Lim Tze Peng, Sunset at the Singapore River, Ink and Pigment on Paper Singapore is a cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures, and its art scene reflects its diversity with a multitude of artists from all over the world exhibited in local galleries. Often, their works take us on exciting long-haul journeys across the globe to places we have never seen and have only dreamt of visiting. Amidst the abundance of destinations and sources of inspiration, it is sometimes easy to overlook our very own Singapore, its picturesque scenes, unique cultural heritage and historical transformation. However, for some of our local and local-based artists, Singapore is the most significant source of inspiration and their fondest subject of depiction. Take a trip down memory lane to see how Singapore has transformed through the decades in this collection of city scenes.
We invite you to rediscover Singapore through the eyes of some of the most celebrated Singaporean and Singapore-based artists.
Lim Tze Peng
Lim Tze Peng, Singapore River (Four Boats), Ink on Paper
A true artistic legend, turning 100 years old later this year, Lim Tze Peng is one of the greatest masters of city landscapes and calligraphy painting in Singapore. His artistic career spans over six decades, in which Mr. Lim has continuously worked to depict the Singapore of his memories, creating a legacy for the generations ahead. His nostalgic scenes of early post-independence Singapore invite us to reminisce over the passing of time and remind us of the vast changes and rapid development of the island. Depicting his favorite views of Chinatown and the Singapore river, with their ordinary inhabitants going about their daily life, Lim Tze Peng commemorates the not-so-distant past, grounding us to our roots. His art tells stories and charms the viewer with its unmediated vibrancy.
Lim Tze Peng, Old Singapore Scene, Ink on Paper
Whether his scenes of Singapore or his ink paintings, Lim Tze Peng’s works have a recognizable touch, evidence of his mastery achieved through decades of practice and love for his art.
Ong Kim Seng
Ong Kim Seng, MICA Building, Water Colour on Paper
Another beloved Singaporean artist, Ong Kim Seng, is celebrated for his cityscapes of Singapore. Often executed en plein air - outdoors, on the spot - his watercolour paintings document the change of the architectural landscape in the city. Through his exquisite watercolours, Ong Kim Seng reconstructs the memory of a changing Singapore, solidifying his nostalgia in soft, pastel hues and intricate lights and shadows. Colors are an especially powerful tool, which Ong Kim Seng uses to merge old and new in the complex scene of a constantly changing city. In his paintings, both the old and the new feature prominently, reminding us that Singapore has become the city that we know because of its past, and that though transformation is inevitable, it is not necessarily destructive.
Ong Kim Seng, Tanjong Pagar Road, Water Colour on Paper
What is so striking and enchanting in Ong Kim Seng’s works is precisely the harmony between different elements, highlighted by soft light and subsided colors, conveying a sense of calm and tranquility to the viewer.
Ong Kim Seng, Kampong Glam, Water Colour on Paper
Hong Sek Chern
Hong Sek Chern, Landscape Along Little India, Ink on Paper
In her multi-point perspective landscapes, Singaporean artist Hong Sek Chern blends art with architecture. Contrary to other artists who paint scenes of old Singapore, her cityscapes focus precisely on the new architectural developments, depicting high-rise buildings towering over one another in an intricate web of city forms.
Hong Sek Chern, Edgedale Plains to Punggol Centre, Ink on Paper
Hong Sek Chern’s ink paintings have a contemporary feel and seem almost abstract, yet are grounded in concrete places, often depicting specific buildings or city views.
Chin Chun Wah
Chin Chun Wah, Back Lane, Singapore, Water Colour on Paper
One of the founders of the Singapore Watercolour Society in the late 1960s, Chin Chun Wah’s career journey took several unexpected turns. After graduating from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, he commenced his artistic career, drawing scenes of Singapore in watercolour and sketches in ink, but ultimately pursued a different career direction. More than two decades later, upon retirement, Chin Chun Wah rediscovered his passion for painting and once again launched himself into watercolour cityscapes and island scenes.
Chin Chun Wah, Bicycle Rental Kiosks at Pulau Ubin, Water Colour on Paper
More recently, Chin Chun Wah’s vibrant island scenes of modern Singapore depict the intricacies of daily life on the island. Through the viewpoint of the artist, viewers can bask in the sunny views and experience the sometimes chaotic, yet always charming life in the city.
Zhu Hong, National Museum of Singapore, Oil on Canvas
Chinese-born artist Zhu Hong creates vibrant, expressive depictions of Singapore, where buildings seem to dance to the city rhythm, unbounded by the constraints of ordinary perspective. Coming from a background in architecture and interior design, Zhu Hong, who has been based in Singapore since 1997, understands the intricacies of buildings and depicts them as living beings. His irregular forms and dancing vertical lines are reminiscent of the Expressionist style, and though his buildings rarely seem to stand upright, there is a sense of balance in his works that makes the viewer at ease.
Zhu Hong, Chinatown, Oil on Canvas
Though Zhu Hong’s views of Singapore are not what we are used to seeing with our own eyes, in a way they are an even more truthful representation of city life, because they abide by the rules of its inner pulse and rhythm.
As seen through the eyes of our local artists, Singapore has many sides, and each of these depictions adds another layer to its complex character. Regardless of their reference point, technique or medium of choice, all of these artists share a fascination with the city and a desire to render its scenes immortal.