Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where Is My Energy ?

Many people who have seen my earlier paintings (done between 1987 – 1990) tell me that those paintings have more power and full of energy, compared to later works. The energy seems to be missing now, they say,…

Whenever I hear this, I always tell myself not to worry about my “missing” energy, because that is “unhealthy” energy! In the earlier days, my heart was full of anger, frustration and hatred. As I was more quiet among the artists’ group, I had no any other outlet to help release my feelings and emotions. So in the end, all my inner feelings were completely transferred to the canvas! Also, I was mainly using big brushes to create a lot of heavy strokes and movement on my paintings… eventually, my paintings always turned up very violent…

Some of my friends prefer my earlier painting style, even suggesting that I do my earlier painting style again…I don’t know, but can they accept that a person can grow? Or will change? Do they know that the moment when my “energy” is missing, another element replaces the energy? Can you see it? If you can’t see it, never mind, I can see it. Ha!ha!

Amen, thank you, Papa God.

' Fish Revenge ' Acrylic On Paper 54.5cm x 73.5cm 1988

Sunday, December 10, 2006


( Please note that the following drawings look yellowish due to indoor lighting; the background colour is actually white. )

Tower of Babel

In the Old Testament of the Bible, ambitious men tried to build the great and tall Tower of Babel to prove that they could be as great as God. When God saw what they did was out of prideful intentions, He began to confuse their languages so that they could not communicate with one another, thus had to stop building the tower further, and were scattered over the face of the whole world.

Inspired by this story, I illustrate a tower which also looks like a well. Below the tower, there is a man’s face without eyes (blind) – representing arrogant mankind who do not know where they should stand in God’s eyes. On the other hand, I draw a frog on top of the tower/inside the well, with eyes that belong to the man below. This is to indicate that arrogance may come with short-sightedness also, as represented by the frog in the well…

Tower of Babel, 1999; Ink on paper ( Private collection )

Well-Frog Club

I believe not many people in this world want to become “well-frogs” (referring to people who live in their own worlds, having limited visions). However, sometimes they just cannot help it, because everybody and everything seem to be moving too fast…

In my illustration, you can see many people trying to climb as high as they can, as fast as they can… For those who are too slow or just not fast enough, they risk possibility of being caught/dragged down by the big frog in the well, and perhaps ending up as residents of the “well-frog club”.

Well-Frog Club, 1999; Ink on paper ( Private collection )


This picture shows people struggling out of the symbolic well-frog’s stomach and racing forward triumphantly, with fingers pointing to heaven. (in contrast, people trapped in the well frog would refer to those who have yet to open their eyes/hearts to God’s love and His salvation.)

From my past life experiences, I felt very much like those trapped in the well-frog whilst I was still a non-believer. I seemed ignorant of many things, and when I got into trouble sometimes, I could not find a good way out. Feeling hopeless and insecure, I had even attempted to finish my own life...

But God is good. He found me, and gave me His perfect peace when I received Him as my personal savior. He also leads me through every challenge in life by His wisdom and grace. Ever since, my life has been changed, and my eyes opened to Him and His wonderful works…

Reborn, 2004; Ink on paper ( Private collection )

Untitled, 2005; Ink and acrylic on paper

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Childhood Photo

This photo was taken when I was only seven or eight years old, studying at Chong Hwa Girls' Primary School then... Yes, a girls' school! I was enrolled to this school (as were my elder brothers and cousins), because it also accepted boys, making up around 30% of the school's population.

Until now, I can still remember one of my school teachers always compared my academic results to my elder brothers’. I found the subject - English - very hard to learn, and since it was the only subject in English (being in a Chinese school), I eventually gave it up... However, I also cannot forget most of my school teachers loved to see my drawing and colouring works. They always commented that I had great talent in Art, and this really encouraged me a lot.

Another deep impression I have of my childhood school days - was being the first to wear spectacles in class! I hated to put them on during every lesson, because they made me look very different, and I did not like my outlook at all… In spite of this, I found that many of my "girl friends" liked talking to me more than to other boys. I often wondered why, perhaps was due to my introvert personality then (as compared to other boys who were quite rough) and having cute big eyes?

Lastly, I would like to mention that this photo is cropped from a group photo taken with my brothers, living at Toa Payoh last time (only my second elder brother is shown behind me). Amongst my brothers, I was also the most quiet one then. Yes, then, not now… I would say I am much more outspoken now after all these years, and of course with the convenience of blog, I have much to share…

Monday, November 20, 2006

Drawings Of My Grandmother

The first four drawings on my grandmother are done few years later than the last two drawings. I can tell the difference because the drawing lines in the first set look more relaxed and free, while lines in the second set are more restrictive, making the drawings seem hard to “breathe”.

