Monday, April 17, 2006

the expatriate artist

It was a Sunday morning on my usual routine. After gym headed down to Amoy street for my favourite changgen (肠粉) stall, after which a stroll thro the time tunnel thro Telok Ayer Street.

This stretch of road & the adjacent Amoy Street and Angsiang hill never fails to fascinate me, with its rich history - temples, mosques, clan associations - it has a never ending story to tell. The old shop houses have been reinvigorated. Where it used to be opium dens, you now have the lastest craze there - a yoga center.

As I was walking past, I saw a young man sitting in front of the shop lot, which is now a restaurant offering grandma's favourite cooking, absorbed in drawing the historical gem opposite him. I went over and chatted with him.

'Subarashii!' I said, meaing amazing in Japanese. He had on the postcard the side gate of the Thian Hou Temple beautifully outlined. He started off by sketching with his pencil, and drew the final in fine ink pen. I was amazed by the neatness and exactness of the drawing, and compared to what I've been sketching it was so much more professional.

He said that he is an expatriate architect from Japan. He had been sitting there for the past two and half hours since 10:30am drawing on the postcard. He said that he has been sketching since coming to Singpapore not so long ago, and showed me his master pieces in the sketch book that he had with him. It has the Shangrila Hotel, old shops in Bukit Batok where his condomium is, Wheelock Place, etc, all neatly draw. He said that he will touch up the drawings with colors and then send them as postcards back to his family in Tokyo.

I asked if I could take a picture of his drawing. He politely obliged and was very modest of what he has created, in the usual Japanese humbleness. He held up the picture for better lighting effect. I've met a number of foreign artists drawing the local scenes - historical & tourist sites -most of them are Japanese. They would draw in pen or pencil with and the sketch book as part of their travel gear. One of them commented to me that thro drawing he would be able to aborb the details of the building and site, and not just snap it with a camera. The local artists would usually paint in water color or in oil.

This encounter has brougt me new ideas and greater inspirations to draw. I could not wait to look forward to my next drawing session, and the weekend jouney thro history.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

a Good day for reflection

It was a cloudy Friday morning and traffic was smooth as it was a holiday. It was a holy day for the folks who go to church. When I saw them carrying palm leaves last Sunday, I realize that the Good day will be next, and was planning on what to do for the long weekend.

After breakfast I headed down to Hill Street. As the it was early and the gate was still locked, I had to climbed over the gates and sneaked into the compound of the Armenian Church.. In the quiet of the of the garden, I found a comfortable spot on the green an began my sketching.

Though there were no churchgoers to this 171 year-old church on this holy day, in the garden I saw some bronze statues depicting scenes of judgment by the Roman official, and of suffering bearing the heavy cross. It caused me to reflect and ponder this day of penance on some major world events, and other significant happenings.

In the West the clash of civilization is supposedly on the rise among the people of the Book. The latest find of the Gospel of Judas, though not a new revelation, has caused a stir among the holy community. Half way around the globe closer home and in the supposedly heaven on earth city of Hangzhou a milestone event is going on. It was the first time since the communist rule came to power in 1949, that a religious forum was organized by the religious communities on both sides of the straits, and sanctioned by the mainland government. Participants came from 34 countries world wide - from both the academic and religious organisations. Be the event to put the communist party in a better light, the dharma wheel is set into motion again in this ancient land, and a hope for peace in diversity.

It started to drizzle a little, and the stomach said that it was time for lunch. After a three hour sitting on the green the legs were all numb, and it jerked me back into the real world. It was a meaningful morning spent. I had the church in my sketch book to take home to adorn the wall.