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C H I N C H U N WA H


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Chin Chun Wah

FOREWORD

By Jazz Chong Director, Ode to Art

In an artistic world where visual definitions tend to polarize the technically sound and the emotionally evocative, watercolour artists often find themselves in a unique position as they pursue an art that calls for as much precision as it does sentimental framing. Channelling gentle washes, translucent poignancy and the essence of light, a watercolour artist also often plays both historian and visionary as he encases a scene in timeless fluidity. Inherently being both evanescent and incandescent has rendered the art form universally aesthetic, bolstered by a long and rich history that reaches across the globe. However, it was not long ago that a leg of this history took place on a little red dot; its streets stippled with easels and formative national icons, painting a rapidly changing city as it raced to modern evolution in front of their eyes. Indeed, few things are as telling of Singaporean Art than the pastel flow of water colours. Having flourished since before the birth of the iconic Singapore Water Colour Society, some of the nation’s finest artistic icons are masters of the easel. But amongst legendary names and innumerable national awards is a prodigal tale of a passion found and re-discovered, emerging from past laurels with a renewed vigour. While most icons painted Singapore in its quiet still before the storm, Chin Chun Wah has re-emerged as an artistic force, seizing the chance to paint the chaotic now. Born in 1941 in Singapore, Chin Chun Wah graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1967 and became a founding member of the Singapore Watercolour Society in 1969. A skilled and prolific emerging artist, Chin Chun Wah’s signature style included the use of both marker pens and watercolour washes, that allowed him to capture outdoor scenes with crisp yet scenic clarity. However, in spite leading several local art groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the artist eventually left painting and focused on managing advertising for the Far East Organization. Retiring in 1999 and immersing himself in his hobbies, Chin Chun Wah eventually found his way back to his lifelong dream in 2013 with the help and inspiration of his children. Striking as ever in their subtle complexity, Chin Chun Wah’s striking sketch and wash creations

were instantly lauded for their maturation in style, in spite of time spent away. As an enplein-air artist, his particular method allows him to capture figures in deft strokes, while his pen and wash medium bathes them in sometimes almost photographic recreations of light. The clarity of his images offers simplicity as an emblem of skill, with intricate detailing that brings focus to itself while masking the labour of composition. More than just procedure and execution, however, is the artist’s subject matter that keeps him close to National sentiment. Like other artists he grew with, Chin Chun Wah’s works are most often homages to Singapore’s most definitive localities, spanning both memory as well as new age scenes tinged with nostalgic hues. This nostalgia spills over to his depictions of Bali as well, in spite of the works being new to his repertoire. Be it for his tale of return, the aesthetics of his sketch and wash, or his all too familiar scenes of a Singapore past, what remains undeniable is Chin Chun Wah’s unyielding skill and prolific determination even at the ripe age of 75. Far more than just evading polarizing definition, his works provide a unique window that contrast both past and progress in a comprehensive present; and it is this showcase of history and tangible present that this exhibition aims to lead its viewers into. Just as the artist was led back into his aspirations, we hope that every viewer would be led back into a nation past; only to realize that like the artist, some memories are more definitive than resilient, and some pasts are simply paths to the future.


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P R E FA C E

THE COMEBACK ARTIST—

He then began to show them to his four children and several of his artist friends.

By Leong Weng Kam Senior Writer, The Straits Times, Singapore

It all began when Chin Chun Wah’s elder daughter, Yen Nah, showed him two paintings by Malaysian artist Tan Choon Ghee in early 2013, bought by her husband’s brother for quite a pricy sum. Chin, of course found Tan and his watercolour paintings familiar. After all, they were both budding artists in Singapore way back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They even held a joint exhibition at the old National Library Building on Stamford Road in April 1970, organised by art materials supplier, Straits Commercial Art.

All were impressed by what they saw, especially Chin’s skillful sketching techniques and perfect perspectives in the drawings which few artists even today can master. Pen and wash demands confidence and accuracy in sketching as lines drawn cannot be re-drawn with the painter usually completing his or her piece of work in good speed. Most of his earlier works are of old Singapore street scenes, especially those in Chinatown, the Singapore River and its surrounding areas—all favourite spots for outdoor sketching and painting by Singapore artists, even today. Encouraged by their good feedback, including praises from such top Singapore painter as Siew Hock Meng, he picked up his marker pens and brushes and began to paint again. To his amazement, he had not lost his skills a bit, which came back to him fairly quickly and naturally, just like riding a bicycle again after laying it off for years and still be able to maintain balance on the two wheels.

