Graffiti is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think about Singapore. More likely, clean, orderly and no chewing gum allowed. It is difficult to be a graffiti artist Singapore. Graffiti is illegal and punishable by a term of 1-3 years in prison and 3-8 strokes of a cane (a flexible strap made from a palm tree).
Now, many people think that graffiti is bad. Street art is good. Street art is being celebrated all over the world. The most prominent artists are paid commissions to paint murals. Graffiti is more “street” and an expression by local artists to the community and to each other.
In the US, there are tensions between street artists and graffiti artists. See our interview with street artist LMNOPi on this issue.
We think both are important expressions of art and community sentiment.
Graffiti Artist Singapore–Do they Exist?
You can find Graffiti Singapore if you know where to look. Singapore graffiti artists mainly paint approved spaces and during public festivals. They often paint over each other’s work by necessity. There are also street art murals in Singapore that are approved by the government. We’ll cover that in another post.
Where to see Graffiti Artist Singapore
There are walls around the city where it is legal to paint graffiti. You can find graffiti at Blackbook at 71 Sultan Gate. Somerset Skate Park has legal walls just behind the skate park for artists to practice (Somerset MRT station).
Read this post for more ideas on what to do on a Singapore 4 Day Itinerary.
Singapore Graffiti Artist: KLEM
We had a chance to spend time with a 26-year-old Singapore Graffiti Artist, named KLEM after we attended a stenciling workshop as part of Art Walk Little India. We asked him a few questions about graffiti in Singapore.
How did you get into graffiti? How old were you when you started?
I got into contact with graffiti when I was a “bboy” aka “breakdancing.” I was 23 years old during that time.
What do you like about graffiti? Why do you do it?
Honestly, the first impression I got was that graffiti is cool. I always loved drawing alphabets when I was a kid, and when I found out about this art form, graffiti, it sparked my interest.
Over the years of doing graffiti, the coolness which I use to think of slowly faded away and the reason to why I still persist on changes from time to time. When I was able to do them “illegally” overseas (in other countries), it gave me another perspective on it. The satisfaction that I get for myself when I did it during the night, tagging and doing throw ups on the streets with no one around but always worrying if I am gonna get caught, that thrill was what I was doing it for.
Now I do it as a form of escape from the real world. I enjoy sitting down in front of my blackbook, taking my own time to develop my letters up and then hitting up the wall to make it into a larger scale (legally when in Singapore).
Another thing I love about graffiti is that how it can appear at places where you will never think it will appear. Examples are like high rise area, bridges, area which are impossible to access but somehow, someone still managed to.
How do you see the differences between murals, street art, graffiti and tagging? What’s important about each of them?
Each of it has their own beauty. A mural mainly aims to help beautify the environment. Street art mostly has an individual and personalized message that they would like to send out to the public. Graffiti-wise, not many would appreciate this form of art. Some sees it as vandalism, but to others like me, graffiti is an internal, exclusive game between the graffiti artists/writers. It’s like a communication between one artist to another.
Where else have you done graffiti?
Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam.
How is the graffiti scene different in each of the countries?
I would not say they have much differences, but they are definitely different if compared with Singapore. Throw ups, tags and pieces can be seen everywhere in other countries. What is different would be the style. Each country’s artist has its own different style and way of doing it.
What is it like to do graffiti in Singapore?
It is safe to do graffiti in Singapore, provided if you do it on legal walls, or commissioned walls. We, artists can take all the time we need in the world to produce our art, whereas in other country, time was never a luxury. If you are ever caught for doing graffiti or a “vandalism” act in Singapore, you would be jailed up to 3 years and caning as well. We have very limited walls here, so usually we paint at the same spot, covering up one another works. If you are lucky, your artwork might be able to stay on the wall for a few days.
For more on Street Art Around the World:
For more on Singapore
What do you think about Street Art vs. Graffiti. Leave a Comment with your Thoughts.
Really interesting on Street Art. I always try and seek some out where I go. I’m hoping to visit Singapore next year for my 60th (I was born there) I never expected to see street art though. This will be a good guide!
Alizon-Thanks. We’re in the process of doing a much more extensive post on this. Keep you eye out for that.
Very interesting read on the topic of graffiti, I didn’t expect to see it in Singapore! Have pinned this for #wbps
Debbie-Thanks for commented. I didn’t expect to see it in Singapore either.
Thanks for commenting. And, it was a surprise to me too
The graffiti is amazing! Such artistic talent displayed in unique ways.
Thanks. Graffiti gets a bad rap but much of it is really beautiful.
Very interesting to read this. I was fortunate to have a conversation with a graffiti and street art artist in Bogota, and I was keen noticing the differences in opinion and more so the similarities. I find street art to be deeply interesting, graffiti stands next in my list as I find them a bit hard to decode (if there is anything to decode).
Really interesting & a different kind of post. Love the idea of your stencilling course too! Thanks for sharing
Thanks, Sue. The stenciling was fun.
I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as i did when answering them.
Thank you for posting it up!
Thanks to much for doing the interview. We enjoyed it as well.
Love this post. I had no idea there was so much street art in Signapore. And I love hearing about it from the perspective of artists.
Thanks, Kelly. I’m working on an even longer post. There’s a lot of street art in Singapore. Surprised me too.
This is a truly interesting piece. Only recently I have discovered how much people are interested in taking street art tours in the cities where they go and I think your piece cover a lot about Singapore and one representative artist.
Thanks, Federica. Street art is all over these days. Checkout the street art section on my blog for more–New York, Budapest, London, Hanoi and more coming.
Love this post. I always love street art. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Priyanka-Thanks. Have you spent time viewing street art? What’s your favorite place?
Had no idea Singapore was such a street art spot. Love the photos, too!
Thanks, Jessie-It was surprising to us too. Stay tuned for a more in depth piece on street art in Singapore.