Thursday, November 29, 2012

Farewell to the house at 106 Joo Chiat Place

Studio 106, in year 2008.

In the year 2008, while I was exploring the Joo Chiat area, I chanced upon a house that had sculptures that were clearly by the late artist, Ng Eng Teng. Imagine the delight and surprise that was on my face back then.

Many months after that chanced encounter, during a visit to an exhibition at NUS Museum in that same year, I learnt that the house that I had chanced upon at 106 Joo Chiat Place was the house where the late Ng Eng Teng, one of my favourite local sculptors, had used as his art studio! I felt grateful to have caught a glimpse of this very building that had provided the needed shelter and space for the Ng Eng Teng to create many of his masterpieces.

On 29 Nov 2012, this very house at 106 Joo Chiat Place which I had wished to enter was opened to members of the public. Yet, it was with sadness and a heavy heart that I visited this very house. I bid farewell to it. It has served its mission. Yet, somehow, its fate was that it has to go. A treasure it has been, and a treasure it will remain to be in the hearts of many.

106 Joo Chiat Place, on 29 Nov 2012.

I wonder if the demolition of this house would mean that the contributions by the late Ng Eng Teng would be forgotten? Most likely not. Ng Eng Teng had donated a great number of his works to the NUS Museum. I hope that he will be remembered through his artworks and more.

At the open house of this very house, many members of the public were taking photographs and experiencing what it might have been to be creating sculptures and artworks in this house. Representatives of the Awaken the Dragon were seen salvaging the wood from this house to use these wood to fire one of the last two surviving dragon kilns in Singapore in Jan 2013. Even when Ng Eng Teng's house is torn down, Ng Eng Teng's contributions to the art scene in Singapore shall live on.

Please find in this post some of the photos taken of this beautiful house. Perhaps the demolition of this house would urge us to rethink what we as a community could ascribe more value to? Some losses are simply irreversible. Once lost, they will be gone forever.

Once lost, only in our memories and the records, would they be remembered.

The kiln that Ng Eng Teng had used.
The very site where the kiln used to be.
The kiln was placed outdoors.

The fan and the wall that would greet everyone who enters the house from the front.

The basement.
Piece by piece, the house was taken apart literally.

The bamboo plant and the touching story behind it.

The host, Edmond, sharing with visitors about the unique features of the house and a meaningful story that is associated with it.

Also read:
The Grandfather of Singapore Sculpture and his Joo Chiat Studio by Remember Singapore
One last time: Ng Eng Teng's studio at 106 Joo Chiat Place
Remembering Ng Eng Teng
Mulitmedia: My Brother, Our House by The Straits Times, Through the Lens.

One of the bricks that was found at 106 Joo Chiat Place.


Monday, November 26, 2012

One last time: Ng Eng Teng's studio at 106 Joo Chiat Place

106 Joo Chiat Place
This photo was taken in late Aug 2012.
Studio 106 (Open House)
29 Nov 2012 (Thu)
2 p.m. - 8 p.m.
106 Joo Chiat Place
(Nearest MRT station: Eunos)
(Bus service 33 will get you to Joo Chiat Place)

The studio of the late Ng Eng Teng, Cultural Medallion winner and the artist who is often known as the grandfather of Singapore sculpture, will be opened to members of the public on 29 Nov 2012 (Thu), from 2 p.m. - 8 p.m. This studio which located at 106 Joo Chiat Place was significant because this was where the late Ng Eng Teng had worked in and where he had created many of his sculptures.

The notice. Taken in Aug 2012.

Soon, Studio 106 shall live forever in our memories. This kampong looking house, I later learnt, is architecturally known as a rumah panggung. The house is elevated on stilts.

When I had walked past 106 Joo Chiat Place in Aug 2012, I saw a sign that read "Proposed Erection of two units of three-storey semi-detached dwelling houses each with an an attic on .... at 106 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427833". Shocked I was, it hit upon me that soon this home and workplace of the late Ng Eng Teng will be gone.

This stretch of road that is named Joo Chiat Place.

When I saw the sign at 106 Joo Chiat Place in Aug 2012, I was wondering to myself if I would ever have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Studio 106 before it is gone for good.

Thanks to one of my good friends who knew that Ng Eng Teng is one of the local sculptors whose works I have an interest in, I recently learnt that Sunday Times had a report on 25 Nov 2012 on Studio 106. Through my friend, I learnt that the house at 106 Joo Chiat Place where the late Ng Eng Teng had worked in will be open for one last time to members of the public on 29 Nov 2012, from 2 p.m. - 8 p.m.

A glimpse of 106 Joo Chiat Place, in year 2008.

I wonder how it would be like to visit 106 Joo Chiat Place on 29 Nov 2012. Gone will be my vague memories of chancing upon a few of Ng Eng Teng's sculptures when I had walked past Joo Chiat Place in the year 2008. Maybe a visit to 106 Joo Chiat Place will mean less to me than to the many people who have at some point in their lives visited 106 Joo Chiat Place to work alongside with or to learn from the late Ng Eng Teng?