More than 40 years later today, Chin, now 72, and long retired from work and had given up his pen and wash artworks—a painting technique involving the use of the marker pen, brush and watercolours—since moving to advertising in the late 1970s and working later for a local property developer till about a decade ago. His long-lost friend, Tan, died in Penang about two years ago, aged 82.

So he went around town once again with paper, watercolours, brushes and marker pens and started to draw and paint again over the past few months. The results can be seen in his first collection of works, Sketches by Chin Chun Wah—A Retrospective 1966–2013, which includes recent ones he did in Hong Kong, Macau and Bali.

Surprised to see his old pal’s works again, Chin in a nostalgia mood, took out his old paintings in pen and wash, a medium few do and even fewer can do well, from their dusty plastic covers to recall his early artistic days as a young man.

His re-mastering of his old skills so easily and quickly is due perhaps to the strong and solid foundation he had laid for himself in the early years, with the help of teachers. He graduated at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1967.


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C H I N C H U N WA H After graduation, he was an active member among Singapore’s second-generation artists in the growing local art scene then. He was a member of several art societies, including the Singapore Watercolour Society for which he helped to organise its inaugural show at the Victoria Memorial Hall in December 1970. He worked briefly as a scenic painter for props at the former Radio and Television Singapore, the predecessor of MediaCorp, then as an artist with the former Ministry of Culture and later senior designer with the Housing and Development Board before moving on to advertising. In 1976, he won the 3rd prize in an art competition organised by OCBC in conjunction with the completion of the bank’s new skyscraper building. he following year he won the 1st prize in a logo design competition put up by the National Parks Board. He was a rising prominent artist then though he was better known for his pen and wash works and not his oils, watercolours and pencil sketches which he did as well. The Straits Times even featured him prominently in a report on December 27, 1978, titled, Recapturing a Mood with Light, Deft Strokes, in which he showed how he practised his craft which was new to the paper’s readers then. His interest in sketching, drawing and painting later waned as he went on to sports like golf. After that, he moved to advertising and worked for a property developer “where he made his money for a comfortable living”. Now retired and an avid golfer until recently, Chin is glad he is going back to his pen and wash painting again after nearly four decades.

“It is like falling in love all over again and I felt I am able to do it better with even greater passion now,” he says, believing he is a born-again artist.

梁荣锦 《海峡时报》高级撰稿员

一切源于2013年初,陈振华长女燕娜给他看了已故马来西亚 画家陈存义的两幅作品。 那两幅水彩画是燕娜的大伯以高价 购买回来的。 振华一看就知道这两幅画是老友的作品,因为 在六七十年代他们都是新加坡画坛的年轻画家。 1970年4月 陈振华与陈存义曾经在国家图书馆史丹福路旧址一起参加 由美术用品供应商海峡美术为他们举办的连展。

那已经是四十多年的往事了。 今天振华已是七十二岁的退休 人士,早已放弃了他擅长的淡彩速写画:一门以水彩画笔加 上记号笔的作画艺术。 他在1970年末就转行广告界,后来又 跟本地一家发展商工作,一直到约十年前才正式退休。 他的 老友存义两年前在槟城家乡去世,享年八十二。 事过多年后又看到老友的作品,振华不但觉得意外,也感慨 万千,并把自己多年的淡彩速写画拿出来看,也回味一下年 青时作画的情景。 他把自己的作品拿出来给家人和一些画家 朋友看,亲友和朋友们看了他的作品都非常惊讶,尤其赞叹 他的素描技术和作画透视角度的掌握。 淡彩速写画要求作画 者信心十足,下笔时不但要准而且要快,画了就不能重画,所 以非一般画家能在这一方面做得到。

