Calligraphy with a burst of colour

Calligraphy with a burst of colour
Artist Lim Tze Peng.

Artist Lim Tze Peng may casually refer to his unique Chinese calligraphy as "hu tu zi", or "muddled writing" in Mandarin, but the innovative body of work he began around 2005 is hardly sloppy.

The series, based on the Chinese running script style, transcends tradition with uninhibited brushstrokes and a highly stylised form that favours aesthetic appeal over the legibility of characters. The compositions are at times densely layered monochrome abstractions and, at other times, marked with a painterly flourish of colours.

To an untrained eye, however, the skill and creativity that underscores the 93-year-old's spirited scribbles may not be immediately obvious. So a group of four art collectors, who became fast friends with Lim through their shared love for art, have taken it upon themselves to hold an exhibition to spotlight his innovations in calligraphy.

The show features about 30 works of Lim's Chinese calligraphy. They are for sale with prices available upon request.

Mr Albert Lim, 62, director of a chemicals company and one of the four patrons, says: "We hope the public, especially the younger audience, will come to appreciate the traditional yet contemporised work of our pioneer generation artist."

The group - which includes Ms Linda Neo, 57; Mr Chua Eng Lee, 55; and Ms Linda Tan, 48 - is funding the five-figure-sum exhibition as well as the publication of a 120-page book on Lim's evolving calligraphy practice. The book, priced at $48, is sold at the show.

The four patrons also sponsored an exhibition for him in 2010 that focused on his kampung series of paintings, depicting scenes of bygone villages in Singapore.

Lim has always practised Chinese calligraphy - he often topped calligraphy competitions in school when he was a student at Chung Cheng High School - but it was his paintings that became popular early on among collectors.

The lukewarm reception towards his calligraphy, however, did not deter him from honing his skill. Yet after decades of practice, he grew frustrated.

He says in Mandarin: "There is no way I can outdo calligraphers from the ancient times even if I practise calligraphy for another 100 years. They had no distractions and were able to concentrate purely on the art.

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