Taken in 2008. A glimpse of 106 Joo Chiat Place.
Taken in 2008. A glimpse of 106 Joo Chiat Place.

Anyway, I learnt from secondary sources regarding the article from Sunday Times dated 25 Nov 2012 that wood from the dismantled house of Studio 106 will be salvaged by representatives of the community art project, Awaken the Dragon, to use it to rouse one of the last two surviving dragon kilns in Jalan Bahar next year. Heart-wrenching it may sound to have Studio 106 dismantled, it seems like everything that makes up this house will have to go. Change is inevitable. May the memories be preserved nevertheless.

Studio 106, in year 2008.

If this interest you, may you find the opportunity to visit 106 Joo Chiat Place soon before it is physically gone. In the meantime, I am thankful for this very place that had allowed the late Ng Eng Teng to create many of his enduring sculptures and works.

Related posts on Ng Eng Teng:
prep-room | 106 Joo Chiat Place by NUS Museum
Along Joo Chiat Place
Some noteworthy exhibits from the Sculpturing Life exhibition
Remembering Ng Eng Teng
Wealth and Contentment just outside the University Cultural Centre
NUS Museum: The works of Ng Eng Teng
NUS Museum
Multimedia: My Brother, Our Houses by The Straits Times: Through the Lens.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Participating in Awaken The Dragon Project

Dragon kiln in Singapore. Taken in Nov 2012.

Thanks to Facebook, I was somehow notified by my friends about this project called "Awaken the Dragon". Awaken the Dragon is "a community art project surrounding the last two remaining Dragon Kilns in Singapore".

Wait a moment. Were you surprised to know that there are dragon kilns in Singapore? What is a dragon kiln?

These questions were addressed when I decided to make my way to a relatively unfamiliar part of Singapore recently to take part in one of the Dragon workshops. I found my way to Focus Ceramics, near Jalan Bahar, along Lorong Tawas. As I was not familiar with the locality, I decided it would be a good idea to hire a taxi from the nearest MRT station, i.e. Boon Lay MRT station.

The workshop where the dragon kiln was located. Who will know its future?

Before the workshop, I found myself greeted with the privilege of witnessing a firing taking place at the dragon kiln at 97L Lorong Tawas. Although it was not my first time witnessing a firing taking place at a dragon kiln, I was still nevertheless intrigued by the process. I have no idea how the dragon kiln was conceived and built, yet I thought to myself, it must have been quite an awesome technology.

A glimpse of the dragon kiln has made my visit to Lorong Tawas worthwhile.

Soon, I met up with the wonderful facilitator of the workshop and the other keen participants. Just before the workshop, we were given a tour of the workshop and have had a glimpse of the dragon kiln. This was possible because the workshop was held at Lorong Tawas where the dragon kiln is located. I felt grateful for the opportunity to see the dragon kiln once again. The vicinity has changed dramatically since my previous visit to Lorong Tawas slightly more than a year ago! The nearby forested jungle was being cleared to build an eco-garden.

Changes to the landscape of Lorong Tawas.
Forested jungle was being cleared to build an eco-garden.

At the workshop, we were given an introduction about the history of Singapore's Dragon Kilns and ceramics. I learnt that the pieces of wood used in the wood-firing at the dragon kiln here were carbon-neutral. These pieces of wood were collected from furniture-making workshops.

After the enlightening introduction, each of us participants were given clay to sculpt a piece of work. Our facilitator shared with us some simple tips on how to sculpt the clay. Each of our work will subsequently be fired in the Dragon Kiln during the three-day festival in Jan 2013. After which, I heard that the our works will be featured in the Awaken the Dragon exhibition at various venues in Singapore. The workshop was about no more than two hours in duration. The fee was reasonable at $15 per participant.

The work by the facilitator. I think there's something Zen about it.

My humble work made from clay.

It was therapeutic to work on the clay and attempt to sculpt it. The beauty of clay is that if I do not like what I had created, I could simply destroy it and create another work. At the end of the workshop, I felt I had given myself some time to exercise my creativity. This somehow gave me a sense of accomplishment.

The work by one of my friends.

Whether it is for the novelty of making a piece of art out of clay, to learn more about the dragon kilns in Singapore or to simply give some time to exercise your creativity, you may find it meaningful to learn more about the Awaken the Dragon project here:

Do check out its Facebook page too for more updates:

Works by one of the participants.

In the meantime, I look forward to the Awaken the Dragon festival that will take place from 14 Jan to 21 Jan 2013.

Details of the workshops are available here:

Other related articles that you may be interested in:

Dragons in Singapore by Lim Chey Cheng
The last dragons of Jurong by Jerome Lim
Into the belly of the Dragon by Jerome Lim
Jalan Bahar Dragon Kiln by Remember Singapore
A visit to the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln Firing event 2011
A Visit To The Firing Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln by Victor Koo
Dragon Kiln & Pottery Jungle by Joanne
NLS Resource Guides - Chinese kilns
Demise of a Dragon Kiln by Juliana P Lim