Ephemural Space, Only Temporary

Ephemural Space, Only Temporary
Photo: Qinyi Lim

Once depicted as a bastion of misfits and vandals in the mainstream media, Singapore street art has gradually become embraced by critics and curators as its own distinct genre of contemporary art. Evidence to this is Ephemural Space, an art show set in a very public gallery space located in a busy pedestrian walkway along the old Scotts Shopping Centre plot. Established street artist, Zul, who also goes by street name, ZERO, will be painting five murals over two months, leaving each mural to stay for only a couple of days before whitewashing them and recreating new artworks.

Not your regular art exhibition, Ephemural Space sets out to demystify the creation of art. “Art is normally seen as a commodity, I am showcasing it as a process,” Zul says, “I am bringing into the gallery the process of creating an artwork and its destruction.” And destroy he did.

Ephemural Space

When we visited on Tuesday, Zul had begun whitewashing over a stunning creation stretched over three walls. It had taken him three days to do it, and just four days later he was already making way for the new one. According to Zul, the project is about “the temporariness of life and things around us.” He says, ‘It also takes a dig at the way we live our lives, we always discard old things no matter what the value is to make way for new, “better” things. Like the en bloc fever.’

Considering the temporal nature of street art, it’s little wonder that street artists such as Zul don’t get too attached to the permanence of their work. As we watched him attack the walls with a roller brush, we lamented that it was a pity that such a beautiful piece was going to be lost. He grins and muses, “It’s funny, other people always feel sadder about it than I do.”

Perhaps it’s an ailment of appreciating art in authorized spaces; we can witness a gorgeous piece of graffiti in the back alley of Arab Street being painted over and not bat an eyelid. Destroy it in an art gallery and suddenly, a deep sense of regret comes over us. In this case, however, even the gallery space is temporary. It’ll be torn down after two years to make way for a shopping mall.

Ephemural Space, Only Temporary
Photo: Qinyi Lim

Between working towards a Fine Arts degree and pursuing his passion, Zul has found commercial success doing what he loves. His works have been commissioned by Singtel, UOB, Nokia and Zouk and he regularly conducts workshops at schools. Clearly, street art has shed its much maligned past. “Singapore is a generally young nation and with the help of mass media, urban art has been pushed into the foray more often than not. Urban art, from the old days of NY graffiti till what it is today has survived for decades, outliving formal art movements like modernism, futurism and all the art academic mambo jambo.”

At the gallery, we noticed that the crowds streaming by would peek in curiously, but not enter. Singaporeans are a shy lot. Only after our lingering presence did some dare to venture into the gallery. Zul encourages people to visit and chat with him while he paints. He says, “I like it when people come in and ask about my work.”

Ephemural Space is part of the Singapore Art Show
Wheelock Art Gallery (outside the old Scotts Shopping Centre)
11am – 9pm daily
17 Aug – 14 Oct

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