Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Big Four "O" - Happy Birthday Merlion

Source: Flickr
To think that the Merlion turns 40 today.  It was first unveiled on September 15th. 1972 on the Marina Bay waterfront and what an inspired piece of tourism marketing it has turned out to be.

If there is one icon that has endured over the years and become synonymous with Singapore it is the mythical Merlion.  It has even survived the odd lightning strike so the birthday celebrations are well deserved.

People may not realise that there are actually five sanctioned versions of the Merlion in Singapore with the best known being the 8m statue designed by Kwan Sai Kheong, the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Singapore, and sculpted by Lim Nang Seng.

Its original design concept was created by Fraser Brunner, curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium in 1964.
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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Today's Print - Flyer After Appel

Flyer After Appel
Roger Smith - September 2012
Click on the image to see a larger version. The motivation was the cityscape of Singapore -  the shapes, colours and vibrancy of the tropics.

It is available as a poster printed on canvas by clicking and ordering here.   And this is how it might look on your wall.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Uncles, Royalty And Mooncakes

I realise that I haven't written for a little while in this blog but this is mainly due to the fact that I have been writing and publishing elsewhere.

To be totally accurate the publishing took place first.  I was impressed with a coffee table book produced by a good New Zealand friend and decided to follow suit.  His was a book of Sicilian travel adventures and mine, a book of my digital art (click on the book preview below to see the result).

an art portfolio
By roger smith

Both of us used the Blurb platform and my own copy of the book should arrive in the mail in a weeks time.  One own and at least one to go!  I decided also to produce a book based on my life in Singapore and using the contents of this blog as its source.  The problem of course is what to leave out and how to craft it?  Do I use a narrative tone of voice or concentrate on the anecdotal?   The answer is that it will probably be a combination of the the two.

At least I have the title firmly fixed;  "A Man Called Uncle".  Those of you who live in Singapore will be aware of the honorific.  Just writing the book and reviewing four years of blog entries brings back many memories, as do the various photographs I took with my camera and mobile phone.

A quick glance at the Singapore news shows that NUS has risen up the rankings once again.  It is now 25th overall and second best in Asia after the University of Hong Kong, which is in 23rd place.  Good news for Singapore's leading university and for education in the country as a whole.  The investment in academic gravitas seems to be paying off.  I hope my former colleagues in Alumni house are benefiting from the positive publicity.

The Vanda William Catherine
Of course much of today's news focuses on the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate).  They apparently dined on roasted duck, chicken consomme and sliced baked mooncakes - lucky them!  I wouldn't mind betting that the mooncakes were a cut above the ones that I have been consuming; mine were made in Macau and come in the usual embossed tin with auspicious colouring on the lid.

The fact that the Duchess chose to wear a dress created by Singaporean-born designer Prabul Gurung would have gone down as well as the aforementioned mooncakes.

It is also customary for high profile dignitaries to have an orchid named after them. The royal couple gave their name to Vanda William Catherine, a free-flowering orchid hybrid that is white and purple in colour. They also viewed a hybrid variety that bears the name of William's mother and which she never got to see - Dendrobium Memoria Princess Diana.

What I can never quite reconcile is the enduring passion for British Royalty in country that shook off the yoke of British colonialism decades ago.  But as Lilian Tiru in this video explains, many of the older Singaporeans were brought up in the colonial period studied under the British system.

The couple are staying at Raffles Hotel.  I hope they enjoy the curry there as much as I did but I suspect they will be dining on better fare, not doubt with a few local delicacies thrown in.
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Saturday, 1 September 2012

Three New Digital Art Works

Roger Smith - September 2012
What Now
Roger Smith - September 2012
Head Case
Roger Smith - September 2012
Click on any of the linked titles to go through to the Zazzle Store to purchase a copy of any of the above.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Song Birds, Spring and Haze

Roger Smith - August 2012
In recent days the Tui (a native New Zealand song bird) have been flying around the gum trees as they enjoy the first signs of Spring.  I see them as I walk the nearby tracks around Botany where I live. The air is clean, plums are blossoming and there are signs of renewal everywhere.

By comparison, the air in Singapore is once again predicted polluted by the seasonal haze; a recurring problem created by the thoughtless actions of Singapore's neighbours as they burn off large areas of jungle for oil palm plantations and farming.

The likelihood of a El Nino weather pattern isn't helping matters either.  The last significant one to hit Singapore, the first year of our arrival, and I remember looking up Oxley Road and not being bale to see the Gurkha soldiers standing guard outside Lee Kuan Yew's residence.  No doubt they could see me as I made my journey from Oxley Mansions to Lloyd Road but the air was so thick with pollutants that I felt sorry for them having to stand in the smog.

