Art in transit on the new Downtown Line

People buzz through train stations hurriedly – tapping cards as quickly as possible and scurrying down the escalators to hop onto the next train. But passengers may be moving more slowly now as they discover that each MRT station on the new Downtown Line has its own unique artwork and architectural pieces on the walls by each arrival deck or by the escalators in passageways.

On Dec. 22, 2015, Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) opened its fifth major line, the Downtown Line (DTL). Interchangeable at the North East Line, East West Line, and Circle Line, passengers can now cut through the heart of SG in no time. This underground DTL has 12 new stations, starting South at Rochor station, up North, all the way to Bukit Panjang.

According to Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, “Many of our MRT stations are also distinct for the art within them,” some of which have award-winning architectural features. Scattered among this rail network are “colorful murals and arresting sculptures to vibrant stained glass and intricate mosaics.”

Not only do these works of art give travelers something to admire, but these integrated artworks also “speak eloquently about Singapore’s history and culture.” From the North East Line to the newest Downtown Line, these MRT stations have worked with some of the top-notch artists in Singapore. They have even featured pieces from education institutions such as Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

Beauty World MRT Station:

The artwork in this station presents the “multi-cultural mix of language as the result of multi-culturalism,” as stated in Singapore’s The Newpaper Online. Merging black lines embody the diverse languages in Singapore. Boedi Widjaja, artist of this 91.2 meter spanning piece, was born in Indonesia and has lived in Singapore for the past 31 years. Prior to the Beauty World station opening, he said, “I can’t wait to bring my nine-year-old daughter to see my artwork when the station opens. I want her to be proud of me.”

Yiyong, a passenger walking by, said, “The different patterns are just pure creativity.”

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The new Beauty World MRT art installation. Photo by Christen Yu

Tan Kah Kee MRT Station:

Created by Hwa Chong Institution, the art piece titled “Resilience” is composed of streams of colorful handwritten text. Up close, these words reveal inspirational reflections on human nature. But when viewed from a distance, these words dissolve into bands of white and yellow. Handwritten by students from Hwa Chong Institution, these words capture fragile moments of determination and fuse into delicate rays of light beaming from the sun which illustrate warming reflections.

“These art works add taste to each MRT station, and make them distinct,” said Zhao Shichu, a student passing by.

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The new art installation at Tan Kah Kee MRT Station. Photo by Christen Yu

Botanic Gardens MRT Station:

The Botanic Gardens station epitomizes the exotic nature of this tiny island. According to The Straits Times, this stunning art piece by Shirley Soh is a “sandblasted silhouette” that depicts the Tembusu tree with “birds roosting on its branches,” while the skeleton of the tree is done up in a “metal inlay.” Producing oxygen, sustaining life, providing wood, the Tembusu tree is beautifully displayed in Shirley Soh’s artwork. It is the iconic tree “on the front lawn of the Singapore Botanic Gardens,” and the one that appears on the Singaporean five dollar bill.

Ming Jun, a passenger waiting for the MRT, said, “I haven’t been to this station much before. It’s my second time. Although I’m not an artistic person, I can say that the texture and composition in the piece is beautiful. It honestly just makes me feel good looking at it.”

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New art installation at the Botanic Gardens MRT. Photo by Christen Yu

Newton MRT Station:

Right by the escalators where passengers alight or depart on the train is a futuristic painting that “draws inspiration from our city and Newton heritage.” Not only does this hypnotizing piece feature the “imagined landscape” of Singapore in the year 2200, but it also “envisions an alternate reality” of what our country may look like as it continues advancing, according to Singapore’s The Newpaper Online. Local artist Zi Xi Tan says, “I’m not very good with words. Sometimes I overthink the things I say before I talk.” The self-proclaimed “introvert” believes that art is “the easiest way for her to communicate.” A picture is worth a thousand words.

Iskandar, transit security of Newton MRT station, said, “The artwork is eye-opening because it’s a mixture of modern constructions that has its individuality among other stations.”

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Art installation at Newton MRT station. Photo by Christen Yu

Stevens MRT Station:

Singapore in the 19th century was a “natural habitat for biodiversity with an expanse of various exotic plantation crops.” Artwork in Stevens MRT done by Om Mee Ai illustrate existing patterns in nature that show historical dimensions of our junction. This piece is manually stamped with “visual and textural identities.” For instance in the tiles, are prints of the nutmeg nut, rubber tree foliage, seeds, and even fruits. The purpose of this artwork is to elicit “daily commuters about the distinct historical and natural identity” of the tiny island that we live on.

A transit security guard at Stevens MRT said, “What I really enjoy about the Downtown Line is that the art in each station relates to something that pertains to Singapore’s culture.”

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Art at Stevens MRT station. Photo by Christen Yu

Beyond the fact that the MRT provides us with an easily accessible and efficient mode of transportation, the stations themselves prove to be a gallery of art. This holds particularly true for the blue Downtown Line. Keep your eyes open while you’re passing through an MRT station – you’ll never know what beautiful pieces you’ll walk past that will show you the culture Singapore from a different perspective.

Author: Christen Yu

Christen Yu is a senior and one of the co-editors for the eye this year. She has been a student at Singapore American School for fourteen years, and despite having been born in Southern California, she considers Singapore her home. A few of her favorite things include wasting time and money on Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise episodes, and overusing the snapchat dog filter. She finds happiness in drinking bubble tea, and making friends laugh. She can be contacted at yu18985@sas.edu.sg.

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