Yip Yew Chong: Singapore mural artist (Part 1 of 4)

singapore mural artist yip yew chong

(Yip Yew Chong at work in Amoy Street PHOTO KELVIN CHNG)

A growing group of local artists are going bigtime, literally, with their mural artworks. Find out who they are. 

singapore mural artist yip yew chong

The Retro Illustrator
Yip Yew Chong

During the week, finance director Yip Yew Chong has his mind on numbers. But on weekends, he has his hands full with paint brushes.

But Mr Yip, 48, is not your artist who dabbles with paint on a canvas. His pieces are bigger. Much bigger.

For the past few weekends, he has been busy painting a 40-m-long mural on the back wall of Thian Hock Keng Temple in Amoy Street. It was a project commissioned by the temple for this year's Hokkien Festival.

The mural depicts scenes of old Singapore, namely coolies loading and unloading goods at the Singapore River, bullock carts transporting water and life in kampongs.

singapore mural at kampong glam

(Scene of a basket and carpet seller in Kampong Glam PHOTO COURTESY OF YIP YEW CHONG)

His murals can also be found at Everton Park, Changi Village, Tiong Bahru and Waterloo Street. They all share a common theme of nostalgia.

His first mural was at Everton Park in 2015, on the wall of a terrace house. It depicts an amah washing clothes by hand in a metal tub, with a flock of chickens nearby. "Painting historical Singapore befits the locations," he says.

Mr Yip, who enjoyed art from his schooldays, says he was inspired after seeing murals in Kampong Glam painted by Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian artist whose street art in George Town, Penang, has become a tourist attraction.

To get inspiration for his murals, he recalls childhood memories and trawls the Internet for pictures of old Singapore. He taught himself to paint murals. "It was mostly trial and error when I first started. I'd paint, take a step back to see how the picture looks, and paint again."

But having done over 20 murals, his brush strokes are now bolder and the colours more vibrant. He sketches the mural in chalk, before using emulsion paint for the base colour, and acrylic paint for the details.

On weekends, he paints from 8am till dark, stopping only for lunch and toilet breaks. "Painting is my way of de-stressing, I don't feel tired."

singapore mural at changi village

(A pair of hornbills in Changi Village PHOTO COURTESY OF YIP YEW CHONG)

The best weather conditions for painting are on a cloudy, breezy day. But while rain can dampen his progress, he says the sun is his worst enemy. Not because he is afraid of getting too tanned, (he slaps on sunblock), but because, "the sun causes the murals to fade". He has since returned to Everton Park to touch up his work.

He accepts commissions from public institutions and is happy to work with companies and get their staff involved as well. He also accepts private commissions, but will do only outdoor murals, so that more people can view them.

His dream location to paint is in Chinatown, where he used to live when he was a child. Unfortunately, there are too many stakeholders involved, and he has had difficulty getting permission.

But while he specialises in painting scenes of old Singapore, he hopes one day to be able to do one with a futuristic theme. "It will be fun to see what I can come up with," he says.

He gets a kick out of watching passers-by interacting with his murals, and the warm response he has received. Often, there would be a small group watching him, and some also chat with him. Often they are surprised to learn that he works alone.

"There is much satisfaction seeing how I turn a blank wall into one that becomes a talking point for the public," he says.


Find out more about the other mural artists: 


Article by Tay Suan Chiang, originally appeared in The Business Times