2 Enduring Understanding Students will understand that realisticrepresentation is selected withpurpose and function to expressideas and concepts
3 Essential Questions Overarching Questions How does realistic representation contribute to the ideas and purpose of artists?What are true reflections of life?How is visual art a mechanism for social change?Topical QuestionsHow are the various subject matter treated?How is life mirrored here?
5 Biographical Outline 1931: Born in Shantou, Guangdong, China. 1937: Arrived in Singapore at age 6.: Studied at Shuqun School and then Tuan Mong School: Enrolled in Chung Cheng High School but left mid-wayto pursue a formal art education with NAFA.1950-2: Studied at NAFA under Lim Hak Tai, Cheong SooPieng, Koh Tong Leong and See Hiang To.1952-4: Taught at NAFA.1954-6: Went back to Chung Cheng High to complete his secondary school education.1956-7: Went back to NAFA to teach.: Worked as book illustrator with the Shanghai BookCompany
6 Biographical Outline 1960-5: Worked as a designer and illustrator with Grant Advertising International Incorporated, particularly infigure drawing for advertisements and comic strips.1974: First successful one-man exhibition. He alsobecame a full-time artist.1990: Designed Singapore’s new $50 currency noteto commemorate Singapore’s 25th Anniversary. Alsodesigned the $2 currency note.
7 When (1937- ) 1937: Sino-Japanese War. : The Malayan Emergency- refers to a guerillawar for independence, fought between CommonwealthArmed Forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army of the Malayan Communist Party, whose leader was Chin Peng.1959: Singapore granted self-governance.1962: Singapore joined Federation of Malaysia.1965: Singapore gained independence.s: Industrialisation in Singapore.
8 Where China “A time of great political, economic and social change.” Woodblock prints were revived in China duringSingaporeWoodblock printing was then brought to Singapore by the first generation artists in the 1950s and 60s- scene dominated by NAFA graduates like See Cheen Tee, Tan Tee Chie, Chieu Sheuy Fook, Choo Keng Kwang, Ho Kah Leong, Chua Mia Tee, Aw Tee Hong, Lee Kee Bonn, Szeto Chee Keong, Lee Boon Wang, Foo Chee San and Lim Mu Hue.The country was in a state of turbulence with demonstrations, protests and strikes- eg: The Hock Lee Bus incident.
9 Which Realism/Social Realism A movement observable in art and literature in the mid-19th C.It began in France with Courbet’s manifesto Le Réalisme.The movement’s concerns- social realities sprouted from industrialisation.For example- life and its harsh existence (human degradation and poverty).Artists of the movement wanted to show the “truth”- fact and not ideals, without biases.They painted what they saw in everyday/contemporary life which can be ugly and sordid.They rejected academic art as artificial.They also rejected Romanticism as over-indulging in imagination- the poor and their harsh existence has been romanticised.
10 Which Social Realism in Singapore Started with a cross influence of the following;1. Our own tradition of realist art.2. Concerns for woodcut.3. Caricature of social themes.4. A sustained aesthetic exchange with China.Social Realists here were associated with the following;1. Woodcut Movement.2. Equator Art Society3. The Arts Association of Chinese High School.
11 Which Woodcut Movement The political unrest in Singapore during The Emergency impacted on the group of NAFA graduates (see slide 8).They turned to woodblock printing as a means of expression.Reasons for choosing this medium;1. Expressive and evocative quality.2. Easy to produce- no sophisticated machineryrequired.3. Inexpensive to reproduce- propaganda throughmagazines, books and newspapers.These woodcuts also depict the lowly working class engaged in their daily routines- eg: tradesmen and hawkers.
12 Which- Singapore Woodcut Chinese Puppet Theatre, 1966.by Lim Mu HueWoodcut, 41 x 33 cm
13 Which Equator Art Society Founded in 1956. Artists concern- resistance against the rising formalist and “Western trends”.Such “trends” were believed to be incongruent with the development of a national identity in art.The Arts Association of Chinese High SchoolWorks resonate with more intense political sentiment, and its anti-colonial stance.They have goals in promoting patriotism and to “bring art closer to the masses”. (Kwok, 1996).
