Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).

Visual Arts

Wee Beng Chong

Multidisciplinary artist, sculptor and art educator.

Calendar

Published: 12 Oct 2016


Time taken : >15mins

If you want to be an artist, be prepared. If you’re hungry, you might have to starve. If it’s raining, you might have to brave the rain. Get a good art education and be humble. Most importantly, do not follow trends. Your art is your own.

Wee Beng Chong is a celebrated multidisciplinary artist, sculptor and art educator. A doyen of both Western and Chinese art forms, he has been a mentor and advisor to many art associations in Singapore, co-founding the Modern Art Society Singapore in 1964. He served as head of the Fine Art Department of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for almost a decade and currently serves as Senior Teaching Fellow at the academy. In 1979, he received the first Cultural Medallion for art for his contributions to visual arts in Singapore.

Born in 1938 in Singapore, Wee Beng Chong showed a keen interest in drawing from a young age. As a young boy, he would use a piece of charcoal—obtained from a charcoal seller opposite his home—to draw on the ground outside his home, usually covering the entire area with his drawings and suffering the ire of his upstairs neighbour who would pour water on him. But he never stopped.

At the age of 11, he started learning how to draw portraits from a teacher, Ee Chiat Teck. After three years of lessons, Wee began to explore Chinese seal carving. Feeling that desire to pursue his passion for art, he enrolled at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1955, beginning his formal art education. There, he studied under pioneering Singapore artists such as Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi, Chen Chong Swee, See Hiang Tuo and Lim Hak Tai.

He graduated in 1958 and held his first solo exhibition of Chinese calligraphy and seal carvings in 1961. A prolific artist, Wee and went on to hold three more solo exhibitions in the next two years. In 1964, he co-founded the Modern Art Society Singapore with fellow artists including Ho Ho Ying and Tay Chee Toh.

But Wee felt unsatisfied with his work and decided to further his art education. With the money earned from painting the portrait of a successful businessman, he bought a ticket to sail to Paris to enrol at the L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts. There, the richness and vibrancy of art inspired and stimulated his artistic sensibilities. In the five years at the school, he held solo exhibitions of his work in France, Switzerland and Germany, receiving an International Prize for Modern Art in France. To support himself overseas, he worked part-time in restaurants as a dishwasher and cook.

Graduating from the L’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Wee returned to Singapore in 1968 where he continued his significant career as a multidisciplinary artist and became a private art educator who eventually returned to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to join its faculty in 1981. The next year, he became the head of the academy’s Fine Art Department, a position he served for eight years.

Throughout his artistic career, Wee embraced a diverse range of technique and materials, including calligraphy and seal carving, printmaking, bronze, mixed media sculpture, and oil and Chinese ink paintings. Influenced by the age-old traditions of Chinese scholarly art, he is known for his unconventional adaptations, from modernist formalism to hybrid forms, and for employing his innovative style in contemporary practice.

An important figure in the development of visual arts in Singapore, Wee has also accomplished much in his efforts to challenge, encourage and promote Singapore artists. Besides the Modern Art Society Singapore, he also founded the Contemporary Print Making Association of Singapore, the Lanting Art Society, Singapore, and co-founded the Shicheng Calligraphy & Seal-Carving Society. He also served as advisor to the Singapore Sculpture Society and was involved in the establishment of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Alumni Association.

In addition to his solo exhibitions, Wee also participated in over twenty group exhibitions in countries such as Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and the UK, receiving numerous Singapore and international accolades for his artistic excellence. Among his awards, he received the Pingat Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya from the Association of Artists of Various Resources in 1974 and the Gold Medallion Award from The Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore in 2000. In 1979, he became the first recipient of the Cultural Medallion for art for his contributions to visual arts in Singapore.

Today, Wee is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. His own biggest critic, he continues to persevere to create work that is worthy of his own high standards.

Timeline

22 Nov 1938

Born in Singapore.

