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Paradoxical Spaces: Icon

Project type

Watercolour Painting


November 2019



This piece is part of a project themed: Paradoxical Spaces. I chose to explore spaces that is close to my heart, and identity as a Singaporean.

The Merlion is a unique Singapore Icon. When tourists come to Singapore, they will definitely take a photo with the Merlion, be it at the Merlion Park, or Sentosa. Recently, the Merlion at Sentosa will be removed to create space for a walkway. Singaporeans were divided as to whether it was a wise choice to remove the Merlion. I was inspired by this topic and thus I created this piece.

The Merlion to Singaporeans can be described as tacky, gimmicky, and an Out-Of-Home (OOH) marketing technique by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to entice tourists to visit our country. To Singaporeans, it is a notorious icon as it ties closely to home, yet is a cliche icon that makes us cringe when we see it.

Even though Singaporeans don’t really like the representation of Singapore through the Merlion, other countries love the Merlion and it is in fact the icon that represents our country. Japan created their own Merlion, and when foreigners talk about Singapore, they are bound to talk about the Merlion.

In my art piece, I’ve painted the view of Sentosa, with the Merlion being cut out and removed. In the A3 and A2 piece, I’ve replaced Hachiko Statue, and Christ the Redeemer, representational icons of Japan and Mexico respectively, with the Merlion. This is a metaphor of how other countries like our icon more than us.

In the A1 piece, I’ve painted out the statue of a slightly different Merlion that was erected in China.
These Merlions were erected in Zhumadian in Central Henan, China, where local authorities are trying to construct a replica of “Singapore Estates” to entice investors to buy properties in the area.

This brings about the irony of an icon being representational of our country that is disliked by the citizens, yet is being replicated by other countries as a representation of Singapore.

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