Art is a never-ending journey. Even at the age of 99, I continue making art, thinking of making new breakthroughs every day. I will continue to paint and write calligraphy whenever I can.
I retired as a school principal and became a full-time artist in 1981, when Singapore River and Chinatown were going through drastic changes as a result of the river clean-up campaign and urban redevelopment. I wanted to capture the changing scenes of Chinatown and Singapore, so I went there frequently to draw. An artist should paint his hometown first. If he is cut off from his home soil, he will be like a tree without roots.
In the beginning, I drew whatever I saw. My early works tended to be more conventional. Every day, I tried to explore new techniques, and how to draw better in terms of lines, composition and colors. As a result, my artistic style changed drastically to become more abstract over the years.
In my later years, I reflect and draw. My style of painting and calligraphy has evolved into an abstract style that I call “hutuzi.” I focus more on the bold colors, movement and energy instead of single Chinese character. Writing has become more like drawing, and the word itself is no longer important. At my age, I don’t draw to please other people. I draw what I want and what’s in my thoughts.
I’ve been painting and writing calligraphy for at least 70 years to excel in the Chinese ink tradition. I think I have produced more than 10,000 pieces of works.
The life of an artist is never easy, but it brings me a lot of joy when people come and see my work at exhibitions. One of my greatest dreams is to make an impact in the global art scene, and I’m very glad that Ode To Art gallery and IDF Singapore will be exhibiting my works in India.
Life is short, but art lives on. If there was a next life, I would still like to be an artist.