1949 to 1951

Took portraiture lessons.

1955 to 1958

Attended Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

1961

Solo exhibition One-Man Seal Carving and Calligraphy Exhibition, Singapore.

Solo exhibition Wee Beng Chong Seal Carving, Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Singapore. Co-organized by the Singapore Art Society, Society of Chinese Artists and Ng Clan Chee Chiang Association.

1962

Solo exhibition 2nd One-Man Exhibition, Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Singapore.

1963

Solo exhibition 3rd One-Man Seal-carving, Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, Muar Art Society, Malaysia.

1963 to Present

Participated frequently in international art exhibitions organised by Modern Art Society Singapore.

1964

Co-founder, Modern Art Society Singapore.

1964 to 1969

Attended Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France. Graduated from the Department of Sculpture.

1965

Solo exhibition 4th One-Man Seal Carving, Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, Bern, Switzerland.

1966

Received International Prize for Modern Art, 17th Grand Prix Painting Art Exhibition, International De Peinture, Deauville, France.

Solo exhibition 5th One-Man Seal Carving, Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, Paris, France.

1968

Received Certificate of Appreciation, Singapore Festival 1968, Singapore.

Solo exhibition 6th One-Man Art Exhibition, Germany Art Gallery, Hamburg, Germany.

Solo exhibition 7th One-Man Art Exhibition, National Library. Co-organised by the Modern Art Society Singapore, Singapore Art Society, Society of Chinese Artists, and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

1970

Solo exhibition Wee Beng Chong Retrospective Art Exhibition (works from 1950-1970), Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore. Co-organised by the Modern Art Society Singapore, Singapore Art Society, Society of Chinese Artists and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

1970 to 1983

Member, Cover Design Selection Committee, National Day Art Exhibition, Singapore.

Member, Publication Sub-committee, National Day Art Exhibition, Singapore.

1972

Participated in ASEAN Art Exhibition, Singapore.

1972 to 1973

President, Modern Art Society Singapore.

1972 to 1976

General Affairs Manager, Society of Chinese artists.

1974

Received Pingat Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya, Association of Artists of Various Resources, Singapore.

Received Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Service, London, UK.

1978

Received First Prize, Sculpture Open Competition, Public Utilities Board, Singapore.

Participated in Singapore Artists Exhibition, Friendship House, Moscow, Russia.

1979

Received first Cultural Medallion for art for contributions to visual arts in Singapore.

Received Modern Art Creativity Award, Modern Art Society, Singapore

Founder, Contemporary Print Making Association of Singapore.

1980

Co-founder, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Alumni Association, Singapore.

1981

Received 2nd International Calligraphy Award, Singapore.

1981 to 1995

Lecturer, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

1982 to 1989

Head, Fine Art Department, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

1982

Member, Judging Panel, The Tan Tsze Chor Art Exhibition, Singapore.

1983

Participated in Contemporary Singapore Painting, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong.

1984

Participated in 25 Years of Art in Singapore, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.

Participated in 3rd ASEAN Sculpture Symposium and Workshop, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Participated in Singapore Art: A Decade 1974–1983, National Museum, Singapore.

Life Honorable Committee Member, The Seal Engraving Society of Korea, Korea.

1987

Co-founder, Lanting Art Society.

1988

Participated in NAFA Lecturers Art Exhibition 88, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

Participated in art exhibition, France.

1989

Participated in Contemporary Singapore Artists, Singapore.

1990

Received Modern Art Award, Modern Art Society Singapore.

1991

Participated in 5th Asian International Art Exhibition, Shicheng Calligraphy & Seal-Carving Society, Japan.

.

1992

Member, Selection Committee, National Awareness On-the-spot Calligraphy Competition, Singapore.

1992 to 2013

Works invited annually to participate in an international arts exhibition, Korea.

1993

Received Long Service Award, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

1994 to Present

Participated frequently in international art exhibitions organised by Shicheng Calligraphy & Seal-Carving Society.

