Post-impressionism, batik, abstract, and more… from Georgette Chen to Sarkasi Said, we look at five iconic contemporary artists in Singapore.
Well aren’t we artistic? Sure, Singapore has a handful of really great art exhibitions going on along with state-of-the-art museums for you to get your culture fix, but do you know about the iconic artists of Singapore who have put us on the map? There’s a boatload of talent in this country that we’re proud of, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Widely recognised as the most important of Singapore’s women pioneer artists, Georgette Chen was born in Paris. She moved to China at age three and was educated in Paris and New York before settling in Singapore in 1954. She is known for her post-Impressionist style oil paintings at the turn of the 20th-century, incorporating elements of both traditional Chinese painting and Western art and was part of a group of artists who established the regional “Nanyang Style” of painting. Georgette was also a teacher at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, where she worked until 1980. Her above work, Self Portrait (c. 1946), is displayed at the National Gallery Singapore.
Chen Wen Hsi
Chen Wen Hsi was also a pioneering artist in Singapore. He is known for his avant-garde approach and experimented with various Western styles before specialising in Chinese brush painting, and also incorporating Western compositional formats. Wen Hsi focuses on subjects like fish, herons and gibbons (of which he held a lifelong fascination). You can see his piece of Gibbons at the ongoing exhibition, Appreciating the Art of Dr Chen Wen Hsi [Series V] happening until 21 January 2018 at Merlin Gallery, Waterloo Centre, 261 Waterloo Street #01-11, Singapore 180261.
This self-taught artist is also known in the arts community as the “baron of batik” and has engaged in the art form for much of his life. Like batik, which is rich in meaning, culture, symbolism and stories, Sarkasi’s abstract approach towards batik art is a personal response to the evolving cosmopolitan landscape, and the tensions that lie between traditional symbols and the loss of their transmission. See his textile art which is on display till 31 Dec 2017 at the Always Moving: The Batik Art of Sarkasi Said exhibition at the Lee Kong Chian Temporary Gallery, NUS Museum, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent.
Chua Ek Kay
Like contemporaries in his genre, Chua Ek Kay was considered revolutionary in bridging the unique painting style using Chinese ink on paper with Western art theories and techniques. He is known for his paintings of the streetscapes where he grew up as a form of chronicling the loss of his heritage as architectural fragments of memory. See his iconic works at some galleries in town including the Singapore Art Museum and Cape of Good Hope.
Tan Choh Tee
Once dubbed the “Matisse of the East”, Tan Choh Tee employs the Impressionist art style for his paintings that usually depict Singapore landscapes and still life. You’ll see mangosteens, durians, and the Singapore River in a new light! At the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art where he studied, the artist trained under the tutelage of pioneer first generation Singaporean artists including Georgette Chen and Chen Wen Hsi. His works are collected by the National Museum of Singapore, the National Museum of Negara Brunei Darussalam, United Overseas Bank, Swiss Credit Bank, and several other institutions, corporate organisations and private collectors.