14 What Subject Matter Animals Deers, arowana, goldfish, monkeys, peacocks, tigers, etc.FigurativeLandscapes/ScenesOf Singapore and scenes from overseas during his travels to Hong Kong, Bali, Java, Spain and Italy to draw and paint in the 70s. These trips have helped him to gain fresh insights for improving his art.PortraitsCommissioned by prominent patrons- businessmen and politicians.
15 What Theme Nationalistic Concerns Shows aspirations of the common people in the 1950s and 60s.Reflects the political and social sentiments of that time.Human ConditionMan’s struggles against fate.Elevating the integrity and nobility of their daily strugglesPictorial DocumentaryDocumenting the fast vanishing scenes of Singapore.Shows landscapes that are disappearing under Singapore’s urban development, especially Chinatown.Tries to capture the spirit of the people living and working in these places.
16 Nationalistic Concerns Epic of Life in Malaya, 1955.Oil on canvas, 107 x 126 cm
17 What- Epic of Life in Malaya Shows a group of young adults or teenagers gathered during the recitation of a poem entitled “Epic Life in Malaya”.Peanuts on the floor.An attempt to dramatise the nationalistic fervour for “merdeka” or independence in these young Singaporeans.Each face is different from the other- highlights individuals.The dark overcast- indicates a mood of discontent.Chua made studies of individual figures and produced sketches of different compositions.In "Epic Poem of Malaya" (1959), Chua depicts a group of students listening earnestly to a man reading nationalistic poems about Malaya. A hint of light in the dark clouds signals better days ahead with the arrival of independence. Singapore and Malaysia were briefly united following independence, but the countries separated in 1965, putting an end to the Malayanization ideal. Still, the issue of art as a propaganda tool remains current; maintaining social harmony in Singapore's multiracial society is one of the key issues dictating the government's censorship of the arts today.
18 Nationalistic Concerns National Language Class, 1959Oil on canvas,114 x 134 cmA class of students studyingMalay which was our national language than.
19 Description & Analysis Painting entitled National Language Class, done in 1959 by Chua Mia Tee.Done in oil on canvas measuring 112 x 153 cmChua's painting shows young women and men in a classroom.2 figures sitting at the rectangular table nearer to the blackboard, 7 figures sitting around the round table, there are 2 standing figures in the room.All the figures do not look directly at viewer.The man standing near the blackboard is the teacher. One of the men at the table, in white shirt and black pants is standing with a book in his hands.There are 4 women in the painting. One of the women is blocked by the standing man except for her legs.The smiling woman is wearing a capped-sleeve Shanghai style dress looking at the man who is standing up. The other 2 women are bespectacled.A picture hangs on the wall adjacent to the blackboard.AnalysisLimited palette of warm and earthy hues.Tight space surrounding subject matter. Room looks small and confining.Colours are dull, mainly earthy tones of yellow, orange, brown.Work plaintively smooth- brushstrokes blended carefully on figures.Background- sparse and rougher brushstrokes.The most famous painting to embody that spirit is Chua Mia Tee's "National Language Class," which depicts a group of Chinese students learning the Malay language Bahasa Melayu. Scribbled on the chalkboard behind them, the phrases "What is your name?" and "Where do you live?" go beyond a simple language lesson and touch on the core issue of cultural identity.
20 InterpretationArt as a historical record of the social and industrial developments of Singapore.Figures sitting around a round table, a symbol of equality.Also signifies a kind of a public sphere, being reminiscent of the marble-top kopitiam tables one find in old coffee shops.As they sat facing each other, they are called to consider the deceivingly simple question in Malay on the blackboard: Siapa nama kamu? Di-mana awak tinggal? (What is your name? Where do you live?) are questions that need to be asked of Singaporeans today.
