Yip Yew Chong Expresses His Love of Culture Through Art
Singapore/ Vibe/ Artists

S'porean Artist Yip Yew Chong Talks Culture, Nostalgia, and Heartfelt Art

342750867 558551256409818 9166047462427712967 n Photo by Instagram (@yipyewchong)

Yip Yew Chong’s hand is everywhere in Singapore. From Chinatown to the Arab Quarter, this Singaporean artist has quite literally made the city his canvas.

One of his most famous works is an incredible three-storey mural that showcases a traditional coffee shop, in Chinatown. Located by Temple Street, the visual comes complete with Chinese signages, calendars, and even the ubiquitous stray cat that always seems to hang around.

Aside from the vividness of its details and the nostalgia it evokes, it is the sincerity of the work that truly captures an audience.

“I grew up in Singapore Chinatown in the 1970s and had fond memories of the old way of life, which are all bygone,” he said. “Thus, I drew these details and stories from the heart.”

Chong had, in fact, painted his mother twice in the mural and even named the coffee shop in the painting – “順成茶室 (Suncheng Teahouse)” – after his father.

“My mum said my dad would be very happy if he saw this mural. I think he sees it,” shared Chong.

A shipyard fitter for most of his life, Chong’s father was also an artist.

“He drew mainly opera actors and actresses [on the streets around Chinatown]. People would crowd around him to watch him draw. I believed he loved art, but never had the chance to pursue [it],” he added.

An accountant at first, Chong was a weekend artist up until 2018, when he decided to pursue it full-time.

“I cold-called [and] knocked on doors to get my first opportunity to paint on the street in 2015,” he recalled.

Now a success, Chong has clients commissioning his paintings from all around the world. Yet, Singapore remains close to his heart. Of course, this is the city that has raised him and given him much. It’s also a place that inspires his love for culture.

“I love [Singapore’s] multiculturalism and openness to embrace diversity,” he shared.

Despite his familiarity with Chinatown, Chong isn’t one to limit himself to just that.

“Art helps create visibility and awareness [of culture] in a fresh format that people can easily digest,” he said.

“Awareness piques the communities’ interests and furthers the propagation of the culture. It also helps in education and promotion of a place’s culture, heritage and identity, and the community’s mental health and vibrancy.”

Since Chong’s transition from accountancy to art, he’s seen great success. In 2023, a book was published about his life, titled “Art of Joy: The Journey of Yip Yew Chong” written by Woon Tai Ho. The title has received praise from critics.

In fact, Singaporean diplomat, Bilahari Kausikan, who served as the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, commented that: “Yip Yew Chong's delightfully playful yet serious murals capture what he calls 'a collective memory,' enriching and enlivening our cityscape, while reminding us from whence we came and who we are.”

To date, Chong’s most significant work is the epic “I Paint My Singapore” canvas painting. Spanning 60 metres – the length of around five buses – Chong had painted 27 prominent scenes from Singapore in the 70s and 80s. From the Woodlands checkpoint nearby Kampong Lorong Fatimah to military exercises by the ridge of Marsiling Hills, and even the legend of the “monkey man” at Bukit Timah Hill, Chong has portrayed an intimate world that is rich with memory, nostalgia, and legacy.

As a sequel to that, Chong will embark on a five-year artistic endeavour to create “I Paint My World,” which will depict the artist’s international experiences. Challenging himself further, Chong has promised that his new project will span a few hundred metres long – making the previously mentioned 60-metres pale in comparison.

Check out Yip Yew Chew's creations by following him on Instagram or visiting his website

Get the latest curated content with The Beat Asia's newsletters. Sign up now for a weekly dose of the best stories, events, and deals delivered straight to your inbox. Don't miss out! Click here to subscribe.

This Week's Events In Singapore View more

Sign up to receive updates on what's going on in the city. Don't miss out on exciting events, news, and more. Sign up today!

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice
Thank you for subscribing! Click here if you were not redirected.