Boat Quay, located on the south bank of the Singapore River, played a very important role in Singapore's early history.
The Story of Boat Quay
Lined with godowns (warehouses), Boat Quay was a flourishing landing point for loading and unloading of goods by the Singapore River for 150 years. In the 1860s, three quarters of all the shipping in Singapore was conducted here.
Large Chinese junk boats could not enter the shallow waters of the Singapore River so bumboats (tongkangs) were used to ferry goods and people from the boats at sea to the shores of the Singapore River.
By 1890, more than 100,000 people worked at Boat Quay; from labourers (coolies) who unloaded goods from the bumboats to the godowns, boatmen who plyed the bumboats up and down the Singapore River, to traders making deals with merchants.
As Singapore developed, other ports were built and shipping activities in Boat Quay ceased by the 1980s. The Clean Rivers campaign in 1983 banned bumboats on the Singapore River (except for tourist river taxis). The area around Boat Quay became the Central Business District with high rise buildings.
In 1986, Boat Quay was earmarked for conservation and its glorious past was sealed in history forever.
The godowns became restaurants and pubs with pedestrian walkways. It became a historical sight seeing stop for tourists in the day and a waterhole in the night for working executives.
The Story of the Painting
In this atmospheric painting by respected Singapore artist Low Hai Hong, it is nightfall at Boat Quay.
We can hardly make out the shophouses by the river bank nor the buildings in the background. They seem to have disappeared into a fiery firework display.
The neon signboards from the shophouses, the bright lamps lining the streets, and the underlights by the river bank are contributing to this riot of dazzling colours against the dark night.
This fireworks on land is mirrored in the waters of the Singapore River. But here it is soothing, as the still and quiet waters gently reflect and calm the blazing lights.
Night has fallen on Boat Quay and what a beautiful night it is.
What do you feel?
Title: Nightfall at Boat Quay
Artist: Low Hai Hong
Medium: Oil on Chinese Rice Paper
Dimensions: 60cm x 70cm
Rent: $42 per week
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Learn more about the painting.
This painting has been exhibited in public only once, in:
"A Tale of Two Rivers - a solo art exhibition by Low Hai Hong" was held at The Fullerton Heritage Gallery, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore from 30 May to 30 July 2014.
The exhibition showcased Low Hai Hong's 18 oil on Chinese rice paper paintings that showed the streets along the two rivers that he painted most in his artistic journey, the Singapore River in Singapore and the River Seine in Paris, France.
In an interview with the Business Times for the exhibition, he disclosed that painting oil on Chinese rice paper was his way of combining Eastern and Western painting traditions, something that is always on the minds of Singaporean artists.
"A Tale of Two Rivers" art exhibition continues and this time, it's Morning at River Seine.
We live in a rainbow of chaos - Paul Cezanne