Monday, 11 May 2015

Gillman Barracks' Vision

Gillman Barracks in 1957
(Photo Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)
A vision of its own, a large greenery space along Alexandra Road, a small road named Lock Road where there were once British military camp that housed the British army - Gillman Barracks. Gillman Barracks was named after General Sir Webb Gillman, a well-known officer of the British army. In 1927, Gillman spent over 3 months in Singapore, leading a team of three artillery and engineering officers in a commission sent by the War Office, he was to prepare a report on the defence requirements of the new naval base in Singapore. He died in year 1933 in London.
Gillman Barracks
Gillman Barracks built in 1936, a site that was once a jungle and swampy area. It built including barrack buildings, married quarters, messes, regimental institutes and sports facilities. The camp later became home to the 2nd Battalion, the Loyal Regiment after the 1st Battalion. The site was once a fierce battle between the regiment and the Japanese invaders during the three days before Singapore fell in February 1942. It was one of the last British posts in Singapore to fall to the Japanese.
Bailey Bridge or Bridging Gap
The ravine along Alexandra Road, was where SAF combat officers practised constructing and demolishing a Bailey bridge - a portable wood and steel bridge that, when set up, could even carry tanks. The 'disused' Bailey aka Gap bridge that I used to walk across sometimes to the Gillman Village Food Centre years ago and it has now barricaded for safety I believed. The bridge which has been covered by tree and its branches in the centre of the bridge that prevent visitors or public to walk across.
Below is the news about Bailey Bridge and his combat training, the reporter interviewed one of my nostalgic friends, Mr Lam Chun See. He sent private message (PM) to me and others about the news  and immediately I bought the newspaper. Thanks to him.
Chun See's name on Straits Times (Home Section)
One of my nostalgic friends, Mr Lam Chun See who appeared under Home Section, Straits Times dated Friday 15th May 2015, he recalls his army daze in 1977, for a four-month combat engineer training course during his national service. He (Chun See) said "The spot, referred to by trainees as "The Gap", brought back bittersweet memories. "The bridge we had to construct was designed for larger British soldiers to carry, so it was very challenging for us, with our smaller Asian builds," he added.
SAF - the School of Combat Engineers and the SAF 3rd Transport Battalion, moved into the camp and held a passing-out parade there two months later. After the SAF vacated the camp in the 1990s, the buildings were used for commercial purposes, with the change of name to Gillman Village in 1996.
Gillman Baracks in 1957
(Photo Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)
The SAF Combat Engineers army vacated the camp from 1971 to 1984, was bought from the British after the war for just $1. In 2010 after renamed the original Gillman Barracks, the area developed into a cluster of restaurants, bars and furniture shops frequented by office workers and expatriate families from nearby areas.
Gillman Barrack Blk 9 in 2015
These tenants moved out in early 2011 to make way for the government’s remaking of what is known as Gillman Village into an arts centre.
Art After Dark
Art After Dark is an event that takes place once every two months. It was launched in January and has drawn more people, not just art buffs. Galleries launch new shows at the event and extend their opening hours. Special programmes are put together and pop-up eateries provide food for visitors. Art After Dark is a Gillman Barracks open house held in conjunction with the launch of the Singapore Open Media Art Festival (SOMAF), which celebrates 40 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Korea on 29th May 2015 from 7pm to 11pm. The 3-day night festival presents over 40 videos and media installations by Korean, Singaporean and European Artists on screens dotted all over Gillman Barracks. 
Actually I love the arts and crafts when I was in my secondary school days in 1970s and my class was 'Art' and 'Social Biology' class after completed 'Technical' class in Sec 1 & 2. I used to draw and paint the objects that placed on the table to determine what colour and tone, just feel the imagination of the living objects to look original and alive. Well, it's been 35 years since I drew and painted the objects in school and I still remember the stroke of paint and drawing.
I missed the guided tours on several occasions due to my busy schedule and overseas trips. When I browsed the site and found that there was guided tours at Gillman Barracks on 'Art & History' and I was thrilled and booked it. My hubby and I joined the tour and he was eager to see the old Gillman Barracks which he heard and knew about this long time ago and he told me that the place was once British military camps back then.
Blk 9 Lock Road, Gillman Barracks
So we went there earlier to look around before the start of the tour, actually the place is accessible for visitors. We are supposed to meet the guide at Blk 9 Lock Road at the entrance where the staircase leading up to the 'Artwork' displays. It is now home to 15 international galleries that are housed in conserved colonial barracks.
There are two types of tours - The Art & History Tour is for all art enthusiasts looking for a unique encounter with art and a dose of the Barracks' history. For history buffs like me, a dedicated History & Heritage Tour focuses on the Barracks' evolution from a British military barracks in the 1936 to today's contemporary art enclave of Singapore. The Art & History Tour runs weekly while the History & Heritage Tour was launched on Saturday 2nd May 2015, in conjunction with Singapore HeritageFest 2015 and now it runs monthly.
