Singapore's First- and

Second-Generation Artists

ANG Ah Tee

ANG Ah Tee (b. 1943, Singapore) is a second-generation Singaporean artist who graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 1962. He was mentored by other prominent artists such as Cheong Soo Pieng and Georgette Chen as a student at NAFA. Ang is known for his acrylic, watercolour and oil paintings. Although his style has evolved over time, Ang’s works are still characterised by his direct and random brushstrokes and forceful palette-knife technique. He has participated in nine solo exhibitions and more than 20 group exhibitions around the world to date. He received the National Day Art Award in 1978 and 2001, and in 2009, was awarded the Cultural Medallion for his exceptional contributions to Singapore’s artistic landscape.

 
 

CHEN Wen Hsi

CHEN Wen Hsi (b. 1906, Swatow, China – d. 1991, Singapore) is one of the first-generation artists of Singapore; he is regarded as one of the pioneers of Singapore’s eminent Nanyang art style. The artist is remembered most fondly for his painting of gibbons, a pair of which is featured behind Singapore’s fifty-dollar note. Chen began his art career at the age of 21, with his first exhibition in Swatow in 1929. The artist has also taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world. Chen moved to Singapore in 1948 and proceeded to teach at The Chinese High School and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). The artist was awarded the Public Service Star in 1964 and the Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Meritorious Service Medal) posthumously in 1992.

CHEONG Soo Pieng

CHEONG Soo Pieng (b. 1917, Amoy, China – d. 1983, Singapore) is a first-generation artist who strongly influenced the Nanyang art style in Singapore. His distinctive painting style blends Chinese, Hindu, and Modernist European influences, drawing inspiration from Singapore’s landscapes and his travels abroad. Though Cheong is best known for his stylised depictions of Balinese women, he has also experimented with various media including ceramics, sculpture, and installations. His works are in private collections, as well as the collections of the National University of Singapore and the National Gallery Singapore. In 1962, he was awarded the Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Meritorious Service Medal) for his contributions to the arts in Singapore. 

 
 

CHUA Mia Tee

CHUA Mia Tee (b. 1931, Swatow, China) graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 1952, studying under the guidance of Lim Hak Tai, then Director of NAFA, and artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Koh Tong Leong. Chua is known for his Realist paintings, as well as his works depicting the everyday life of Singapore and the nation’s vanish-ing landscapes. He is also a highly sought-after portrait artist who painted several prominent businessmen and politicians including that of Singapore’s first president Yusof bin Ishak (as seen on Singapore’s currency notes). In 2015, Chua was presented the Cultural Me-dallion for his significant contribution to Singapore art. 

GOG Sing Hooi

GOG Sing Hooi (b. 1933, Guangdong, China – d. 1994, Singapore) is one of Singapore's pioneering watercolourists and attended the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) after moving to Singapore in 1957. Gog started with caricature draw-ings and portraiture in his teens before venturing into the watercolour medium. As an ardent supporter of the watercolour art form, he co-founded the Singapore Watercolour Society in 1969, and was instrumental in the artistic development of young members as their teacher and mentor. Though the Singapore River was his favourite subject, he also painted other outdoor subjects such as Chinese temples and local street scenes of the 70s-80s, some of which no longer exist today. His works have been collected by several art patrons, including Singapore’s fifth president Ong Teng Cheong. 

 
 

LENG Joon Wong

LENG Joon Wong (b. 1947, China) is a second-generation watercolour artist who moved to Singapore when he was nine. He began painting as a teenager and subsequently enrolled in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. After graduating in 1964, Leng worked as a graphic designer for 13 years before becoming a full-time artist. He was a founding member of the Singapore Watercolour Society alongside prominent pioneer artists Gog Sing Hooi, Lim Cheng Hoe and Chen Chong Swee. Having travelled extensively and participated in numerous exhibitions around the world, his watercolour works can be found in multiple private, state and corporate collections, and have also been publicly exhibited in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Manila, Taiwan, Japan, Moscow, China and the United States. 

