‘Singapore’s largest rooftop art display’: Youth transforms Commonwealth Avenue carpark into ‘koi pond’
People can visit the mural at the Buona Vista Community Garden from 6.30pm to 8.30pm every day.
A woman crouches under the blazing sun as koi fishes swim around her – white, orange and about 2m-long. Surrounded by baby blue waters, Jolyn Kang dons her paint-splattered Crocs with a brush in hand.
Tasked by the Buona Vista Zone C Residents’ Committee, the 28-year-old spent about two months on the rooftop of a multi-storey car park at Block 7B Commonwealth Avenue. A tan and 140L of paint later, she finally covered 700 sqm with what Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing dubs “Singapore’s largest rooftop art display”.
“It’s not often you get to paint on such a big scale,” said Jolyn, adding that she has only painted two other murals.
Her first mural was done in 2015 when she volunteered to paint for SG50 at Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre.
But for seven years, there was a lull in her mural painting because of a lack of opportunities and her busy schedule in school.
It was only last year when she picked it up again, volunteering to paint another mural for SG57 at Jalan Kukoh.
“You tried the wall so you need to try the floor, right?”
This thought process kick-started her biggest project yet – a floor mural at the Buona Vista Community Garden. However, the magnitude of the piece came with a myriad of obstacles.
The first was physical vigour. As someone who skips the gym, Jolyn wasn’t prepared for all the squats, weight-lifting and cardio that came with the project. During the process, she had to squat down to paint the details and frequently carry over new buckets of paint. She also clocked in over 15,000 steps per day.
“The next day, I woke up and my legs were aching, my arms were aching, it was like everything was aching,” she said. “Towards the end, I got so used to it, it’s like nothing aches anymore.”
Then, there was the weather. As the mural was on the rooftop, she didn’t have a shelter to hide under, placing her at the mercy of mother nature – whether it was the scorching heat or the sudden downpour.
“But knowing that people were eager to see the outcome motivated me,” said Jolyn, adding that some of her friends came down to help her. “That made the sun bearable.”
Compared to the heat, the rain was far worse.
“The rain comes quite suddenly,” she said, adding that at times, checking the weather forecast was futile.
For two weeks, the heavy rain was a major setback. Not only did it hinder her progress, it also washed away parts of her hard work.
Regardless, she didn’t let this dampen her mood. While the rain washed off her progress, the paint barely smudged.
“I guess that’s the good part,” she said. “It washes itself off so you can just come back the next day and paint over it again.”
The third hurdle was the act of painting itself. Having graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in Industrial Design, Jolyn was more familiar with digital art.
Traditional and digital art are vastly different. This realisation truly dawned on Jolyn when she couldn’t undo her mistakes by pressing Ctrl + Z, like she would usually do.
“It’s really bad because if I draw the fish one metre away from where it’s supposed to be, I cannot drag it. Then, I’d have to redraw the whole thing.” As a result, there were times she hesitated while painting.
But as time went on, she slowly started to change her mindset. “You just have to be brave and do it,” she said.
The final one was both an obstacle and a source of motivation. Since the mural is a part of the Buona Vista Community Garden, community involvement is vital. While Jolyn painted the bulk of it, the residents contributed ideas and filled in some of the animals.
Near the end of the project, she had painting sessions with the residents.
“It was a bit chaotic because there were a lot of people each time,” she said, adding that every resident had their own ideas of what the mural should be like.
Amid the cacophony of voices, Jolyn found managing the sheer number of people quite difficult. Despite this, she tried her best to guide them while still prioritising their ideas and preferences.
After all, the purpose of the mural was to uplift the residents’ mood. As their blocks overlook the rooftop of the car park, the vibrant koi garden would greet them every time they look out the window.
What was once a dull and plain view is now covered in hues of blue, green and yellow. “I think the mural really brightens up the whole space for the people staying here,” said Jolyn.
Jolyn believes that having this chance to paint the murals was a step in the right direction for Singapore’s Arts scene. “It adds a lot more life and colour to Singapore,” she said.
But she also noted that opportunities to paint murals were rare, and to be able to do so in Singapore, she’d need to get a permit.
So, until she can fill the facades of Singapore with layers of paint, her koi fish will continue to swim on the rooftop of Buona Vista Community Garden.