1994

Co-founder, Shicheng Calligraphy & Seal-Carving Society.

Participated in Pont des Arts: Nanyang Artists in Paris, 1925-1970, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.

Participated in Modern Art Society 30th Anniversary Art Exhibition, Singapore.

Participated in Singapore Contemporary Art in Macau, Modern Art Society Singapore,
Macau.

1995

Participated in 10th Asian International Art Exhibition, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.

Participated in Singapore Art 95, Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Singapore.

Participated in 4th International Joint Calligraphy Exhibition, Nanyang Siang Pau, Kuala Lumpur Art Museum and Malaysia Arts Federation, Malaysia.

1996

Received Certificate of Appreciation, Asia Invitation Art Exhibition, Seoul, Korea.

Received Certificate of Honour, The World Famous Chinese Artists in Appreciation of Outstanding Professional Competence in Fine Arts, China.

Published Seal-Engravings by Wee Beng Chong, Lanting Art Society.

1997

Participated in Brazil International Chinese Calligraphy Arts Exchange Art Exhibition, Brazil Chinese Calligraphy Institute, São Paulo, Brazil.

1998

Received Certificate of Honour, Outstanding Achievements to Chinese Culture, China.

Permanent Advisor and Patron, Lanting Art Society, Singapore.

1999

Participated in Nokia Singapore Art 1999, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore.

Participated in Singapore Art Society 50th Anniversary Exhibition, Singapore.

Participated in World Chinese Calligraphy and Paintings Art Exhibition, Chinese
Literature Institute, Paris, France.

2000

Received Gold Medallion Award, Chen Jing Zhao Calligraphy, The Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore, Singapore.

Participated in 15th Asian International Art Exhibition 2000, Tainan County Cultural Affairs Bureau, Taiwan.

Participated in Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition, Indonesia Java Calligraphy and Painting Society, Surabaya, Indonesia.

2001

Received Long Service Award, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

Co-founder and Life Honorable Committee Member, Shi Cheng Calligraphy & Seal-carving Society, Singapore.

Participated in 16th Asian International Art Exhibition 2001, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China.

Participated in Time and Space: Modern Art Society 37th Anniversary Art Exhibition, Singapore.

2001 to Present

Advisor, Sculpture Society, Singapore.

2002

Participated in International Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Art Exhibition, Beijing, China.

Participated in International Chinese Calligraphy Arts Exchange Art Exhibition, Hong Kong International Calligraphy Association, Hong Kong.

2003

Received First Prize, Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Competition of “The Eiffel Tower Cup”, Paris, France.

Received Gold Award, 7th International Calligraphy Exhibition, Guilin, China.

Solo exhibition Trajectories: The Oeuvre of Wee Beng Chong, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre. Co-organised by Lanting Art Society and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

Participated in International Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Art Exhibition, Beijing, China.

Participated in International Taiwan Straits Famous Chinese Painters and Calligraphers Classic Works Art Exhibition, Taiwan.

Participated in 7th International Calligraphy Art and Culture Exhibition, Korea.

Participated in Hangzhou Xiling Yin She, A Century (1904-2003), Overseas Chinese Calligraphy Association Art Exchange Exhibition, Hangzhou, China.

2004

Received Gold Award, International Calligraphy and Painting Exchange Exhibition of “The Yan
Huang Cup”,
China.

Participated in Crossroads: Collective Works of Second-Generation Artists, National University of Singapore Museum, Singapore.

2005

Received Gold Award, China-Brazil Friendship Calligraphy and Painting Exchange Exhibition, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Participated in Style & Imagination: Art in the Nanyang Academy, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Gallery 3, Singapore.

Participated in The Society of Chinese Artists 70th Anniversary Commemorative Exhibition, Singapore.

2006

Received Gold Award, 10th International Calligraphy Aesthetic Exhibition, China.