I have come to realize that sometimes, the improvement in drawing and painting skills may not necessary be due to how hardworking or how much effort the artist puts in. For my case, it is very much about my life experiences and how much I have grown from the trials of life. The more I experience, the more I grow, which broadens my perception of things, leading to a more “let-go” attitude towards life. This is eventually reflected in executing my works more freely, relaxed and comfortable…

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Making of "Vibrant Youth" (Part 2)

At this stage, the buildings had had their first coating, but still needed a lot of details...

All the buildings were painted with reference to photos taken from URA, as well as going to their actual sites to make more observations. It had been a time-consuming yet rewarding journey...
The large figure at the bottom right was modelled after my second sister-in-law... Figures of different scales were distributed through out the painting, and much smaller ones in the distant, in order to create a deeper sense of space...

The man in yellow shirt, at the bottom of painting, was at first facing downwards; but I had changed it to facing upwards, to exhibit more liveliness. The model's face was actually painted according to my younger brother's features.

In the process of painting the buildings, I came to a greater appreciation of the architects' painstaking efforts and their wonderful designs... Each building was different and unique, indeed a pleasurable painting experience for me!

Finally, the painting was completed after four months. It is now being displayed at the new Library beside Bras Basah Complex, 10th level.

The sky-flyers represent our vibrant youth soaring confidently and courageously in the showers of light, beaming with hope and possibilities. As they are the future pillars of Singapore, they are open to endless opportunities laid before them. Each individual is encouraged to fulfil his dreams and potential in every way, and continue to contribute to the stability and prosperity of our young nation. The buildings in the vast green landscape are thus significant testimonies of our achievements. Whether living, working or playing, we abound in creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

The artwork aims at shaping the vibrant image of our youth who champion personal development, value teamwork and support, and possess an indefatigably positive outlook in life.

The Making of "Vibrant Youth" (Part 1)

I started with stretching the canvas (6ftx12ft), followed by drawing in the composition.

Using Rembrandt oil paints, I began painting the figure most appealing to me. The model was actually my brother-in-Christ.

This shows a figure-study of a girl.

I filled in bright red for her dress... She was actually my niece... This pose was taken when she was lying on the sofa.

Using Manganese Blue Phthalo mixed with Titanium White for the sky...I felt bright and uplifted almost instantly.

Next, I continued painting my nephew on the left; His flying pose reminded one of Superman.

The sky had been painted in a layer of blue oil paint...followed by adding of clouds...

The buildings in the background were also filled with a coat of underpainting...the most challenging part had been to make sure the buildings were drawn in relation to the two-point perspective technique. I put in a lot of effort to get them right.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thank you, Doctor Yong!

For over a decade, I used to live in Yishun with my mother, grandmother and two brothers, and till recently have frequented a clinic downstairs, owned by my family doctor-Doctor Yong. He is not only a good doctor, but has also been an excellent counsellor and friend to me all these years. He always encourages me whenever I feel troubled, giving me advice on how to overcome obstacles in life...
Even though I got married and moved to the west in 2002, I still visit Doctor Yong when I am unwell, and get medicine from him. However, recently I have decided to try consulting another doctor nearby, as it has been quite time-consuming to travel between the west and Yishun. This new doctor's treatment has been satisfactory so far... Nevertheless, I would like to express my gratitude to Doctor Yong for his care all these years, and hope that he may get to see this blogpost dedicated to him one day...
"Thank you, Doctor Yong!"

Monday, August 28, 2006

My First Solo Painting Show - "Worldly People", 1996

As some viewers have expressed their interest to see more of my works in this blog, I will continue to select suitable past and present works, and related writeups to share with you all. Please feel free to share your comments also... Thank you for your support!

( Extracts from " WORLDLY PEOPLE "exhibition writeup,1996 )

"Don't Worry...",1995.acrylic on canvas(private collection)

The creative source of this series goes back to my personal fascination with old black~and~white photographs. Beginning 1995, I have had an unutterable feeling towards black~and~white photographs. If forced to express this feeling in words, I can only say that their antiquity holds me spellbound( because those black~and~white photographs which first sparked my interest were some ancient family photographs ). Their purity and simplicity appeal to me deeply.

