Orchid painter returns

Orchid painter returns

SINGAPORE - Malaysian artist Tang Juey Lee has painted hundreds of watercolour works in his three-decade-long career but not one piece remains in his possession.

The 61-year-old, who spent 17 years honing his craft in Singapore, says: "I don't keep any of my old paintings because I am always improving."

Nor does he have a chance to hold onto his creations; his ardent collectors readily snap up his luminous watercolours of orchids before the paint is dry.

Yet art lovers and collectors here have had little opportunity until recently to come upon his richly coloured paintings after he moved back to his hometown, Johor Baru, in 1993.

He returned, however, to show in a group exhibition last year at the Ion Art Gallery in Ion Orchard mall.

The show featured South-east Asian artists including emerging Vietnamese oil painter Nguyen Ngoc Anh and well-known Singapore-based artist Kumari Nahappan.

Now, the spotlight is firmly on Tang with Reunion, his first solo outing in more than a decade. Held at The Arts House, the show features 18 new works in Chinese ink and watercolour, and includes the introduction of a new motif, koi fish, to his oeuvre. The paintings are priced for sale between $3,000 and $8,000.

Some older works in private collections will also be on loan for display in the show.

The exhibition is part of the programme for CausewayEXchange, an annual arts and culture festival that aims to foster closer ties between arts communities in Singapore and Malaysia.

On his two-decade-long hiatus from Singapore's art scene, Tang, who continued to paint, exhibit and sell his paintings in Malaysia, says it was a chance meeting with Singapore art dealer Valerie Cheah of Jada Art in 2012 that made him cross the Causeway again.

"There were many galleries in Singapore that wanted to sell my paintings but they did not want to hold exhibitions, they just wanted to stock my paintings," he says.

"Valerie understood what I wanted."

Ms Cheah, 47, an art lover and lawyer by day, says she was introduced to his art two years ago by a family friend.

She says: "I had not heard of him before but I later found out he was an arts luminary in the early days and I wanted to honour his contributions. He deserves greater recognition."

Tang, the third of seven children born to a businessman father and housewife mother, had harboured an interest in Chinese painting since young. Determined to pursue a career in art, he enrolled at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to pursue a diploma in fine arts in 1974 with the blessing of his parents, after completing his O-level examinations in Malaysia.

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