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Finding Whimsy in the Everyday with Danielle Tay’s Public Art

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Danielle Tay

You may have seen them before. Walked past and caught it in the corner of your eye – vibrant, colourful artworks that brim with energy. They fill their viewers with a sense of whimsy, sparking wonder through their animated and lively depictions of the Singaporean landscape. Inspired by nature and the small joys of daily and often unseen moments in life, local artist Danielle Tay’s works brighten up spaces all across Singapore with their unmistakeable verve.  

Ever since young, art has always been an activity that this prolific artist looked forward to, and this enjoyment can clearly be observed in her work. If you have not had the chance to encounter these works for yourself, here is a helpful list of 5 places of where you can find them, in geographical order from east to west.

1. Two Worlds Collide at Starbucks Katong Square Singapore

Two worlds collide at Starbucks Katong Square Singapore

Located in the Starbucks of the historic Katong Square building, Two Worlds Collide pays homage to the Peranakan culture that Katong has become synonymous with. Familiar motifs of colourful crockery, pots, cups and percolators, are featured all around the establishment. The animals that typically stiffly embellish the traditional Peranakan kitchenware escape into their own canvas.

Taking inspiration from the iconic, intricate patterns that adorn Peranakan textiles, Danielle created her own pattern using the motif of coffee beans. This pattern can be found all over the café, both within painted canvasses and upon the very walls of the Starbucks themselves, creating a playful atmosphere.

Katong Square Starbucks Singapore (exterior view)

 

2. Spirit of the Forest at Hotel Soloha Singapore

Spirit of the Forest at Hotel Soloha Singapore
Photo credit: Hotel Soloha. Image courtesy of the artist.

Spanning Hotel Soloha’s four-storey elevator shaft, The Spirit of the Jungle teems with wild animals such as leopards, monkeys, parrots, and peacocks hidden within the fantastical landscape.

Danielle’s work playfully defies conventions; since it cannot be seen all at once, visitors are challenged to take the lift and peer at the artwork floor by floor to view the entire piece. Don’t be surprised if you experience a childlike sense of discovery, akin to the first time you visited the zoo, when you press your face up against the glass to get a closer look.

Danielle painting the four story mural-The Spirit of the Jungle
Danielle painting the four-storey mural.

 

3. Paradise at Shake Shack Orchard Road Singapore

Paradise at Shake Shack Orchard Road Singapore

If you’re dining al fresco at the Orchard outlet of Shake Shake, you’ll find key Singapore landmarks dotted all across an outdoor mural that provides an idyllic backdrop to your meal. Marina Bay Sands, the Merlion, and shophouses are nestled amidst familiar flora such as palm trees and ferns, highlighting Singapore as a garden city. Danielle has used vibrant corals and reds to paint the dynamic infrastructure, with contrasting blues and greens to represent the lush vegetation.

This theme of flora continues inside, as Danielle draws from the horticultural history of the Singapore Botanic Gardens to paint two stunning acrylic paintings that truly display Danielle’s striking sense of colour. On the left, the setting sun dyes the whole canvas orange, suffusing it with a warmth in which pond life bask. On the right, the artist presents a deeper majesty in darker blues, with a single peacock in all its glory.

 

4. Let’s Go Local! at the Singapore Visitor Centre, wall mural

Only a few minutes away from Shake Shack lies another of Danielle’s works at the Singapore Visitor Centre at Orchard Gateway. The Visitor Centre provides respite for the weary tourist in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road. It is a place for them to receive information about famous landmarks and destinations in Singapore and even book a tour or two. Titled Let’s Go Local!, Danielle’s murals provide insight to the Singapore that we locals are familiar with; the Singapore that tourists may not encounter on their tours.

Let’s Go Local! at the Singapore Visitor Centre, wall mural

HDBs and void decks, coffee shops with their red plastic chairs, friendly uncles reading their newspapers on public benches with sleepy neighbourhood cats lying close by – the spirit of Singapore’s heartlands are warmly captured here. Although tourists may never experience this Singapore first-hand, they can certainly catch a glimpse of it through these murals.

Let’s Go Local! Wall Mural

 

5. Creators of Tomorrow at Fusionopolis One @ One-North

Creators of Tomorrow at Fusionopolis One @ One-North

The last in this list of Tay’s public works is unique from the rest: where the previous works were paintings, this is a paper collage on wood. When asked why Danielle chose to experiment beyond her typical medium of painting, she answered:

“In 2009 when I was mid-way through my studies at Lasalle College of the Arts, I found the canvas or rather the frame to be restrictive and started exploring the process of collaging. It was through collage that I started to break things down into smaller bits. I no longer felt pressure to have a complete vision in mind before creating an artwork. There was a newfound freedom that I embraced in which I really started to enjoy the spontaneity within the process of art-making; to just go with the flow and to trust the process. This allowed for a fresh energy to grow and I feel that this comes across in the completed works too.”

Tay’s renewed vigour can be experienced in Creators of Tomorrow, located at the Fusionopolis One@one-north research and development complex. With this work, Danielle was inspired by “the timeless ethos which one-north was built upon”. She thereby used the visual metaphor of an automatic watch to represent it, the automatic watch being an object that she felt was of the present but looks towards the future. The collage, Creators of Tomorrow, shows different iconic buildings across Singapore that JTC has had a hand in creating, the primary motif in the centre being that of the gears of a watch, symbolising JTC itself. The tactility of the paper collage aspect of this work makes it visually striking but at the same time, homely and warm.

Creators of Tomorrow at Fusionopolis One @ One-North with artist Danielle

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible” – this quote by Paul Klee is one of Danielle’s guiding philosophies, and apparent within each of her pieces. The resplendent colours and charming creatures that inhabit her work are more than just aesthetically pleasing in their own right; they also reflect their surroundings, their histories, and their energies. Danielle’s works makes visible the little, often overlooked, pleasures of daily life, bringing joy to every environment that they inhabit. 

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Note: Inspired to liven up your own living space with a piece of Danielle’s art? Click here to check out a limited selection of her prints, exclusively available at Shop Plural.

All images courtesy of the artist unless otherwise stated.

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