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Visual Arts

Ng Eng Teng

One of Singapore's foremost sculptors

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Published: 12 Oct 2016


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Ng Eng Teng, one of Singapore's foremost sculptors, was born on 12 July, 1934 in Singapore. His pioneering works in the (then) relatively new medium of ciment fondu such as Contentment (1974), Mother and Child (1980) and The Spirit of Man (1984) are familiar and striking focal points of Singapore's public cityscapes. Ng was a firm believer in art education, and after a period of training and practice in the UK during the 1960s, returned to his homeland to set up his own pottery workshop. He picked up a slew of accolades including the Cultural Medallion for Visual Art in 1981 and Montblanc Patron of the Arts Award. Ng continued working until the end of his life, leaving behind some 1,700 works in important galleries, institutions and private collections in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific. He passed away at the age of 67 in 2001.

The human form in its imaginative possibilities – as amorphous myth, calcified animal or, simply, abstract geometry – mark the distinctive characteristics of Ng Eng Teng's style. Although best known as a sculptor in Singapore, Ng's talents also include pottery, ceramics, drawing and painting.

Ng first developed his feel for sculpture playing with Plasticine, a brand of moulding clay, as a child and eventually signed up for art classes with the British Council in Singapore. After a period of private study with the artist Liu Kang in 1958, he entered the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to continue learning from Singapore's first-generation masters, including Georgette Chen and Chen Wen-Hsi. An encounter in 1959 with a British sculptor led Ng to pursue his interests further in the United Kingdom.

This saw him take on formal arts courses at The Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent and eventually take on an extended period of study with British potter Bernard Leach at St Ives. While Ng began to make waves himself as a commercial ceramics designer following his graduation in the UK, he decided to return to Singapore in 1966 to contribute to the society that had first nurtured his artistic talents.

Ng initially faced several obstacles, and his own alma mater, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, rejected his proposal to begin a new pottery course. Undaunted, he set up his own workshop and practice in the eastern part of Singapore, taking on non-art related administrative jobs to supplement his income.

As Ng continued to sculpt, his fame began to grow and supporters began to appreciate the humanist, often also whimsical, themes in his works: the inevitable desolation of old age (Declining Man, 1969); the arbitrary societal definitions of decorum (Modesty, 1986); and family bonds (Mother and Child, 1980). Public and private commissions began to come his way, climaxing in an international request to present a large scale work, Portrait, for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

He picked up a slew of accolades throughout his career. They include the Gold Medal at the Tagore Centenary Open Painting Competition in 1961, the Cultural Medallion for Visual Art in 1981, the ASEAN Cultural Award for Visual Arts (Sculpture) in 1990 and the Montblanc Patron of the Arts Award in 2001.

Today, many of Ng's pieces can be found on Singapore's busy streets and squares, including Orchard Parade Hotel, Fort Canning Park and the National University of Singapore. A believer in education and free creation, Ng frequently took part in charity exhibitions at local prisons. He eventually donated the majority of his works to the National University of Singapore (NUS), where a gallery at the NUS Museum is dedicated to his output. He passed away at age 67 due to kidney complications and pneumonia in 2001.

Timeline

12 Jul 1934

Born in Singapore.

1955

Learned painting and sculpture at the British Council, Singapore.

1956

Studied fine art at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore but discontinued studies after a few months due to illness.

1958

Studied privately with artist Liu Kang.

Worked as trainee-artist, Shaw Brothers, Fortune Advertising.

1959

Met British sculptor Jean Bullock who was instrumental in shaping interest in sculpture; began to use ciment fondu, a material employed throughout his practice.

1959 to 1961

Took up painting at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore, and studied under pioneer artists Chen Chong Swee, Georgette Chen, Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng.

1961

Won the Gold Medal, Tagore Centenary Open Painting Competition.

1962

Won Silver Medal at the Nanyang University Open Painting Competition.

Joint exhibition with Katherine Schmidt, National Library, Singapore.

1962 to 1963

Studied ceramics at the North Staffordshire College of Technology/Stoke-on-Trent School of Art, England.

1963 to 1964

Took up studio pottery at Farnham School of Art, England.

1964 to 1966

Resident Designer, the Carrigaline Pottery, Ireland. Toured England and Europe

1966

Awarded Diploma from the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers

Returned to Singapore.

1967

First sculpture exhibition at the National Library, Singapore.

1969

Participated in ASTA Convention Exhibition, Contemporary Sculpture Centre, Tokyo, Japan.

1970

Held first solo exhibition Sculpture, Ceramic, Painting at the National Library, Singapore.

1971

Asian Symphony commissioned for Garden Hotel, Singapore.