"New Mother & Child",1996.acrylic on canvas(private collection)

Maybe it's because I've been a downtown kid most of my life, having been born and lived my formative years in the town area. The whole city centre is one multi-coloured landscape: all kinds of shops, malls, fast-food restaurants, cinemas, of all varieties. They are radiant and spectacular and totally bedazzling. My long-term encounter with these attempts to catch the eyes has caused me to develop a tiredness and an averse reaction towards loud, gaudy, bright and colourful things.

I just think that ( some ) people's lives now are getting more complicated, and yet more superficial. This makes me welcome the sight of the basic and essential black~and~white photograph with rich emotion. This is, perhaps, a retrogressive move on my part; I know it is a response to ( their ) unrelenting pursuit of material wealth, a kind of reactionary behaviour. I always wonder why we cannot live more simply! What's wrong with being simple?

"The Tree",1996.acrylic on canvas(private collection)

Question of Aesthetics:
The origination of this series required me to relegate aesthetics to a subordinate position, putting the content and message above all else. The reason is that investing too much energy into questions of aesthetics ~~ such as composition and colour effects ~ may result in a product that, in the final analysis, attracts the viewer's mental resources to an examination of the technique and skill manifest in the work, at the expense of its content. In such a circumstance, my objective would not have been met.

So if I want the messages in my paintings to be smoothly transmitted, I must first achieve the aim of pushing aside aesthetics.

When I was in the process of creating each work, I would be constantly on the lookout: would it be too perfect in its execution and portrayal? I was very careful and attentive about not letting my own art be drawn too beautifully. Consequently, the viewer will eventually discover that the technique in my paintings is poor. This... preferred method of expression, is intentional. It is partly in this sense that I consider my work complete!

"New Vampire",1996.acrylic on canvas(courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)

Creation of Mood with Black and white:
One discovery that I made, upon observing the reactions of friends whom I invited to my studio on several different occasions to view my work, was that using black~and~white creates a serious, almost tense, atmosphere. No matter how jovial and beaming they were before they stepped in, I could sense their attitudes change automatically the minute they stood facing my paintings. Sometimes even the air in the surroundings is affected by this gravity in a tangible way.

But from my own viewpoint, I like this kind of seriousness because it makes it conducive for the audience's contemplation of moral values, reinforcing the importance of my central theme.

"Woman",1996.acrylic on canvas

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Moment Worth Remembering

I recalled casually browsing through some photos by my bedside cabinet on one recent morning, not long upon awakening. I soon came across a photo taken in the end of year 1991. In the photo, I was seen in the midst of baptism held on the rooftop balcony of a commercial building. (My previous church used to rent some rooms for service and Sunday school back then.)

There I was – half-immersed in a big water tank whilst attentively following Pastor Wee in prayer prior to the baptism. I can still remember that moment: my heart was so full of gratitude to God who had found me and saved me, and who had promised to be the Lord of my life. I was only 24 years old then, just started out to make a living…

As I was writing this article, my wife (much younger than me) was watching TV on the sofa. I curiously asked her what she was doing in year-end 1991, and she replied, “I was only studying in JC then.” We had a good laugh…

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sky Flyers 2

 "Sky Flyers 2", Oil On Canvas, Year:2004(Private Collection)

Sky Flyers 1

 "Sky Flyers 1", Oil On Canvas, Year:2004(Private Collection)

A Time of Adversity

"A Time Of Adversity", Oil On Canvas, Year:2004(Private Collection)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pray No Fear

" For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. " ( Romans 8:15, KJV )

Love Grows

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In Love 2

Colourful Life


"Transformation", Oil On Canvas, Year:2003(Private Collection)

" ..., Death is swallowed up in victory. " ( 1 Corinthians 15:54 , KJV )

All In One

"All In One", Oil On Canvas, Year:2004(Private Collection)

Monday, July 24, 2006


" But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. " ( Romans 5:8 , KJV )

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Fun of Portrait-Painting (Part 5)

The Fun of Portrait-Painting (Part 4)

This is a close-up of portrait-painting of Amos, my brother-in-Christ. He is my favourite model, who has a good, angular body form that shows masculinity. I often use him in my artworks, and enjoy fellowshipping with him during the painting sessions. In each session, he would pose for me for approximately three hours (of course taking breaks in between), and we would exchange thoughts about life, and our walk of faith with God.

