Your next journey down the North East, Circle or Downtown Line is likely very soon. We do love our world-class MRT system here in Singapore and can trust that it fetches us across this island smoothly, reliably and quickly.
It is alright to take some time and slow down a bit when you are in these MRT stations then.
They hold fantastic artworks thanks to the longstanding Art in Transit programme by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
“This will help to evoke the character of the precincts within which they are situated, and to capture the spirit of their communities,” Minister for Transport S Iswaran has said previously.
From classic Chinese “written” in granite to sculptures of imaginary books, here are some of our favourites from these 440-plus artworks which make up the largest public art showcase in Singapore.
They keep us connected to Singapore’s past and present even as we quite literally move forward.
Stevens: PIN-230040 and A Syllabus for Stevens
A Syllabus for Stevens brings us one step closer towards a library of imaginary books. Found along Stevens MRT, this sculpture is of bookshelves thick with curious tomes, including titles like How To Be Truly Ironic and In Search Of The Elusive, Or How To Find Missing Socks.
“The Syllabus For Stevens is perhaps what students wished had been taught in schools,” said its artist Shubigi Rao, who co-created the piece with students from Raffles Girls’ School, back when it was nearby.
Elsewhere in the station, PIN-23040 displays patterns of the leaves, fruit and foliage of nutmeg and rubber trees. Stevens was the site of a major plantation during colonial times, especially during those heady times when “nutmeg mania” ran wild.
Look closer at PIN-23040 when you are there. You will see that the patterns are not a hundred per cent uniform. Residents and commuters manually stamped them, and now these imperfections are included and cherished as part of the work.
Macpherson: Virtuous Cycle and Trails of Thoughts
The heartland of Macpherson hosts walls decorated with two tonally different artworks.
Step out of the train and cast your eyes up. Immediately there is Virtuous Cycle in bright green, yellow, blue and red.
Its colours, working together to create a unified whole, represent Singapore’s different ethnic groups. Its shapes and arrows bring across the dynamic nature of Macpherson estate.
Elsewhere, Trail of Thoughts stretches across three walls, immortalising in easy-to-read, larger-than-life type what Macpherson’s diverse residents thought of National Day celebrations in 2013.
It is a piece which only grows more enjoyable as a retrospective.
Chinatown: The Phoenix’s-Eye Domain
This is a multi-storey, multi-medium work.
The bold mural near the gantries showcases the mythical phoenix in flight to Singapore, commemorating how our ancestors came to Singapore in search of a better life.
Chinese couplets adorn the floor of the concourse level. Making them was no easy feat. The dark granite was hollowed out so that the characters carved out in lighter granite could be lowered in — and fit each other perfectly.
What could these couplets mean? To find out, check out the plaques nearby for a concise translation of this tradition.
Plus, continuing down Chinatown’s Downtown and North East lines to discover even more heritage art is easy afterwards.
Really, the car is just not a necessity with the MRT around.
Our public transport system is accessible, sustainable and inclusive, as Minister Iswaran mentioned last week.
And with all this commitment to art, it goes beyond speed and reliability. It pays homage to the people who came before us, honouring our roots even as we confidently journey forward into the future.