He has painted presidents and pedestrians, chief justices and lecture rooms, a few of the most iconic scenes of Singapore historical past and intimate portraits of his family.
Now, for the primary time, greater than 300 works by Cultural Medallion recipient Chua Mia Tee might be gathered collectively within the pages of an artwork e book, essentially the most complete on the 87-year-old’s oeuvre thus far.
The Art Of Chua Mia Tee: A Portrait Of A Life’s Work might be launched immediately at National Gallery Singapore by President Halimah Yacob.
Chua, thought-about one in all Singapore’s foremost realist painters, is greatest recognized for nationally vital works equivalent to Epic Poem Of Malaya (1955) and National Language Class (1959).
But he was additionally a prolific portraitist. He painted six Singapore presidents and acquired to know a few of them effectively. Mr Ong Teng Cheong would have him over for a cup of espresso, whereas Mr S R Nathan would go to for lunch. His portrait of Singapore’s first president Yusof Ishak seems on forex notes. He painted ministers, businessmen, teachers and extra.
“Painting people is the hardest,” says Chua in Mandarin. He painted the broad workings of nation-building – Parliament in session, the rise of infrastructure within the cityscape – but additionally the individuals carried alongside in its currents: employees breaking for lunch in a canteen or vanishing trades such because the transportable cinema of the 1970s.
“It’s a good history lesson,” says his daughter Dr Chua Yang, an obstetrician and gynaecologist. “His portraits are a who’s who of Singapore’s politics and economy, but he didn’t just paint the rich and famous, he also painted the man on the street.”
It took Dr Chua, 50, and a staff 5 years to assemble the e book. Many works have been exhausting to realize entry to as they have been within the Istana or in personal collections, some as far afield as Macau.
Chua himself had not seen most of those work for years, having solely the photographs he had taken on his digicam, and later smartphone, to recollect them by. “To see them all again, and in such high-quality images, makes me very happy,” he says.
In a day and age when anybody can snap a photograph on his cellphone, Chua maintains that the artwork of realism continues to be related. “Any one photo may have flaws. They don’t always capture the gestures and the essence of the person.”
When portray crowd items, equivalent to his Parliament works, he would take a number of photographs and sketches, then mix and distil them onto the canvas. His work, he says, should comply with the three precepts of zhen, shan, mei (Mandarin for reality, goodness, magnificence).
He was born in Shantou, China, and got here to Singapore when he was six years previous along with his household, fleeing the second Sino-Japanese War.
After graduating from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, he labored at an promoting company and later as an illustrator earlier than he was in a position to take up the comb full-time in 1974. In 2015, he acquired the Cultural Medallion, Singapore’s highest creative accolade.
Today, he not accepts portrait commissions or works the lengthy hours he used to. “It’s a lot of pressure,” he says. “I want to paint what I like.”
Palpable all through the e book is the presence of his late spouse Lee Boon Ngan, who died final yr. The couple, says their daughter, have been inseparable for greater than 65 years.
Lee was an achieved artist recognized for her oil work of flowers. The e book’s cowl options Chua’s well-known 1957 portrait of her as a schoolgirl. On its again is the one portrait he ever made from the 2 of them collectively, painted after she died and dated the day of her passing.
“We’re very sad she never got to see the finished product (of the book),” says Dr Chua, as her father’s eyes flip to this portrait, now displayed in the home off Dunearn Road the place he and Lee lived.
Besides Dr Chua, they have a son, Professor Chua Hong, who is dean on the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong, and two grandchildren. Their granddaughter Ernestine has adopted of their footsteps as an artist. Lovingly rendered portraits of all of them seem within the e book.
• The Art Of Chua Mia Tee: A Portrait Of A Life’s Work ($69.55) might be out there from Books Kinokuniya from subsequent Saturday.