I think this is another fun part of portrait-painting, where I can build relationships with other people, to know more about the person I am painting – about their spiritual growth, their job challenges, their struggles in life, their relationships with loved ones… This sharing process is also helpful, as maybe my painting would gradually show more of their personality…

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Fun of Portrait-Painting (Part 3)

This painting “In Thee” took me nine hours to finish. The model, Wayne, came to my house for three Saturdays, each time posing for three hours. My concept was to have him portrayed in a rich man image, so I attempted to make him presentable by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, an expensive-looking watch, the tie that I wore at my wedding, and holding a bottle of wine. Wayne was then asked to sit on the sofa, with a golden-frame painting as backdrop…
The whole process of preparing a ‘glamour’ setting required some imagination, as I came from a humble family background: my father used to be a taxi-driver, later became a Chinese typesetter (which is now considered an outdated profession when computer came about), whilst my mum was a secretary, with two elder and one younger brothers. We managed to get by with whatever we had then…
On the contrary, this painting actually portrays a seemingly successful man resting on the sofa after work, browsing through bills and letters, and ignoring the tract entitled “In Thee”. The wine in his hand hints of pleasure, or rather an outlet of drowning sorrows or problems. Everyone faces struggles and challenges in life, and many choose to deal with them in their own ways. The tract suggests of dealing in God’s way, where all answers concerning life are found “In Thee”, and where His yoke is easy, His burden is light...
When this work was made, Wayne (my brother-in-Christ) had just started working. Upon its completion, he commented that the tummy area which I had painted looked quite flat, though I thought otherwise… Nevertheless, this work is very important to me, because I think it has a lot of “God’s touches” which I simply cannot grow tired of looking. For example: the facial expression, the colours and brushstrokes, the treatment on the hand holding the letter, the overall composition – all amazed me, and I thought if not for God, I would not have done it so beautifully, thank God! It gives me great pleasure and enjoyment to look at this painting, which is now hanging in my living room…

The Fun of Portrait-Painting (Part 2)

“My Niece” was done when she (Germaine) was only four years old. Painting her was a real challenge and a test on my concentration. Being young and energetic (unlike her brother, Daryl who was more quiet), she could hardly sit still! Within the one-hour painting session, she had made at least seven to eight different poses, as if assuming I could paint her every pose within a few minutes…This work was actually a combination of two poses captured – one pose of Germaine’s hands raised, with one hand playing with her hair; and another pose of her lips clinging onto the milk bottle…
Another fun part of doing this painting was my attempt to portray Germaine’s face like those that appear in the Chinese New Year paintings – having rosy cheeks and chubby, round forms…
Children are known to imitate adults very well. Sure enough, Germaine was influenced by me to start doing painting occasionally during my two years' stay at their house. She enjoyed mixing colours on the palette which surprisingly resembled those often used by me - colours with a greyish touch! I had even observed that the way she handled a pencil or a brush was similar to my gestures too, how amusing and astonishing to realize that I actually painted like that myself - seeing Germaine like my mirror-image...

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Fun of Portrait-Painting (Part 1)

“ My Nephew” was painted in year 2000, when he (Daryl) was only six years old then. What attracted me to paint him - was his adorable face and his black-and-white shirt that stood out well from the background.
Painting children is not easy, as they tend to move a lot. So this painting was also based largely on memory, and I even had to make some sacrifice to compromise with my nephew. For example: he would ask me to allow him to paint on my work, as a condition to carry on posing for me! Leaving me with no choice, I just had to oblige… Eventually, I decided to leave Daryl’s brushstrokes on my artwork (as seen on the grey part of the shirt). All that while, his mum and sister (Germaine) had been watching us in great amusement…
Nevertheless, I managed to complete this painting in an hour’s time. During my two years’ stay at my brother’s house, I had built up a strong bond with Daryl, through preparing milk for him, bathing him, fetching him to and from school... Watching him grow day by day also gave me a sense of hope. His innocence and gentle character had indeed brought me great joy, warmth and comfort during my personal trying times...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Time, Space and People

I have always been amazed by how people get or not get to meet at a certain time, in a particular space… Somehow, though coincidental each encounter may seem, I believe meeting people at the right time, right place do make wonders… This was especially so when I met my wife in year 2000, when we were individually drawn by God to join a Christian artists support group, and eventually put up our first Christian group show – ‘Feed the Birds’. We got along well, and within two years, we were married by the grace of God! That was fast, though… Hee…

One year, we paid our Chinese New Year visit to her very first and respected art teacher, Mr Yap. In the conversation, I was surprised to find out that Mr Yap was actually a very close buddy of my first-regarded art teacher - Mr Ang. How coincidental! They were classmates in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, yet had later taught me and my wife in separate time and space… This is amazing!