Trained Guide from Friends of the Museum (FOM)
There will be a short briefing introduction and short talks about history of the buildings where the site of the jungle and swampy area located. The guide gave a brief talks the former sites of the buildings that was once British military camps and now turned into Art Centres and major renovations due to poor neglect after the WWII.
Jiang PengYi: Intimacy at Blk 9
I enjoyed the walks from one gallery to one another to look at the artworks displays at each block on such a hot and humid weather but worth it. To be closer to art and colonial architecture is a challenging for us, is that appreciating contemporary art may not come easy for everyone to gain entry of one of the block where the artwork displays. Every block of artwork displays is an air-conditioned mall where visitors retreat from heat weather for a while.
Jiang PengYi(b. 1977) works and lives in Bejing and Hangzhou and his artworks are great. In the centre of picture - 'Intimacy' is a story, an allegory on Light. For more information, you may find here
'Like Leaves' from Syzygium Grandis
In the exhibition, there are 'leaves' on displays that came from each of the book that dried up. The leaves are shown cut into squares and pinned (shown above picture) and all the leaves are come from the same species of tree ' Syzygium Grandis' which commonly knowns as Sea Apple or Jambu Laut that can be found throughout coastal areas in various parts of South-east Asia. This is to show that it is important of consequences for our understanding how ecosystems work.
I remembered in my school days, I plucked each of the 'fresh' leaf from different trees and tree branches, put it inside the Textbook for a few days and it will dry up and turned 'dark and light' brownish in colour for my science laboratory in school. I recalled that the leaves would break easily if you are not taken care of. Leaves would shrink when they dry out, I recalled. I brought my textbook to school with lots of dried leaves, carefully not to drop off from the book, I said in gleefully. I believe even if the leaves dried up but the leaf veins will not die and it still can grow into another fresh leaf despite of the weather where I saw nearby my place. There was a fire at the forest close to the former Japanese Garden (Ridout Tea Garden) a few years ago and the forests sprang up from dead leaves/grass on the ground into beautiful leaves with branches on the ground again.
Rattan & Teakwood Chair
As I walked passed after took a shot of 'like leaves', on the left side of the hall, there is a chair made of 'rattan & teakwood' I found and am surprised to see another one at Gillman Barracks, almost identical one from my blog, at the old City Hall and Supreme Court, I went on 2nd May 2015. But it is of different model of the chair.
Straits of Malacca
One of the artwork shown on the wall - Getatin Silver photograph was taken by a small fishing boat on a Straits of Malacca. This is one of the artwork that inspired me to look into the deep sea with deep thought while looking at it and felt silly when looking this dark cloud as if it's going to rain. But I love it.
Old Waterhose
Not to include more of the gallery paintings, I merely walked while they talked about the arts and history. At the corner of my eye, I saw a rusty water-hose out of nowhere, I would point out that a 'tall' rusty waterhose would be of half a century old, looked neglect over time. I would presume that this waterhose was there when the British built buildings along the sites.
Bodhi Tree (Buddha tree)
Opposite of the old 'rusty' waterhose, there stands a 'Bodhi' tree at the edge of the grass beside road-path and it must be around many years or decades ago which I believe it is around at that time when the British military barracks was built.
NTU Centre for Comtemporary Art Singapore
After went through series of art galleries, we finally landed at one of the Art Galleries - NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore locates at Block 43 Malan road, the door to the entrance shown 'Hugging The Shore' by Simryn Gill, was born in Singapore and lives in Port Dickson, Malaysia and Sydney, Australia.
Simryn Gill - Hugging The Shore
Inside the gallery, there are lots of photographs of the ancient buildings and even abandoned buildings on the wall. Simryn Gill presents her first major solo exhibition in Southeast Asia, featuring three photographic series: Standing Still, Dalam and May 2006, and introducing a new work, Like Leaves (picture no.12).
Graffiti - Upside Down Spiderman
In between the tour, I took a snapshot of one of the graffiti on the wall of one of the blocks - Upside Down written words sprayed on the wall added with a 'cute' cartoon - A Spiderman sprayed with a short sentence "Art Is Not Always High". I find it amusing. I wonder who could have this creative art to come up with a funny and yet cute. Is this an art or graffiti? You decide.
Graffiti - I'm Following You
Another graffiti is more cuter one...It says "I'm Following U" by cartoon using slingshot to shoot a mocking bird. I said with a laugh.
Wooden Signage
One wooden signboard is placed in the middle of the road with a road name "Lock Road" that looks countryside, a type of wood with a paint. Well, it looks fine to me as if the time turns back the clock. Worth a visit to Gillman Barracks.

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