SINGAPORE: INK EXPRESSIONS
Contemporary expressions in ink painting by Singaporean artists can be traced back to the foundation in traditional Chinese painting that the first generation of migrant artists possessed. Artists like Fan Chang Tien, Tan Kian Por, Cheong Soo Pieng, and Chen Wen Hsi passed on their training in the Classical rules of Chinese painting, but also encouraged a deeper understanding of the essential philosophies tied to the Chinese aesthetic. This would allow for the transposition of fundamentals such as harmony of colour, balance of composition, use of negative space, and a sensitivity towards the tonal qualities of ink across mediums and styles in order to best capture the melting pot of social and cultural specificity of the Southeast Asian region.
From the refined technique of the realist gongbi style of Lee Hock Moh (Lot 618), to the expressionist xieyi style of Chua Ek Kay’s earlier works (Lot 615-617), Christie’s is delighted to present a selection of works from artists whose works convey the range and diversity within this category of Singapore’s art history.
The primacy of black ink and the deft surety of applying ink to paper is displayed to different effect across the works of Tan Swie Hian, Chua Ek Kay, and for the first time at auction, Zhuang Shengtao (Lot 621). Chua’s works employ a great use of the negative space of the paper to either define borders or erase them, and the compositions of Reflections of a Lotus Pond (Lot 616) echoes that of Tan Swie Hian’s Orchid Garden (Lot 614) for its graduating density and sparseness. The opaque application of Zhuang Shengtao’s ink that fills the space of the paper invites us to appreciate the depth and complexity that can be achieved through an understanding of the versatility of ink.
The works from Tan Oe Pang (Lot 619) and Hong Zhu An (Lot 620) provide different approaches to exploring the interaction between ink and colour. The dark emerald of Hong’s work invites immersion in the same way as Zhuang’s thick ink, while colour in Tan Oe Pang’s work serves to elevate drama and energy within the composition.
A consideration of these artists that persisted in the negotiation and renegotiation of the basic tenets of ink painting reveals a varied and tangential, rather than linear, development of artistic expression through the medium of ink and paper that is unique to the specific context of Singapore and Southeast Asia.