LIM Cheng Hoe

LIM Cheng Hoe (b. 1912, Xiamen, China – d. 1979, Singapore) moved to Singapore at the age of seven and studied at Raffles Institution from 1928-1932. From 1932-1935, he attended informal art lessons conducted by Richard Walker, Art Master of Government English Schools at the time. Lim’s watercolour paintings mainly consisted of natural landscapes, recreating old scenes of Singapore. His use of watercolours predominantly captured the relationship he had with a changing environment—from kampongs and fishing villages to the Singapore river, land reclamation and construction sites. In 1969, Lim co-founded the prestigious Singa-pore Watercolour Society with 12 other notable Singaporean artists, and was awarded the National Day Long Service Medal that same year. 

 
 

LIM Tze Peng

LIM Tze Peng (b. 1921, Singapore) is arguably Singapore’s most eminent living traditional artist at the moment, known for his Chinese ink paintings and renditions of post-independence Singapore. Self-taught, his works have echoed the changes that Singapore’s landmarks had undergone during its urban development over the years — with scenes of kampong life, the Singapore River and Chinatown. Raised in the kampongs of Singapore himself, Lim was driven to document what was left of the old Singapore before it disappeared, manifesting a sense of romanticised tradition. He was awarded the Special Prize at the Commonwealth Art Exhibition in England in 1977 and Singapore’s Cultural Medallion in 2003.  

LOY Chye Chuan

LOY Chye Chuan (b. 1940, Muar, Malaysia) is an established Singaporean watercolourist. A self-taught artist, he was encouraged to take up the medium at 19 years old when he met fellow watercolour painter Lim Cheng Hoe in 1959. He began learning how to paint by practising outdoors, but the external conditions started to affect his eyes. Hence, by using reference photographs instead, Loy started to consider the philosophy in his paintings, extending his creative spectrum and discovering new compositions. Loy saw the significance of an artist’s role as a historian as well, reflecting character in their artistic renditions of Singapore’s daily life. One of the founding members of the Singapore Watercolour Society, he also served as an Executive Committee Member of the Society of Chinese Artists, and an honorary member of the Victorian Watercolour Society in Australia. 

 
 

ONG Kim Seng

ONG Kim Seng (b. 1945, Singapore) is one of Singapore’s most celebrated watercolourists. A self-taught artist, Ong had experimented with charcoal and oil before discovering his interest and aptitude for watercolour painting. He mainly focused on still-life, architecture and natural landscapes, with an acute awareness of depicting light with watercolours to convey certain atmospheres. Ong is the first and only Singaporean to have won six awards from the distinguished American Watercolour Society, and was also elected president of the Singapore Watercolour Society from 1991-2001, continuing as its honorary president thereafter. His works are also in the collections of several museums, galleries, and residences of notable dignitaries, such Queen Elizabeth II of England, former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan and Singapore’s fifth president Ong Teng Cheong.

SEAH Kim Joo

SEAH Kim Joo (b. 1939, Singapore) is an established second-generation artist who worked with batik to portray scenes of Singapore. He attended the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1959. Contrary to the traditional methods of batik, Seah applied wax more liberally as a painting instrument, depicting original scenes of everyday life in Singapore instead of the typically vibrant and resist-dyed textile patterns. Adopting contemporary themes and processes with a traditional medium is also a direct expression of the regional Nanyang art style. In 1972, he was selected for the Commemorative Stamp Series by the Singapore government for his contribution to the art industry.

 
 

SIEW Hock Meng

SIEW Hock Meng (b. 1942, Johor, Malaysia) was educated at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts as a student of Cheong Soo Pieng. Upon graduating, Siew soon realised that he wanted to learn about the meaning of art rather than simply painting techniques. Thus, he began reading extensively about aesthetics and philosophy while working as a rubber tapper. With his esteemed Realist style of painting and drawing, Siew’s body of works is highly regarded for his allegorical paintings, pastel compositions and oil portraits. Siew’s observant approach could be seen in his thoughtful and contemplative renditions of Singapore’s landscapes, as well as other places he had visited in the region. Siew was awarded the National Day Medal for Fine Arts in 1971, and the award for Visual Arts Creation, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Alumni Association Singapore in 1981 and 1984.

