ART IN TRANSIT
Learn about the art in our MRT stations
Chua Ek Kay
The Reflections, 2003
NE5 Clarke Quay
At Clarke Quay, the understated interiors and streamlined architecture of the station offers the perfect canvas for the quiet majesty of the late Chua Ek Kay’s art. A 60-metre long mural within the concourse paid area of the station depicts life on the Singapore River, through a series of four paintings. Originally painted in ink on rice paper, the images were then silkscreened onto vitreous enamel panels at a factory in the United Kingdom. In creating the silkscreen murals, the artist worked on originals half the size of the final artworks in vitreous enamels.
In the ticket concourse area is a 20-metre long panel, aptly titled "The Reflections", a splendid play of textures and colours in movement. The rich swirls of gold, red, blue and green on brass seem to race with the currents, rise and fall with the tide, even go murky with debris to match the debris to match the river in its many moods. Chua applied brushstrokes on the brass sheets before immersing each one of the tiles in a chemical bath, creating an etched effect on the acid-tinged areas. This process also aged the acid-etched patches, changing the colours from turquoise to green to orange to dark brown.
On the floor the artist designed eye motifs on polished granite tiles, depicting eyes that boatmen historically painted on their tongkangs, or junks, to help guide them in the dark. Here, these seafaring symbols have been reprised to help commuters find their way. Placed in pairs, the tongkang eye tiles lead the passengers into the station, inviting them to pause at major decision-making points such as ticket vending machines or fare gates.
My works at Clarke Quay are some of my largest works of my entire career. It will be a magical moment for me when the public views my works for the first time.
Chua Ek Kay
1947 – 2008, China
Chua Ek Kay was a renowned Singaporean artist known for his unique artistic style that combined traditional Chinese ink painting techniques with Western artistic styles. Born in China in 1947, Chua migrated to Singapore with his family at a young age of six. He began his artistic journey at the age of 16 when he started taking painting lessons from master calligrapher and artist, Fan Chang Tien.
Chua's artistic style was deeply influenced by his Chinese heritage and his experiences growing up in Singapore. He skillfully merged traditional Chinese ink painting techniques with modern Western artistic styles, resulting in a distinctive visual language that reflected his cultural background and contemporary sensibilities. His works are characterised by bold and expressive brushstrokes, often employing monochromatic colour schemes. He depicted scenes from Singaporean life, including urban landscapes, street scenes, and portraits of ordinary people, capturing the essence of everyday life with his artistic expression.
Chua's artworks were widely exhibited in Singapore and overseas, and he received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Cultural Medallion in 1999. His contributions to the art world and his unique fusion of traditional Chinese and contemporary artistic styles continue to be celebrated, making him a prominent figure in Singapore's art history.