Masters from the past

Masters from the past
Artist Goh Ee Choo.

Goh Ee Choo

In the 1990s, artist Goh Ee Choo was among Singapore's brightest young art stars.

A graduate of London's prestigious Slade School of Fine Art, his cutting-edge, conceptual work drew praise from art critics here and chalked up multiple art awards.

But by the new millennium, he had faded away from the art world, his name mentioned only in passing when the 1988 ground-breaking exhibition Trimurti, which first put him in the spotlight, is cited in accounts of Singapore's contemporary art history.

The show, which also included Goh's peers, S. Chandrasekaran and Salleh Japar, was held at the Goethe-Institut. It featured works grounded in the belief systems and iconography of the artists' different religious traditions - Taoism and Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.

This culturally specific approach to contemporary art made the exhibition an immediate critical success because it marked a breakthrough in contemporary art discourse at that time, which was mostly driven by Western concepts. Chandrasekaran and Salleh are now both lecturers in the fine arts department at the Lasalle College of the Arts.

While Goh's star has dimmed over the last decade, he has not stayed idle as an artist - the nature of his art-making has merely changed.

In the early noughties, Goh, a staunch Buddhist, devoted himself to making purely religious art, drawing images of Buddha that he either gave away or displayed in religious art shows.

And since 2007, he has been creating animated art drawings and moulding students in the animation department of Lasalle College of the Arts where he is a part-time lecturer.

The conceptual art visionary, religious art-maker and animated art creator may all sound like distinct individuals - but in Goh, 52, there is a meeting of minds. "Teaching is my work of art," he says. "The students are my artists and the end result is when they come out and find good jobs in the animation arts industry."

Goh, who is married without children to a part-time art teacher, adds: "When I make art, I pay attention to harmony, balance and rhythm and it is the same with my classes. I make sure there is flow between the lessons so it makes sense to the students." Indeed, his journey of art has perhaps, at this point, brought him closest to what first sparked his love for art - the world of moving and talking images.

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