TAN Choh Tee

TAN Choh Tee (b. 1942, Guangdong, China) attended the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts under the wing of Singapore’s pioneer artists, such as Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang and Georgette Chen. As a student, he was particularly influenced by Western modern art movements of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. After working as a book designer for more than a decade, he became a full-time artist in the early 1970s. A determined plein-air artist, Tan has also ventured beyond Singapore to depict scenes of various locations such as Bali, Taipei, Hong Kong, Paris and Suzhou. His works are known for his Realist-Impressionist style, with gestural brushworks that eventually evolved into his distinctive use of palette knives. In 2006, Tan received the Cultural Medallion for Visual Arts in Singapore, and was also awarded the Asia Visual Arts Award from the Korean Nation-al Cultural Research Organisation.

 
 

TAY Bak Koi

TAY Bak Koi (b. 1939, Singapore – d. 2005, Singapore) is a second-generation artist recognised for his stylised portrayals of water buffalos, fishing villages and kampong scenes. He studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 1957 under the guidance of Cheong Soo Pieng, but was soon dissatisfied with the rigid structure of school. During his three years in NAFA, Tay spent most of his time earning a living by selling crabs at a market stall while experimenting with oils and watercolours, eventually developing his distinctive style of integrating fantasy and reality in his works. Reducing complex forms into basic shapes, Tay also paid particular attention to colours and textures in his works. In 1970, Tay was commissioned by the Hilton Hotel in Singapore to produce 300 artworks, and his pieces have been widely collected by public corporations and private collectors alike. 

TONG Chin Sye

TONG Chin Sye (b. 1939, Singapore) is a significant second-generation Singaporean artist trained in both Western and Chinese art. Graduated from the now-de-funct Singapore Academy of Fine Arts in 1960, Tong is currently a full-time artist and has taught Western Art as a part-time lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. His versatile body of works includes a mix of different media ranging from acrylics, watercolour, oil to Chinese ink. Tong’s landscape paintings are known to depict a mix of various cities across Asia, Europe and Latin America, bringing viewers through the curious and reflective lens of a traveller who explores the everyday customs of other people. In 1987, Tong received the first prize in the Port of Singapore Authority Open Art Competition and subsequently the Tan Tsze Chor Art Award in 1992. He was also invited to represent Singapore at the Flemish Watercolour Days that was held at Zaventen, Belgium in 1988.

 
 

Thomas YEO

Thomas YEO (b. 1936, Singapore) is a renowned second-generation artist in Singapore. He studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singa-pore before moving on to the Chelsea School of Art and Hammersmith College of Art and Building in London. Yeo primarily worked with gouache, oils and acrylics; his early works were of surrealist natural environments, after which he developed a more abstract style of painting. Prioritising colour over subject matter, Yeo began to paint abstractions of landscapes that reflected states of mind. An avid supporter of local and regional art, Yeo was the president of the Modern Art Society, Singapore (1994-1999) and chairman of the Shell Discovery Art awards (1986-2002). In 1984, he received the UOB Painting of the Year award and the Cultural Medallion for his contributions to Singapore’s art scene.

YONG Mun Sen

YONG Mun Sen (b. 1896, Sarawak, Malaysia – d. 1962, Penang, Malaysia) has long been recognised as one of Malaysia’s pioneer painters. His watercolour paintings usually reflect landscapes and historical depictions of British Malaya, ranging from tropical and farming scenes to local architecture. Relocating to Penang permanently after residing in Singapore for two years, Yong opened a photographic studio, where regular gatherings were held between artists active in Penang. They became the Penang Chinese Art Club (1935), where Yong served as the vice-president. Most notably, in 1938, Yong was also one of the founders of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, alongside its founding principal Lim Hak Tai.