Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: December 2017

Impressionist Exhibition in Singapore

Colours of Impressionism is currently running in the National Gallery Singapore until March 2018. It brings together over 60 Impressionist paintings from the Musée d’Orsay Paris with a few offerings before and after the main era of Impressionism. It was amazing to see so many Impressionist paintings in Asia as it’s rare that any French Impressionist paintings are gathered in one place in the region usually. Let’s take a quick peek at a small selection of what was on show. If you’re in town, make sure you take time to visit. Locally based teachers get free entry. Result.




Monet along with Renoir may be seen as the pinnacle of French Impressionism and I won’t argue with that. Both artists are represented well at the exhibition with more of a Monet presence. Some of the highlights from Monet include two from his most famed “series” paintings. Of course, no waterlily painting would be a disappointment so it’s pleasing to see one here. One of many that he painted when he set up his studio in Giverny. One of Monet’s 30 Roeun Cathedral paintings is also here with his study of the thick, clumpy facade painted under direct sunlight.

Renoir’s late works were severely compromised by his rheumatism in his hands and a lot of his female paintings suffered with anatomical anomalies; Gabrielle with a Rose still holding his genius at capturing the female form but beginning to show the effects that strapping paint brushes to his hands were taking.


Paul Gauguin (he who was Van Gogh’s pre-ear removal buddy) and a lesser seen “normal” Impressionistic snowscape. If you are to see Gauguin in a museum or book you will see that he best known for more lurid flat colors with Tahiti ladies and storytelling through symbolism. Nothing of the sort here but very interesting to see his early work.


Pissarro was dirt poor and never really got out of his monetary slump until really late in life whilst Monet and Renoir found fame a little earlier in life. (but both had their horrendous moments sans argent!). Pissarro seemed to float around and adapt whomever’s style he was hanging around with at the time so never really had a set style until his 60s I guess. He is mostly known for his peasant scenes.


Caillebotte is probably my favorite Impressionist. Who I hear you warble?! He was a highly competent artist who painted mainly city scenes around Paris. His paintings are a little more polished than his Impressionist comrades. More importantly the dude was rich so he ended up buying a lot of his Impressionist friends’ paintings. Mainly because he liked them but because he knew he was propping them up financially. Check him out when you can. I think without Caillebotte a lot of the artists around Paris at the time may not have been able to paint as much as they could have.


Sisley was a British dude who spent much of his time in Paris. Above is a simple yet serene and peaceful scene of a flood in the town of Port Marly. Probably the least recognized member of the movement both during his life and after. Probably was even more strapped for cash during his life (especially after his father’s death) than Pissarro. But Sisley, on canvas, remains one of the most traditional Impressionist painters in history. He stuck with painting fleeting rural scenes and painted en plein air mostly. Under-rated.


Moving on to post-impressionism or neo-impressionism. Cezanne led the charge. Meticulous to the point of not signing the majority of paintings you will see in museums around the world. He never really thought they were finished. He is a major influencer of artists of the early 20th century most notably Picasso and Matisse. Ya gotta like his flat colored geometric takes on nature. Ya gotta.


Paul Signac the other other pointillist painter. You know a Signac as his “points” are usually more rectangular than dots. Zoomed on this one so you can tell. Now you know. I like his stuff.


A bit of a coup is the three preparatory pointillist sketches of Georges Seurat for his gigantic masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (which I had the pleasure of seeing in Chicago a few years ago). Seurat only completed a small number of major paintings but many many sketches and prep paintings exist. Sadly he died very young at 31; one can only imagine what he would have accomplished with a longer life…sniff.

A very nice surprise on display are two palettes that were left in Renoir’s and Degas’ studios when they died. You can almost see the genre of paintings they are known for by looking at how they are mixing the colors on the palettes.

Visiting [email protected]


Visitors to Singapore may not believe or realize that there are a number of high vantage points from where you can see the island apart from the top of Marina Bay Sands. And they don’t involve rubbing shoulders with the touristy hordes either.

I’ve already shown you The [email protected] and the [email protected] has been on my radar for a while but I didn’t get the chance to go until Christmas Day this year. And why not?

If you’re based around Orchard Road, it’s about a 45 minute walk from Ion Orchard and if you sweat by Chatsworth Road you will see some crazy houses along the way. Make it a journey! Or get the 111 bus from opposite Orchard station which will drop you nearby.

The @Dawson HDB (housing development board) apartment blocks are seen as the next evolution of government public housing on the island. The Skyville and SkyTerrace will soon be joined by 5 more blocks to be completed by 2020. Whilst the SkyTerrace is lauded for its greenery inspired architecture, the Skyville boasts a 47th top floor sky garden. Which is where we headed.

