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Padi Field (1944), Watercolour on paper – Michael & Saniza Collection

This year marks the 85th anniversary of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), and the academy and the Michael & Saniza Collection have jointly organised the Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang exhibition, displaying the artist’s work from the 1930s to the 1950s. There are a total of 78 pieces of artwork from both public and private collections, including watercolours, as well as lesser-known landscapes and portraits. Yong played a key role in the close interaction between Malaysian and Singapore art communities, as well as Chinese art circles. Yong was also the first Malayan artist who mooted the establishment of NAFA.

The artworks at this exhibition are mainly from the collection of Yong’s grandson, Michael Yong-Haron (48) and his wife Saniza Othman (46). Other pieces are also on loan from the Royal Selangor family in Malaysia, the National Gallery of Singapore, and other collectors. Michael and his wife started collecting Yong’s works after visiting the Yong Mun Sen Retrospective 1999 exhibition at Penang State Art Gallery in 1999. So far, they have collected more than 60 works, of which 56 are displayed at Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang.

According to research done by Mengtong Yao (姚梦桐); Yong, then Vice-President of the Society of Chinese Artists, proposed for the establishment of an art school. His proposal was approved and Yong, Li Kuishi, Liu Kang, Tchang Ju Chi and Xu Junlian were elected as members of the planning committee to establish said arts school. At the beginning of 1938, the name “Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts” was raised for the first time, and Lim Hak Tai joined the association. Lim was able to establish NAFA on 10 March, and served as the academy’s first Principal. Michael mentioned that because of the relationship between Yong and NAFA, he chose to work with NAFA for the exhibition.

Dr Bridget Tracy Tan, curator of the exhibition and Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Arts & Art Galleries at NAFA said in an interview, that most people do not know that Yong was self-taught. He is best known for his watercolour landscapes depicting beaches and boats, but is also excellent for his oil painting landscapes and portraits. The exhibition, which took two years to prepare, is divided into four parts which explore the effects of light and shadows in Yong’s works, his painting techniques, different canvases and papers used, and much more. Dr Tan added that the common fishermen represented in Yong’s works reflect his familiarity with the locals and their daily lives.

Yong Mun Sen in Nanyang is held from now till 7 May, form 11am to 7pm (closed on Mondays and public holidays) at NAFA’s The Ngee Ann Kongsi Galleries 1 & 2. A publication of the same name was released in conjunction with the exhibition, and Yong’s works that could not be exhibited at the current exhibition were also included.

Read more here.

Source: Lianhe Zaobao © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction