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Self-taught artist transforms HDB common corridor into mini art gallery surrounded by greenery

SINGAPORE — The first painting Ms Mary Aw hung in the common area outside her Housing and Development Board (HDB) unit was one of a waterfall surrounded by flowers, with the words "bulky items please bring them to the bin centre" at the bottom. She did it to replace a poster with the same words put up by another resident above the rubbish chute which she thought sounded "harsh".

Ms Mary Aw, who lined the corridor outside her Anchorvale Crescent flat with plants and paintings.

Ms Mary Aw, who lined the corridor outside her Anchorvale Crescent flat with plants and paintings.

  • Ms Mary Aw has transformed her common corridor into a mini art gallery, placing her paintings amid various potted plants 
  • The garden is well-loved by her neighbours, who help to keep the corridor clean
  • MP Jamus Lim had uploaded a video of it in a Facebook post on Friday, which garnered many positive responses
  • He said it is an example of what can happen when neighbours get along and make an effort to improve their surroundings

SINGAPORE — The first painting Ms Mary Aw hung in the common area outside her Housing and Development Board (HDB) unit was one of a waterfall surrounded by flowers, with the words "bulky items please bring them to the bin centre" at the bottom. She did it to replace a poster with the same words put up by another resident above the rubbish chute which she thought sounded "harsh". 

Since then, Ms Aw has gradually added more paintings, and in less than a year, the common corridor near her unit is now filled with 16 pieces, most of which are hand-painted by the self-taught artist.

The “common corridor garden”, as the 66-year-old affectionately calls it, is also lined with her potted ferns, transforming the originally bare space on the fourth level of 335B Anchorvale Crescent into a mini art gallery surrounded by greenery.

It was a sight that greeted Member of Parliament Jamus Lim of Sengkang Group Representation Constituency during one of his house visits this week.

He had uploaded a video of the garden in a Facebook post on Friday (March 4), which garnered many positive responses. 

Mr Lim wrote: “For me, the project is an example of what can happen when neighbours get along, and make a concerted effort to improve their surroundings…

“Living in shared spaces tends to require some give and take. And when neighbours are able to come together, the result can be extraordinary.” 

Ms Mary Aw lined the common corridor outside her Anchorvale Crescent HDB flat with plants and paintings.

An avid plant lover since young, Ms Aw would tend to the plants every morning – watering them, checking their condition, adding fertiliser and trimming them when needed. She would also regularly clean the area to prevent it from getting dirty with plant debris or fallen leaves. 
  
Ms Aw, who works at a property and investment company, had put up the paintings and plants to beautify the common corridor and bin area. She also wanted her neighbours to be able to enjoy a "clean and green" space.

"I thought that at least when they come to the rubbish chute to throw their rubbish, they can get the chance to see the greens and feel serene," Ms Aw said. 

The grandmother of five started learning acrylic painting last July and had originally bought the painting materials for her grandchildren, but decided to try her hand at it as well. 

Discovering that she enjoyed it immensely, with a particular love for painting landscape pieces such as those of flowers, trees and rivers, she started painting two to three times a week. She has painted over 200 pieces since.  

After giving a few to her friends and company, she still had many left over and while wondering what to do with them, came up with the idea of displaying a few along the common corridor, to help “soften” the area and add some colour to the plain walls. 

When she did not receive any objections, Ms Aw gradually added more paintings, including a few done by her grandchildren and pieces she already had in her flat so that her neighbours could enjoy the paintings, too. 

"My neighbours would compliment my paintings and those good words encouraged me to put up more, " Ms Aw said. 

NEIGHBOURS LOVE IT, HELP TO KEEP CORRIDOR CLEAN

The garden is well-loved by her neighbours, who help to keep the corridor clean by picking up any fallen leaves and sweeping the area every morning. They had readily agreed when Ms Aw first approached them for permission to beautify the common space. 

“I feel warm whenever I come home and see the plants and paintings,” said Ms Linda Chan, who has been Ms Aw's neighbour for close to eight years. Both of them had moved in around the same time after their flat, which was a Build-to-Order project, was completed. 

"When my family comes to visit and talk about how nice the corridor is, I feel proud of my neighbourhood," the 47-year-old added with a smile.  

She described her relationship with Ms Aw and her other neighbours as one that is like a family and said that she is blessed to have neighbours like them. 

Ms Aw said she will not be extending her garden as there is insufficient space and will instead focus on keeping the current area clean and tidy. 

"I hope to continue living harmoniously with all my neighbours and keep this common corridor garden alive for as long as I live in this community," she said. 

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community gardening painting Sengkang Jamus Lim

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