I was privileged to be flown to Singapore for a weekend to talk at a conference. I was welcomed by a Singaporean doctor and his team and we lunched in a restaurant focusing on what I learned was Straits fusion cuisine. My hosts were Peranakan, ethnic Chinese whose ancestors migrated to the Malay peninsula before and coincident with British and Dutch colonisation. The restaurant was rich with artefacts and photographs of their history. I knew very little about Singapore before arriving and little enough now. I understand this was a fishing village 200 years ago. The colonial age, which built this city as a port serving British interests, seems to be viewed without rancour. Raffles, the colonial founding figure, seems celebrated, with myths built on the hotel of that name and alcoholic drinks. As well as the British, Chinese, Malay natives, Tamils and later other Indian peoples have made this place their home.
I was staying in the commercial district which is resplendent with soaring buildings boldly stating domination and decadence. This was the view from my hotel window, drawn in the morning when I was supposed to be updating and revising my talk.
I was fascinated by the ridiculousness of the Marina Bay hotel and casino, with three towers angled in relation to each other so the boat poised on top of all three is bent like a banana. One evening I drew this from the side of the harbour as dusk fell and again later sitting at a café looking across the water at the buildings lit up in the dark night.
These were little sketches in a small book, drawn in pen and tinted with conte crayon, my smallest field kit which fits all in one pocket. On my last day, I had time to walk around and good intentions to draw. I walked through the stunning Gardens by the Bay, a new self-acclaimed environmentally sustainable landscaped park including two large glass domes housing a vast hot-housed floral display and a cool highland rain forest respectively.
I continued through to China Town but was so hot, I could not settle to draw anywhere. Later, I wandered at random on the train to the area around Arab street and the Sultan Mosque. This is tucked away now amid sky-scapers and appeared to me cool, vibrant and visually interesting area with diverse small shops and cafes. By then, I was on a tight schedule to get back for my flight, so my drawing was limited and incomplete, and not worth including here.