21 Evaluation Produces poignant questions of national identity. Politically charged painting. Art as a historical record of the social and industrial developments of Singapore.Figures sitting around a round table, a symbol of equality. Also signifies a kind of a public sphere, being reminiscent of the marble-top kopitiam tables one find in old coffee shops.Why are the Chinese young women and men in the painting learning Malay?Malay was not promoted as Singapore’s national language until the late-1950s.How is this effective as a Social Realist painting?
22 Figurative Construction workers lunching in a canteen. Workers in a Canteen, 1974.Oil on canvas,88 x 126 cm
23 Figurative Road Construction Worker, 1955. Oil on canvas, 66 x 83 cm. “The artist must conceive his ownidea, exercise sound judgement toreflect vividly the typical characterand noble spirit of his chosen subject.”Chua Mia Tee
24 FigurativeAh Goh the Boatman, 1972.Oil on canvas, 52 x 70 cm.
26 Amah Shopping in Chinatown (Pork Stall), 1977. FigurativeAmah Shopping in Chinatown (Pork Stall), 1977.Oil on canvas,
27 Malay Fisherman at Changi Beach, 1977 FigurativeMalay Fisherman at Changi Beach, 1977Oil on canvas,
28 Landscape or ScenesPortable Cinema, 1977.Oil on canvas,
29 Eating on Banana Leaves, 1979. Landscape or SceneEating on Banana Leaves, 1979.Oil on canvas,
30 Tai Chi Practice at Community Centre, 1979. SceneTai Chi Practice at Community Centre, 1979.Oil on canvas,
31 Landscape or SceneOld Chinatown, 1980.Oil on canvas, 61 x 91.5 cm
32 Vanishing Scene of Boat Quay, 1981. Landscape or SceneVanishing Scene of Boat Quay, 1981.Oil on board, 60 x 90 cm
33 Benjamin Sheares Bridge - The Viaduct, 1981. Landscape or SceneBenjamin Sheares Bridge - The Viaduct, 1981.Oil on canvas, 122 x 244 cm
34 Portraits Krishnan, 1973. Charcoal on paper, 40.5 x 30.5 cm National Museum
35 Portrait of Dato Loke Wan Tho, 1995. PortraitsPortrait of Dato Loke Wan Tho, 1995.Oil on canvas,Dato Loke Wan Tho was afilm mogul.
36 Why His Background and Belief Chua is keen in art from an early age. He studied under Lim Hak Tai, Cheong Soo Pieng, Koh Tong Leong and See Hiang To at NAFA.He believes all paintings (realistic/abstract) should have colour harmony and compositional/design balance.He also believes that art must reflect real life- realistic to the point of subject matter recognition.He thinks only recognizable subject matter can “strike a responsive chord” with people because their “sense of beauty and creativity” is matched.
37 Why His Background and Belief Chua spent his childhood growing up in Chinatown and playing at the banks of Singapore River- an influence to the many paintings of Chinatown and the river.He saw the urgency to document scenes of Singapore before they vanish- eg: Singapore River.“Singapore is undergoing rapid social changes, so are her people’s way of life. A painting can stand the test of time only when it mirrors the life and outlook of the people at a particular era.”“This kind of work, I believe, will also have a role in fostering cultural exchanges and international understanding.”
38 How He was taught drawing, sketching with watercolour and painting. He learnt painting with oils on canvas and Chinese ink and colours on paper.However, he paints primarily with oils.He paints on location but refines and completesmost of his works in the studio.He also paints from memory and would use photographs on occasions, to recall details and for clients that are unable to sit for their portraits.
39 HowHis large pictures are based on numerous drawings, sketches and photographs which are records of details.He would compose the pictures through careful selection and elimination.He adds atmospheric effect into his paintings.
40 ReferencesKwok, K. C. (1996). Channels & Confluences: A History of Singapore Art. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum.National Museum (Ed.), (1988). Chua Mia Tee National Museum: Singapore.Koay, S. (2001). Singapore: Multi-Cultural Crossroads. In Aljeffri, Marzuki, Mukhtar (Ed.), Visual Arts in ASEAN: Continuity and Change.Kuala Lumpur:Prefaced by Ho Kah Leong,, Chua Mia Tee (1986). Chua Mia Tee: Singapore.
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