Opening - Cheong Soo Pieng @ iPreciations

iPRECIATION is holding a small exhibition of works by Singapore pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng (b. 1917- 1983) until April 2.  One of the most prominent Nanyang artists, Cheong made significant contributions to the local art scene but is better known for portaits with elongated limbs and pastoral scenes hat are sought after by collectors at auctions.

Born in China’s Fujian province, he studied at the Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts from 1933 to 1935, and continued his artistic training at the Xin Hua Art Academy in Shanghai. He moved to Singapore in 1946, and was invited by the principal of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), Lim Hak Tai to teach there. In 1952 he travelled to Bali with three other artists - Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi and Liu Kang - where they remained for 5 months The trip deeply influenced the way he, and the other artists portrayed Southeast Asia and resulted in their development of what was eventually called the Nanyang Style of painting. It was considered a fusion of Eastern philosophy with Western aesthetics, style and composition.

Cheong’s work focused on scenes of the “everyday,” but went beyond depicting ordinary people engaged in common activities, like mending fishing nets or watching puppet shows.  

In 1961, he embarked on a 2-year tour to Europe, to familiarize himself with the developing contemporary art movement. There
broke away from traditional forms of presentation and turned toward abstraction. He also monochromatic for a while, purging all the colors.

A trip to Guilin, China, in 1979 resulted in a return to traditional ink painting, but within a frame format, instead of a scroll one. Early on, in the 1950s, the artist had challenged the pictorial convention of the hanging scroll format, which emphasizes a space continuum between the foreground, middle ground and background. He used the near and far banks as horizontal axes to frame the picture, with the middle ground holding the composition together using mainly grid-like lines, Mr. Seng said.

His works have been categorised into different stages of experimentation; beginning with the oil in impasto effects from 1948 to 1959, Chinese ink on rice paper from 1960 to 1963, oil with new effects from 1963 to 1968, abstraction from 1968 to 1970, mixed media sculptures and porcelain work from 1970 to 1972, abstraction continued from 1972- 1979, oil with new effects from 1975- 1983, Chinese ink with new effects in 1979, painting on tiles and porcelain from 1982- 1983, and Chinese traditional medium on cotton in 1983. The exhibition present a selection of 33 paintings, dated from 1960 to 1982. If you want to read more about this artist, I wrote this story in the
IHT last year.