(Singaporean, 1911-2005)
Boat Quay, Singapore
signed in Chinese and dated '1983' (lower left)
oil on board
60 x 80 cm. (23 5/8 x 31 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1983
Acquired directly from the artist
Private Collection, Singapore

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Lot Essay

Like his contemporaries, the Nanyang artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Chen Wen Hsi, Liu Kang's paintings of sights and scenes he observed on his travels became the core of his most recognizable Nanyang oeuvre.

Liu Kang played a formative role in the development of the Nanyang style that made a vernacular of the aesthetics of the school of Paris and traditional Chinese easel painting when he began to assimilate and paint local subjects in the Southeast Asian region. Liu Kang first came to Singapore in 1942 but it was not until 1952 that he, together with Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng, made a trip to Bali in Indonesia where the artists' search of a new artistic language took coherent form in the foregrounding of particular Southeast Asian subjects in their paintings.

Boat Quay, Singapore (Lot 237) represents Liu Kang's sentimentality and appreciation for the unique landscape of Singapore, which by 1983, was firmly considered by him as home. Employing his characteristic thick black lines outlines, Liu Kang captures Boat Quay in a moment of calm. By the 1980s, Boat Quay had transformed from a bustling centre for traders and merchants, and had become an icon for the developing cityscape along the river. The traditional shophouses would soon be supported by a background of high-rise commercial buildings, and Liu Kang immortalizes Boat Quay at a moment of historical transition between tradition and modernity.

Travelling across the region of Southeast, and greater Asia, Liu Kang tirelessly captured the scenes from his travels with his lively palette. Mountain View, Nepal (Lot 238), comes from one of his journeys to the scenic Nepalese countryside. Like many other Liu Kang landscape works, the figures are kept small and indistinct so as not to distract visual attention from the overall scene. Apart from the strength and dynamism of the visuals and colour palette, Liu Kang's deliberate brushwork imparts a rhythmic texture to the pictorial plane.

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