Artist Yip Yew Chong 'almost cried' when family of man who inspired recurring Sikh character in murals attended book launch

The man watched Yip paint his provision shop mural at Everton Road every day for two weeks in 2015.

Winnie Li | November 19, 2023, 04:50 PM



Mural artist Yip Yew Chong said he almost cried during the book signing session for "Art of Joy: The Journey of Yip Yew Chong", when the family of the late Souran Singh came to support him.

They had brought with them the printed photographs that Yip had sent to Singh.

Before his passing, Singh had watched Yip paint his provision shop mural at Everton Road every day for two weeks in 2015.

A guest in his artwork

After Yip completed the mural, he invited Singh to take photographs with the painting and himself.

Since then, Yip would depict Singh riding a bicycle while wearing a green turban in his paintings whenever appropriate.

Yip shared his remarks above at the panel discussion during the book launch of "Art of Joy," which was held at Tiong Bahru Community Centre on Nov. 18, 2023, and attracted more than 300 attendees.

Penned by writer and media veteran Woon Tai Ho, "Art of Joy" offers a glimpse into Yip's years in Chinatown, his bond with his family, and his career change from accountancy to art.

Paint to journal life, not evoke nostalgia

Yip's encounter with Singh and his portrayal of the latter in his subsequent works is an example of what the artist hopes to convey through his paintings: journaling what he has seen and what he has experienced from his heart.

Despite being known for depicting the "old Singapore", Yip shared that he had no intentions to "capture nostalgia" or "cling to the past" through his murals:

"People who know me know that I like to strive to be forward-looking, [moving] along a general direction with no specific planning in detail. The same goes for my paintings.

[It just] so happened that because I am already 54 years old — that's kind of old. The old Singapore that I grew up with has disappeared. [Depicting the old Singapore] has been on my mind for so many years. I thought it's a good opportunity to express [the old Singapore] for everyone to see."

Want to convey stories through his art

Yip also shared with the audience of the panel discussion that he did not believe that his art should be the main thing for people to cling to, as it is solely a form.

Instead, he liked his art to "convey the stories", especially the human stories, so that the stories could be passed down from generation to generation.

Here, he also referred to the title of the book, "Art of Joy," which he said he did not interpret as to suggest that his artworks bring joy to people.

"My version of joy is I get to paint because I am happy doing what I do. But you people who view the art are actually teaching me how to be joyful because I never even intended to do that in the first place, but you bring me so much joy, and you spread the torch to everybody. That makes me really happier than ever before," added the artist.

Top image via World Scientific Singapore/Facebook