Entry is free and you just walk up to an elevator and press 47. Done. There are other lower floored gardens for the more ground level loving visitors. Up to 47 we went.
After our visit we went to the SkyTerrace top floor but it’s just condos up there and no communal space; their gardens seem to be set down lower but there is no information what floors they are on in the elevator (unlike Skyville). If you want to get a bird’s eye view of Singapore head to Skyville and you won’t be disappointed.











Christmas in Singapore: Orchard Road & Gardens By The Bay


I have got used to seeing Christmas decorations and experiencing 99%  humidity at the same time. It’s been 10 years living in Asia, I better have.

Orchard Road starts setting up Christmas decorations in October due to the huge amount of work that is involved. In all fairness, they do a good job.
Gardens by the Bay, on the other hand, charges people $8 to get into their Winter Wonderland which has a bunch of food stalls, games, and the ubiquitous Santa in a grotto.

I wandered along Orchard Road and paid the $8 to stroll around alongside eager children dragging their parents around the Winter Wonderland.

Orchard Road

Take a walk from Wheelock Place down towards Somerset 313 and you will see the main Christmas sights (lights/trees/performances) you will need to see (including the small Christmas market outside Ngee Ann City). I think the backdrop of high-end shops make perfect backgrounds for Christmas trees…because that’s what Christmas is all about right?






Winter Wonderland

It’s worth popping along to the Winter Wonderland for 19:45 or 20:45 for the Christmas themed light/audio show then get out of there with children’s wailing and parent’s resigned sighs ringing echoes in your ears.




The Death of Dakota Crescent


With the recent news that Dakota Crescent will be demolished to make way for a new apartment complex, the final death bell tolled for the erstwhile Instgram-friendly low-rise 1950s apartment blocks.

Long been a weird little side-trip to experience what it might have been like to live in a 1950s style housing development,  the government will chuck everyone out on their collective ear whenever they feel like it – there is no solid demolishing date set yet. Some buildings will be saved for prosperity (or for dead body storage) and the iconic dove playground will also be saved. In some form or another.

I trundled along a while ago to photograph some slices of life that I could capture. I will photo-essay the rest of the way. Enjoy.

IMG_9976Some apartments were already abandoned and empty. They were small and the overabundant concrete walls and fittings gave the apartments a cold and threadbare air.

IMG_9967Like other public housing around Singapore there are plenty of nice angles cutting through the Singaporean sky. You just have to look up.

IMG_9968They took their safety very seriously. The metal security doors wouldn’t look out of place on Alcatraz.

IMG_9951The cream coloured walls dissect the small green spaces around Dakota Crescent.

IMG_9944There are a number of different sign posts clamped on to the buildings around Dakota Crescent. I’m sure they might start disappearing soon by some opportunistic cultural-historical vultures.

IMG_9939The brickwork shows signs of aging in parts.

IMG_9932I didn’t. Might need to put a high security metal door around your potted fruit. I like the use of verb “pluck” here; very unexpected.

IMG_9923There was an air of quiet resignation around Dakota Crescent – like the atmosphere that Rochor Centre had in the run up to its end of days.

The famous pigeon playground will “stay” so “they” say. Perhaps it will be preserved in amber or something.

The playground is used mostly by mosquitoes now.

IMG_0013One of the cool things about Dakota Crescent is the contrast between the different wall textures. Here you get a trifecta or fourfecta if you’re being really precise.

Dakota Crescent will be missed. Therein lies the price of progress I mutter as I stretch back in my modern condo built on top of the bones of 1950’s Singapore.

It never rains but it ‘pores..

You know you’re in Singapore….

when it gets ominously dark (must-have-lights-on dark) hours away from sunset and clouds roll in black and dark like the end of times.

when rain hits sodden grounds and weary roofs at a decibel level where you can’t hear what a person is screaming into your ear.

when drains and culverts do their best impression of Niagara Falls eager to escape onto innocent not yet wet bystanders.

when five seconds caught without an umbrella results in a sogginess level (what’s the Richter scale for wetness?) equivalent to that of a freshly tea-dunked biscuit.

when the availability of taxis due to rainfall diminishes to the magnitude of the Mary Celeste.

when looking at the rain radar map of Singapore looks like an unwelcome MRI scan result.

when the sun is sitting pretty in a wallpaper of blue but you still end up taking an umbrella (just in case).

when dashing from tree cover to tree cover becomes a national sporting event.

when trains are delayed for more than 20 hours due to to train tunnels being flooded.

when lightning illuminates the night like day.

when thunder rattles skulls.

It never rains but it ‘pores? Damn straight.

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