To a number of local artists, HDB estates are more than homes for Singaporeans—the well-designed facades and unique heartland culture also serve as inspiration for their varied, colourful expressions of art. From adding a splash of colour to our void decks to creating Instagram-worthy art pieces, three local artists share their local-inspired works.

Classical Art in the Modern Setting of Singapore

Hafiiz, the creative mind behind @thenextmostfamousartist

Photo Credit: @thenextmostfamousartist

The creative mastermind behind @thenextmostfamousartist, Hafiiz Karim, is known for his unique art style— recontextualising classical art in the modern setting of Singapore. “I wanted to embrace the uniqueness of our culture by drawing a contrast between the daily happenings and the oddities of the figures,” he says.

He draws inspiration from observations and current events, such as how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted daily life, and translates his emotions into artwork. For example, with people staying home during the Circuit Breaker period, creative activities such as the filming of TikTok videos are on the rise, and Hafiiz’s art seeks to capture this.

When Quarantine Life Takes a Toll On Your Family

Photo Credit: @thenextmostfamousartist

When You Are Sick of Quarantine Already – an expression of Hafiiz’s emotions on the circuit breaker

Photo Credit: @thenextmostfamousartist

“My favourite artwork currently is the ‘Savouring His Last Cup of Bubble Tea For Now’ because of my bubble tea cravings,” Hafiiz laughs.

Hafiiz’s current favourite work, Savouring His Last Cup of Bubble Tea For Now, is all of us

Photo Credit: @thenextmostfamousartist

Hafiiz’s unique Singapore-inspired photo manipulation series has over 80 artworks. “The scenarios featured in the series are influenced by my personal experiences when growing up – including the drink stall auntie in my neighbourhood whom everyone loves,” the 27-year-old smiles.

Your Favourite Drink Stall Auntie – inspired by Hafiiz personal encounters

Photo Credit: @thenextmostfamousartist

Artworks inspired by heartland living

Photo Credit: @thenextmostfamousartist

“Through my work, I hope to bring light-hearted humour to others, to spread joy and positivity as they continue about their daily life. What keeps me going is the ability to communicate and connect with others through my work. That’s what I think art should do, to create an emotional experience and conversations.”

Van Gogh in the Heartland

Artist Belinda Low has, over the years, painted large murals in HDB void decks amongst other projects. Despite having no formal training in the arts, the talented Belinda found a passion for mural-painting.

Artist Belinda Low

“It started out with me responding to a call for artists to work on a mural in the CBD. I love painting on a large canvas, and there has been no turning back since then,” she laughs.

Belinda’s artworks are found in the void decks of HDB flats

The first HDB void deck she worked on was at MacPherson, where she decided to bring her favourite artist, Vincent Van Gogh, to the heartlands. Belinda also adds local flavours to her murals. For instance, the Starry Night in MacPherson is influenced by Van Gogh’s famous work, Starry Night by the Rhone.

“I used to live in the eastern part of Singapore,” Belinda says while referencing the mural. “In the mural, you can see the East Coast overlooking the sea, towards the HDB flats and beyond.”

Belinda’s take on Van Gogh’s Starry Night by the Rhone has become a popular photo spot

Prior to painting, Belinda reads up on the background and the history of the area, and also recces the place. “It’s good to immerse yourself in the environment and be inspired by your observations.” Although she paints mostly by herself, the end product is not solely her creative process. “Residents stop by and contribute suggestions — about the history, of certain characters, or pets and animals that are part of their lives.”

Sketching HDB Flats

Like Belinda, 19-year-old Alastair Ang, also derives inspiration from the heartland. Having sketched famous buildings from across the globe, the artist recently turned his attention to one of Singapore’s icons – HDB flats.

Artist Alastair intends to pursue a degree in Architecture

Photo Credit: Eunoia Junior College

“HDB blocks are the landmarks of our heartland and are what makes our country unique,” Alastair says. He has sketched nine different HDB blocks to date, ranging from the charming ones at Tiong Bahru, to the world’s tallest public housing development at The Pinnacle@Duxton.

Sketches of Tiong Bahru estate and The Pinnacle@Duxton

Photo Credit: @aa.chitect

“Each block has a different story, and is testament to the time period it was constructed in. For instance, the flats in Tiong Bahru resemble shophouses, which were a common type of housing back in their day. In contrast, The Pinnacle@Duxton, with its roof garden and skybridges, reflects current tastes.”

With safe-distancing measures in place, the artist has taken to online visual references when conceptualising his work. “The details of the sketch are added after the block’s silhouette is completed – the messier the details, the more texturally realistic the sketch will be!”

The Dragon Playground, one of Singapore’s icons

Photo Credit: @aa.chitect

Apart from HDB flats, the artist has also sketched the iconic dragon playground, as he was attracted by its timeless design.

Alastair uploads his sketches on Instagram to leverage its expansive reach. “I’m hoping to promote our unique HDB-scape to the larger global community, to celebrate Singapore’s success in public housing!” he says.

The write up ‘Van Gogh in the Heartland’ was adapted from an article that first appeared on HDB’s corporate magazine, Dwellings.

  • Adeline Ang

    Content producer who writes too much and edits too little. Usually has a cold brew coffee in one hand as she stalks you on social media with the other.