Pipes and Petals commissioned for Esso, Pulau Ayer Chawan, Singapore.

1972

Held solo exhibition Sculpture: Ng Eng Teng at National Library, Singapore.

Participated in Adelaide Art Festival at Lidums Art Gallery, Adelaide, Australia

1974

Miss Wealth and Miss Contentment commissioned for Plaza Singapura, Singapore.

1976

Held solo exhibition Sculpture: Ng Eng Teng in Australia.

Participated in Inaugural Exhibitions at National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.

1980

Mother and Child commissioned for Far East Organization, Singapore.

1980 to 1981

Judge, Singapore Youth Festival Art & Crafts Exhibition, Ministry of Education, Singapore.

1981

Received the Cultural Medallion (Visual Arts).

Received the Medal for Sculpture, Tan Tsze Chor Art Award, Singapore Art Society.

1982

Balance commissioned for ASEAN Sculpture Symposium, Fort Canning Park, Singapore.

1982 to 1985

Judge, Art Exhibition for Teachers, Ministry of Education, Singapore.

1984

Spirit of Man commissioned for Changi International Airport, Terminal I, Singapore.

1985

Held solo exhibition Ceramics: Ng Eng Teng at Alpha Gallery, Singapore.

Participated in Exhibition International Ceramics, Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan and Second Asian Art Show in Fukuoka, Japan.

1986

Participated in Contemporary Asian Art Show at Museum of Modem Art, Seoul, Korea.

1986 to 1999

Member of Shell Art Exhibition Advisory Committee.

1988

Portrait commissioned for the Seoul Olympic Games, Sculpture Park, Korea.

Held solo exhibition Vital Images of Life in Australia.

Participated in World Invitation Open Air Sculpture Exhibition, Seoul, Korea.

1988 to 1989

Member of Art Advisory Committee, Housing Development Board, Singapore.

1989

Held solo exhibition Sculpture: Ng Eng Teng in Victoria, Australia.

Held solo exhibition Ng Eng Teng sculpture, Singapore.

1990

Receives the Asean Culture Award for Visual Arts (Sculpture).

1991

Held solo exhibition Poetic Metaphors in Singapore.

Participated in Sculpture in Singapore, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.

Received the Pingat Apad Award, Singapore.

1992 to 1995

Member of Arts Resource Panel, National Arts Council, Singapore.

Fellow to The Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore.

1993

Participates in Art in Asia, World Trade Centre, Singapore.

1994

Participated in Singapore Showcase, World Trade Centre, Singapore.

1997

Donation of 760 artworks, NUS Museums, National University of Singapore.

1997 to 1998

Arts Advisor to National Arts Council, Singapore.

1998

Received an Honorary Doctorate from National University of Singapore.

Donation of 173 artworks, NUS Museums, National University of Singapore; opening of Ng Eng Teng Gallery, NUS Museums.

1999

Participated in City / Community: Singapore Art Today, Singapore.

The Explorer commissioned for National Heritage Board (Singapore Art Museum), Singapore.

Received the Public Service Star, National Day Awards, Singapore.

2000

Judge, Cultural Medallion Award & Young Artist Award, National Arts Council, Singapore.

2001

Received the Mont Blanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award, Singapore.

Donation of 160 artworks, NUS Museums.

Passed away at age 67 due to kidney complications and pneumonia in his studio at 106 Joo Chiat Place.


TributeSG

TributeSG celebrates the arts community’s most senior members, and those who have made a lifetime of contribution to the arts. These artists, administrators, educators, patrons, and champions include many Singapore arts pioneers who laid the foundations of the vibrant arts and cultural scene we enjoy today. The many profiles in TributeSG let us into the minds and worlds of these pioneers, and help us understand our shared arts heritage. When we revisit their works and rediscover their journeys, we learn where we came from and how we came to be. Collectively, their stories tell the tale of the making of a nation’s artistic identity.

In putting together this collection, the TributeSG team consulted an external advisory panel, consisting of Arun Mahiznan, Choo Thiam Siew, J. P. Nathan, K. K. Seet, Kwok Kian Chow, and Iskandar Ismail. Those selected to be profiled in TributeSG met one of the following criteria: they were at least 60 years of age as of 12 Oct 2016, or deceased, or had received national recognition in the form of the Cultural Medallion. This journey of arts archival officially came to a close on 12 Oct 2016, after four years of extensive research, interviews and collation of information graciously provided by the TributeSG pioneers, their families and peers. TributeSG also benefited from enthusiastic help from like-minded friends and organisations who supported Esplanade’s cause—to remember, honour and celebrate Singapore’s arts pioneers.

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