Visual Arts Centre

SMRT unveils series of murals depicting history of neighbourhoods

The mural at Toa Payoh MRT station is the first of 35 to be launched in conjunction with SMRT’s 35th anniversary.

SINGAPORE – Passengers passing through the gantry at Toa Payoh MRT station will find it hard to miss the almost 7m long comic-style mural showcasing the beginnings and history of the estate.

It was unveiled on Thursday (June 23) by Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Chee Hong Tat, and is the first to be launched in a series of heritage-themed, comic-style murals known as Comic Connect.

In conjunction with SMRT’s 35th anniversary, the rail operator is collaborating with local artists to install such artworks across 35 MRT stations.

Each mural will depict the history and culture of the neighourhood it is in.

Toa Payoh is one of Singapore’s first MRT stations, and is part of the various milestones in the country’s history.

The 6.5m by 2.83m mural, created on vinyl sticker, encapsulates the history of the estate, starting from its beginnings as an uninhabited swamp to the first town to be designed and built by the Housing Board .

It also features aspects of Toa Payoh’s past, such as secret societies and gang fights.

Other prominent landmarks are also depicted, such as Block 53 – dubbed “VIP Block” – which hosted foreign dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth II in 1972.

Speaking at the launch at Toa Payoh MRT station, Mr Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT Corporation, said: “We hope these murals can bring to life the unique stories of the local communities and inspire our commuters and residents as we build our social cohesion and strengthen community resilience over the next 35 years.”

Mr James Suresh, the team lead behind the Toa Payoh mural said: “My hope is that residents will feel a sense of appreciation for their estate and the pioneers of Toa Payoh who laid the foundations for a diverse and vibrant community.”

The 65-year-old corporate trainer, who is also the co-creator of the Mr Kiasu comics, spent up to two months researching the history and visiting places in Toa Payoh, before conceptualising it.

It also features Teochew merchant Seah Eu Chin, an enterprising pioneer, who worked his way up from a clerk to a merchant and landowner in Toa Payoh.

Mr Sayed Ismail, who created the digital illustrations using sepia, or reddish-brown tones, and detailed line work to convey the historical value behind Toa Payoh, said the young must not forget the shared values and memories that have made their estate what it is today.

“People are readjusting to a new way of life now. What I would want is for commuters to look at a mural and feel a spark, connection, or take a trip down memory lane,” the 55-year-old freelance artist added.

Known as Comic Connect, each mural will depict the history and culture of the neighourhood it is in.

The team consisted of Mr Suresh, Mr Sayed and Ms Suki Chong, who was in charge of assembling the layout of the entire mural.

Preliminary designs for other stations were also revealed, such as a street graffiti style mural in Somerset MRT station.

Ms Iola Liu, 31, is leading a group of four youth from the Visual Arts Centre to create a mural that captures the youthfulness and vibrancy of Somerset while juxtaposing new and old historical buildings located there.

The managing director of the Visual Arts Centre said: “Art is very visual, captivating and easy to understand. It’s a mood lifter and it can connect anyone and everyone of all age groups and languages.”