So while Singapore may have been named "healthiest country" by Bloomberg, I wonder if any of their media people ever visited country during the 'hazy days'?  They might have formed a slightly different opinion or at the very least, broadened their criteria.
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Sunday, 26 August 2012

He Made One Giant Step For Mankind

This portrait taken in July 1969 shows astronaut Neil Armstrong, commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission
Those of us who had our youth in the Sixties will remember the decade for its manyfold achievements and for the other momentous events that took place at the time.

The music from Merseyside that rang in our ears, the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas and perhaps above all, the first footsteps on a planet other than our own.

So it is sad to hear the news today that the man who stepped on to the Moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong, has died at the age of eighty two, after belated complications from heart surgery.

It is also perhaps fitting to remember how relatively primitive the technology was at that time compared to the Mars Curiosity Rover which is currently traversing the terrain of that planet.

Armstrong had to manually take over the controls to land the lunar vehicle Eagle on the Moon, demonstrating what a superb test pilot he was.  The world then waited with bated breath as he descended the steps onto the surface of the moon, stirring up lunar dust as he did so.

He was a modest man who did not seek publicity which in my mind is also an endearing attribute.  Perhaps the great tribute that can be paid to him are the words that he used himslef on that momentous day in 1969:

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"

Thank you Neil Armstrong for being the pioneer that you were and for helping define our generation.
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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Orchard Composition

Roger Smith - August 2012
A composition based on Singapore's Orchard Road and the sculpture fronting the Ion Mall.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Queenstown Compositions

Queenstown #1
Roger Smith - August 2012

These two compositions are based on the sights, colour and textures of the old Queenstown Bowl building in Singapore.  I use to walk past it regularly and the patterns of decay always fascinated me.
Queenstown #3
Roger Smith - August, 2012
Copies of the above for sale here and here.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Asian Compositions - August

Taipei #1
Roger Smith - August 2012
I have spent a productive day developing a few surrealist interpretations of Asia, in particular the area around Taipei.  The above is one example and a few more can be seen in the video below.

I have placed larger versions of the video images on my photographic / digital art site - worldlense.
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Crowdsourced Veggies And Laundry Poles

Lee Yi Shyan - Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living
I like the idea of crowdsourcing; to use the parlance of the Tech world.  The collective wisdom of the masses is harnessed to reach a satisfactory solution through the suggestion of creative ideas that will be of benefit to all.

"Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living" should be seen in this context.  If you ask the residents of these estates what it is they need and want to make their living more pleasurable you will get some good ideas thrown into the cerebral arena.

Far better to adopt this approach than attempt to impose a solution or set of solutions from afar.  Singapore HDB's (Housing Development Board estates) are a model for many other countries, as they too grapple with the problem of housing  a large population within a small landmass.

The HDB concept from the beginning is one of ownership rather than renting accommodation from the government.  This engenders a greater pride and encourages self-sufficiency rather than relying on government handouts, as often happens in countries such as New Zealand with its State Houses.

But the HDB's, especially the earlier ones, are not perfect as they were primarily designed for the able-bodied. For those suffering a disability, mobility in the older blocks has been a problem.  With a rapidly aging population these challenges are multiplied.

I was particularly impressed with one of the innovations suggested in the Cool Ideas competition. The "iStepup" is a retractable three-step stairs which flatten into a ramp to make it easier for those in a wheelchair to move around, according to the reports.  It was designed by three polytechnic students which clearly shows their design education is already paying dividends to society.

Domestic servants falling out of windows has been problematic over the years.  Washing hanging our from the windows of HDB's on long bamboo poles is a a very practical solution, as they capture the sultry breezes of Singapore.  However leaning too far out to retrieve the load has proved fatal for many.

Therefore another competition winner; a retractable laundry pole invention which promises to make hanging clothes out to dry easier should prove a winner.  It is already being user-tested in four households.

I should point out that washing on bamboo poles is a feature throughout Asia, not just Singapore. Flying into the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong entailed running the gauntlet of public housing with its flapping washing, on the final approach to landing.

Another idea submitted involves the use of multiple plant containers to water and grown one's own vegetables on the tiny HDB balcony.  Not sure of the dengue fever implications with this one as we were always actively discouraged from keeping pots with sitting water for fear of encouraging the mosquitoes.

Once these prototypes have passed the testing process then the government will facilitate the next step to commercialisation of the product or idea.  Of the eighty eight ideas submitted, fifteen have been selected for the prototype phase.  You can see some of the ideas and the participants on this Facebook site complied by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry & National Development, Lee Yi Shyan.

Speaking of urban development and HDB's, here is the photographic portfolio of Sam Kang Li, one of the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 nominees. His work neatly captures the atmosphere of the residents in his HDB block and the friendliness of Singaporeans in their multiracial environment.

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