Participated in 21st Asian International Art Exhibition 2006, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Gallery 1 and 2, Singapore.

Participated in Highlights of Southeast Asia Collection, National University of Singapore Museum.

Participated in Important Second-Generation Artists, DLR Gallery, Singapore.

2008 to Present

Senior Teaching Fellow, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

2008

Participated in Nanyang 70Years After: A Reunion of Artists in the Academy, Nanyang Academy of Fine Art Gallery 1 and 2, Singapore.

Participated in 23rd Asian International Art Exhibition 2008, Guangzhou, China.

Participated in 2008 Creative Chinese Calligraphy Exhibition, Black Earth Art Museum, Singapore.

Participated in Contemporary Painting and Calligraphy Masters’ Couplets and Calligraphy Exhibition, China.

2009

Received International Artist Award, International OAC Exhibition, Japan.

Participated in The Ji Chou Spring Festival Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, The Club People Deyi, Singapore.

Participated in Remade, Relived: Modern Art in Singapore, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Gallery 1 and 2, Singapore.

Participated in 3000 Years of Passion and Colour – Our Artists, Our Legacy Exhibition, Black Earth Art Museum, Singapore.

Participated in The Call of Tradition – Singapore Art Show 2009, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore.

Participated in 1st Exhibition on Calligraphy and Seal-carving by Contemporary Calligraphers – Singapore and China, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore.

Participated in 17th Shicheng Calligraphy Art Exhibition, Black Earth Art Museum, Singapore.

2010

Received Most Outstanding Alumni Award, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

Received Certification of Appreciation, Malaysian Institute of Art.

Participated in 18th Shicheng Calligraphy Art Exhibition, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore.

Participated in Singapore Art Society 60th Anniversary, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore.

Participated in National Day Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition 2010, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore.

Participated in The Institute of Chinese Jiaguwen 20th Anniversary – International Masters’ Calligraphy and Art Exhibition, Taichung, Taiwan.

Participated in 6th International Exchange Exhibition for Calligraphy and Seal-carving, Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an, China.

Participated in Shi Jie Bai Jia Shu Jin Du Calligraphy Exhibition, Beijing, China.

Participated in 1st China Yongquan International Calligraphy Exhibition, Shandong, China.

Participated in 14th World Calligraphy Exhibition, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore.

2011

Received 30 Year Long Service Award, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

Received President’s Award, International OAC Exhibition, Japan.

Participated in 15th World Calligraphy Exhibition, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore.

Participated in 19th Shicheng Calligraphy Art Exhibition, Chui Huay Lim Club, Singapore.

Participated in Brunei-China Calligraphy Exchange Exhibition, 20th Anniversary of Brunei-China Diplomatic Relations, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

Participated in Chongqing-Malaysia-Singapore Calligraphy Joint Exhibition, Chongqing, China.

Participated in Zheng Chenggong Memorial Hall 50th Anniversary International Calligraphy Exhibition, Zheng Chenggong Memorial Hall, Fujian, China.

Participated in 26th Asian International Art Exhibition 2011, Hangaram Art Museum and Jeonbuk Province Museum of Art, Korea.

2012

Solo exhibition A Ridge, A Word, A Brush: Wee Beng Chong, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Gallery 1 and 2, Singapore.

Participated in 2012 Year of Dragon International Dragon Painting and Calligraphy Exhibition, Jakarta, Indonesia and Guangzhou, China.

2012 to Present

Member, Club NAFA, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

Participated frequently in art exhibitions organised by Club NAFA.

Present

Life member, Society of Chinese Artists.

Life member, Singapore Art Society.

Life member, Modern Art Society Singapore.

Life member, Shicheng Calligraphy & Seal-Carving Society.

Life member, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Alumni Association.


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.

You have 1 out of 3 articles left this month. Create a free Esplanade&Me account or sign in to continue. SIGN UP / LOG IN