"Highlight of a Singapore stopover"

by John Toft

It was the final evening of a three day stopover in Singapore on our way to Europe. The plane didn’t leave till 11.30pm, so with time to kill my partner Jan and I wandered along Balestier Road towards the cheap and cheerful food court we had discovered on our first night.

We had noticed a gallery with an artist at work inside but hunger had triumphed over curiosity. This time, the gallery was again open and we had time on our hands. The same artist was demonstrating to a group of onlookers, so we asked if we might come inside and look around.

An exhibition was being set up featuring the works of Qi Hong, the artist doing the demonstration. He is noted for his brush paintings of horses, executed in a loose, energetic almost abstract style, reminiscent of some of Picasso’s paintings. There were also colourful abstract acrylics, panels of carved calligraphy and sculpture by a versatile artist, Wu Sheng Ping, a cheerful outgoing character with a mane of dyed blond hair.

Posing with Qi Hong and one of his paintings


I was particularly drawn to the sensitive, atmospheric landscape paintings by Cham Tau Soon, probably because of their similarity to watercolour. We got talking to gallery attendant Richard Lim.

I told him I was a watercolour painter back in New Zealand, showed him the Watercolour NZ website on his laptop and even managed to find a couple of my own paintings from The Wonderful World of Watercolour-Aotearoa exhibition on the Percy Thomson Gallery website. (I must get a website of my own one of these days!)

Richard asked if we would like to meet the artists and acted as interpreter as they spoke about as much English as I speak Chinese.

It’s amazing how a shared interest draws people together: despite the language barrier we all got on like a house on fire.

Then Richard told me that Qi Hong wanted to do a painting “for a fellow artist.”

So we had the pleasure of watching him produce a vigorous brush painting of a horse, inscribe it with a dedication, and sign it with his chop.

I might add that Qi Hong’s paintings sell for thousands of dollars to collectors throughout Asia. The painting was wrapped up and presented to me, but that wasn’t all.

Wu Sheng Ping with an example of his calligraphy


As we were about to leave, gallery curator Beryl Bao said she would like to present us with a book of Qi Hong’s horse paintings as a memento of our visit. As we admired the book during the flight to London, we noticed the price on the back, $180!

Needless to say, we were deeply touched by the friendship and generosity of the three Singapore artists Qi Hong, Wu Sheng Ping and Cham Tau Soon and Beryl Bao and Richard Lim from the gallery as we were strangers who had literally just walked in off the street.

If you are in Singapore and want to see some high quality art work, do take the opportunity to visit the Nanyang Arts House, 577 Balestier Road, Singapore.


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