Among Singapore’s visual artists, Wee Beng Chong’s versatility and diverse works standout. For his works, there are more than a dozen creative mediums in play, including calligraphy, ink painting, seal-carving, oil painting, sculptures etc. These works highlight experimentation and innovation, while showcasing his talent. As a recipient of the first Singapore Cultural Medallion award (1979), Wee is never complacent, always exploring ways to improve and evolve. For his latest solo exhibition, Depth of Being: Wee Beng-Chong, around 80 works created between 1960 to 2019 are on display – yet he told the reporter (Siang Ping), “my masterpiece has not been created yet.”
Before heading to France to study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in 1964, Wee had no where to store his paintings and burned more than 800 pieces – a reflection of his unrestrained temperament then. The 84-year-old said with a smile, “at the time, I was very young and had a long way to go. I regret destroying the paintings now, as some of the them used to be good and contained inscriptions from teachers like Chen Wen Hsi and Shi Xiangtuo. Now that I’m older, I cherish every piece.”
Wee states that there are no shortcuts in practicing art. He mentions that for seals, each stroke has to be accurate and without ten years of training, it is impossible to do. It is key to develop a good foundation. One can never finish learning from our past and heritage, instead we should stand on the shoulders of those who have come before you to make breakthroughs. Wee taught at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for 40 years, served as the Head of the Fine Art department and was also a senior teaching fellow. Some of his works on display this time are demonstrative classroom pieces, such as 大雪 (Big Snow, 2018). Wee never liked asking student to copy works, but rather guides them by teaching drawing methods, composing the main points while allow them free play after mastering the techniques.
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Source: Lianhe Zaobao © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.