and Chirico. He counted Duchamp and Jean Arp among his acquaintances, but when he met Dali, complicity led to a life-long friendship that lasted until the painter’s death in 1989.

Be it luck or fate, Dali’s delirious vision led to a long and fruitful collaboration between artist and publisher. They produced nearly 200 etchings. To name a few: la Mythologie (16 planches), le Christ, Sainte-Anne, l’Incantation. In 1966, Dali reworked 7 pieces of the Bullfight set of Picasso, giving them the Dali touch. In 1968, Dali illustrated “ la Nuit de Walpurgis “ of Faust (21 pieces) using rubies and diamonds as engraving tools, a technique that lent an incomparable delicacy to the design; next came the “ Poemes “ of Ronsard (18 pieces) and Apollinaire (18 pieces) . In 1969, Dali created “ Venus a la fourrure “ after Sacher Masoch (20 pieces), and between 1970-71, the Suites of Don Juan (3 pieces) and Hippies (11 pieces).

In 1974, artist and publisher parted their ways. Pierre Argillet would only accept etchings done in the traditional way, on copper, and refused to go along with Dali’s desire to make photo-based lithographs. But by using this process, Dali went on to produce a large number of works that appealed to a more widespread audience than ever before, but they were also subject to more criticism.

Piano under the snow Surrealist Bullfighter, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Heliogravures reworked in drypoint hand-coloured with stencil, Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Piano under the snow Surrealist Bullfighter, 1966. 51 x 66cm. Heliogravures reworked in drypoint hand-coloured with stencil, Japanese paper. © CHRISTINE ARGILLET ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


 








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