Revival of the watercolour

Revival of the watercolour
Idris Ali, a retired advertisement illustrator and self-taught watercolourist began painting watercolours in his 20s as a hobby.

Until recently, Tan Kok Soo was an engineer climbing the ranks in the semi-conductor industry and living comfortably in a five-room HDB flat with his wife.

But the 38-year-old sold his flat, downgraded to a three-room unit and gave up his stable career last month to pursue a form of painting that has not been in the limelight for a while - watercolour.

The time-honoured artistic tradition may not yet rival the attention and popularity of other hip mediums of contemporary art including mixed-media installation and video art but, of late, it is enjoying a spirited revival in Singapore.

New artists are choosing to create works in the classic medium, galleries are knocking on the doors of watercolourists to exhibit their works and collectors are snapping up these paintings.

Artist Pang Teng Khoon, 67, for example, was approached by home- grown gallery Ins' Art International last year to hold his first solo exhibition since becoming a full-time artist in 1997. All 46 of his watercolours on display at the gallery in Far East Shopping Centre were sold in two weeks.

The Singapore Watercolour Society, a driving force of the watercolour scene here and formed in 1969 by pioneer artists such as Lim Cheng Hoe and Gog Sing Hooi, has also been attracting fresh blood in recent years, along with international recognition as its members win awards in competitions overseas.

Among them is Mr Ng Woon Lam, 42, an assistant professor at the Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design and Media. His painting of a sun- dappled street recently won the bronze medal at this year's American Watercolour Society juried exhibition. This is his second time winning the same honour since 2009 from the acclaimed society.

Of the Singapore Watercolour Society's 100 local members, 21 of them held solo exhibitions last year - a record high for the society.

Indeed, artists, gallery owners and art observers here note that Singapore's watercolour scene has not seen such exuberance since its heyday in the 1970s.

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