An ode to Singapore through the eyes of plein-air artist Lim Cheng Hoe at National Gallery Singapore

The exhibition which features works by one of Singapore’s finest watercolourists will open from 2 August 2018

  • 11:05 AM, 26 Jul, 2018

Images courtesy of National Gallery Singapore

Singapore, 26 July 2018 – Reminisce the 1930s to the 1970s with National Gallery Singapore as it presents its latest exhibition, Lim Cheng Hoe: Painting Singapore. This survey showcases Lim’s inspiring journey towards becoming Singapore’s leading plein-air (the practice of painting outdoors) watercolour artist, as he captured the country’s evolving landscapes and people across four decades.

Dr. Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, said, “We are committed to continue expanding upon the current available scholarship and documentation of our Singapore artists and their practice. Special exhibitions such as Lim Cheng Hoe: Painting Singapore complement our permanent gallery displays to build greater understanding towards our art history and the local artistic figures we have such as Lim Cheng Hoe. Through the exhibition, we hope to inspire visitors with both his artistic talent and the influential role he played towards the subsequent development of watercolour in Singapore.”

A unique eye for the local, distinct, and natural

Comprising over 60 definitive works of Lim Cheng Hoe (1912 – 1979), the exhibition brings visitors into the mind of the artist through the lens of his diaries, to understand his thoughts that inform his paintings. Acknowledged as one of the finest watercolour artists of his generation in Singapore, Lim was dedicated to portraying his subjects in their natural selves and mood. Many of Lim’s works were preoccupied with depicting the transient effects of light and weather on landscapes of Singapore.

Lim’s dedication towards plein-air painting imbued in his landscape paintings a sense of place and local identity for Singapore – a Singapore that was in the throes of urbanisation and industrialisation. Lim documented these subjects around him through motifs such as kampongs (villages), boat traffic on the Singapore River, hilltop views, fishing villages, land reclamation and construction sites, as the country moved towards modernisation during a period of decolonisation, self-governance and independence.

Presenting a comprehensive outlook of Lim’s practice, the exhibition draws works and artefacts from an expanded range of sources, including the artist’s family, private lenders and various public and institutional collections. It would also reveal the lesser-known aspects of his practice including his experiments with a range of subjects and mediums, from oil, ink and still life, to portraits in pastel and chalk, and even exploratory works with unusual brushwork and colours.

Casting spotlight on self-taught artists in Singapore

Though without formal tertiary art education, Lim was undeterred in cultivating his keen interest in art. He went on to master the craft by himself by reading publications such as Artist, International Studio and through social interactions with other watercolour artists; which gave rise to the emergence of the ‘Sunday painters’ in the 1950s. Together with these artists, Lim would travel to multiple locations around Singapore every Sunday in search of suitable sites to paint before critiquing each others’ works in hopes of helping each other explore different approaches towards art. Lim was also known to join a group of artists at the Wesley Church on weekends for indoor studio sessions with live models. All these activities would lead to the discerning construction of his paintings, and a rich and enduring legacy in providing mentorship to the next generation of artists through groups such as the Singapore Watercolour Society.

“This exhibition is a celebration of the life, dedication and practice of Lim Cheng Hoe as a largely self-taught artist. In the exhibition, we draw deeply from his diaries as a way of providing an entry point for visitors to engage with the artistic language that he learnt and experimented through his time under Richard Walker and subsequent informal education.” said Qinyi Lim, curator of the exhibition.

Lim Cheng Hoe: Painting Singapore will be held at the City Hall Wing, Level 4 from 2 August 2018 to 9 June 2019. It will open from Saturday to Thursday from 10:00am to 7:00pm and on Fridays from 10:00am to 9:00pm.

This exhibition is co-curated by Qinyi Lim, Goh Sze Ying, Teo Hui Min and Zulfadhli Hilmi, together with guest curator Low Sze Wee, Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre and former Director of Curatorial, Collections & Education, National Gallery Singapore.

For more information about the exhibition, please visit: https://www.nationalgallery. sg/see- do/programme-detail/831/lim- cheng-hoe-painting-singapore

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