Drawing 1: Hide & Seek

The third incident is interesting: Many years back before I got to know my wife, I once held a combined exhibition with a junior college teacher, also a practising artist. Little did I realize that she would later to be my wife’s teacher in the following year! On the school noticeboard, my wife in her teens, had caught a glimpse of my name on the outdated exhibition poster, only finding my name familiar as one who was involved in the Artist Village. That was all she knew about me then…until we met in person after many years…

Around the same time in 1990-91, whilst I was attending another church, I came to know a teenage girl, ‘Fang’, seven years younger than me… We had fellowship on and off in church and camps, and I treated her like a young sister. After I left the church in 1996, I only keep in touch with a few church friends (‘Fang’ was not among them), and my wife has also met some of them. Recently, through a conversation with my previous church friend, my wife found out that ‘Fang’ was actually her primary school classmate! We were marvelled once again by this discovery!

Drawing 2: Friendship

In year 2002, I got to know a school teacher - Mr Ling. He is a nice man and we do a lot of sharing since. To me, at that time, I thought of Mr Ling as a completely new friend. A few months later, I discovered that many of my friends have known him many years before me. Not only that, about one year later, I also realized that he was also my boss’ classmate in NUS back then… What a small world!

During my childhood days, I lived in Toa Payoh Lorong 4. That area had five badminton courts, and I always played badminton with my two brothers and friends. Through a friend, I came to know a 55+ year-old man whom many people called him ‘Lao Zhang’. He was a very good badminton player, and could win many 20+ year-old young players! I remember always making fun of and showing monkey faces to him whenever I lost to him in the game. These silly things kept going on until my father passed away (died in cancer). I was then only a secondary-two boy... During the three-day funeral, I was surprised to see ‘Lao Zhang’ attending one night. I soon found out from my relative that ‘Lao Zhang’ was our distant relative…! He too, was also surprised at our connection...

Drawing 3: The Moment...

The most recent encounter was about my church care-group praying for my wife’s cousin who was unwell, whilst a care-group member, Doreen, was at her workplace also helping her colleague pray for her husband who was sick… This lasted for at least a few months before we realized we were all praying for the same person…! All along, we only knew that my wife’s cousin and his wife had been sitting with her colleagues during service, and Doreen only knew her colleague’s husband was first brought to church by his cousin...

After seeing the above cases, I believe many people have similar experiences as me. Many times when these things happen, I often wonder, "Why? Why didn’t I know this or that person earlier? Or why can’t they know me earlier as well?"

Perhaps only God knows when and where to let two persons meet is the right time. One possible reason could be that he or her may need a little bit more time to grow and mature in character, or else he or she may destroy the friendship… There are of course many other factors involved, only God knows. Do you agree?

Drawing 4: Fellowship

Drawing 1: “Hide and Seek”
The two men in the middle are strolling through either door openings, as if looking for something. The man at bottom is standing in front of a wall that symbolizes a dead end… under this circumstance, he chose to seek help from above (the heaven) for answer. The man on the top left looks as if hiding away from many people due to shame or having inferiority complex. So eventually many people may not have chance to get to know him.

Drawing 2: “Friendship”
The man on the left bottom of the picture has just fallen over while the man on the other side has missed meeting him, though the window put in between them is big… Another man in the middle is as if trying to hide away from people that he knows and even strangers. Two men on the right get to know each other and stretch out their hands for a handshake. No doubt the window in between them is smaller in comparison, but they get to meet at the right place and right time.

Drawing 3: “The Moment..."
At first, I would like to name this piece - “They will never know each other forever”, but finally changed my mind, renaming it - “The Moment...”. This is because at this moment, they may not know one another, but who knows at the next moment, they may get to meet already...? There is a sense of anticipation in the air…

Drawing 4: “Fellowship”
This picture shows people coming from various backgrounds - be it family, educational, career…, and having different life experiences… However, our heavenly Father loves to draw us together, to let us enjoy His goodness and become His children. He even loves us as much as He loves Jesus. Oh! This is a great love from God! In my church now, I only know a handful of brothers- and sisters-in-Christ, but I believe in time to come, I will get to meet more people at the right place, right time.

* Something special: I remember from years 1991 to 1996 (before I got to know my wife), I frequented the Jurong area, because my church cell-group was held there. Sometimes, our cell group would take place at different houses (in rotation) for mid-week Bible study. Come to think of it now, one family actually stayed very near to my present mother-in-law’s house! I wonder, “I used to pass by that area many times… Have I ever got to see (just see only) my present wife by chance at that time? She must have looked very young then, being seven years younger than me… Maybe she had passed by me also…?” However, I think even if we had met each other then, I wouldn’t be putting much attention on her also… Why? Because at that time, my eyes were only locked on ladies who were older than me! Ha, so, wrong time!