振华早期的作品以旧新加坡街景为多,尤其是旧牛车水的景 物。 新加坡河畔也是他常去作画的地方。 一直到今天,牛车水 和新加坡河一带还是本地画家的好去处。

经过家人和画家朋友们的鼓励,同时也得到新加坡著名油画 家萧学民的青睐,于是振华再次拿起画笔又开始作画了。 令 他感到非常意外的是他的绘画技术还在,一点都没遗失,就 好像他很久没骑脚踏车,再骑脚踏车时还可以掌握平衡一样, 一点都没问题。 自信的他,就如寻回本能似的一样,并在过去 的几个月里走遍大街小巷天天到处取景作画。 他最近到香港、 澳门和巴厘岛去作画。 过去几个月辛苦作画的成绩都在他最 新的画册里,画册也汇集了他从1966年至2013年的精品。


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振华1967年毕业于南洋美术专科学校。 他能很快地掌握回 过去作画的技巧,并重新出击,这得归功于他以前在南洋美 术专科学校的良师益友为他打好的绘画基础。 他们包括已故 画家张荔瑛老师等等。

毕业后,他成为新加坡第二代画家中比较活跃的一份子,也 是多个画会的会员。 这些画会其中包括新加坡水彩画会。 当 年,他协助该画会于1970 年假维多利亚纪念堂举办了第一 届画展。 他也曾任职于新加坡广播电视台,负责布景绘画的 工作,后来他又加入了文化部当一名美术员。 在他未转入广 告界前,他也曾是建屋发展局的一名高级设计师。

1976年他在华侨银行新大厦完成所举办的一项美术比赛中 获得第三奖。 次年在国家公园局所举办的标志设计比赛中 名列前茅,获得冠军。 当时,他已成为新加坡出色的年青画家, 虽然他成名的是他的淡彩速写画,但是他也精通水彩画、油 画和素描等画法。

1978年12月27日,新加坡英文大报《海峡时报》的一篇新闻 报道里也介绍过他的淡彩速写作品和心得,增进了读者们对 淡彩速写的认识。 然而,日后他忙于工作,慢慢地放弃了绘画。 他曾经说他从事广告与设计业是为了“赚钱过更好的生活”。 他庆幸,过了四十载后还能重拾旧爱,重返绘画之路。 他说: “ 我像是再次坠入爱河,我觉得我现在会做得更好,因为我更 成熟,更富有激情了! ”


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nature of his works, Chin’s line works have been more sophisticated than before. Various subject matters such as scenery, yachts, street scenes, figures, etc are vividly portrayed in Chin’s sketch book. Chin is capable of using fluent line works to capture the instant images in great details. In fact, Chin uses different degree of line works to create a balanced scene which sometimes create a 3-dimensional effect. Dr Ho Kah Leong President, The Singapore Arts Federation

The ultimate goal of art, as I see it, is to scale new heights in the realm of genuineness, originality and beauty. In order to achieve this, artists have to crack their heads, go through numerous experimentations, then create artworks that are acceptable to the audience. Art is multi-faceted, so are artists. In any case, art is an engineering work of the brain. Artists use their brains, imbue with their training and experience, demonstrate their thoughts and emotions in their artworks. Hence art is popularistic to as well as individualistic. To state art is popularistic means that if a piece of artwork is forever kept in the safe and denied public viewing, it can only be deemed as a collection item, not a piece of artwork. To mention art is individualistic is because no matter what art form the artist practised and school he belongs to, his artwork will manifest his unique characteristics and personal style. In various types of art media such as oil painting, water-colour painting, acrylic painting, Chinese brush painting, they are known to have myraid of colours and in many cases in large dimension. In contrast, sketches has long been regarded as preparatory work or draft for big and final painting. However, sketches can also be a means used by the artist to record split second of a certain scene such as the beautiful postures of the dancers. In many cases, due to the indepth observations of the artist, coupled with his skillful technique, sketches can also be exhibited alongside with paintings of other media. Our senior artist Chin Chun Wah falls under this category. Chin had taken part time course at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Upon he entering the workforce, he joined the Society of Chinese Artists and the Singapore Water-colour Society as a member. He then had the opportunity to go outdoor painting with the masters such as Lim Cheng Hoe and Gog Sing Hooi and picked up their skills. Though Chin seldom participate in artistic activities due to work commitment, his passion for the art has not been weakened. Thanks to the

Now Chin, being encouraged by celebrated artist Siew Hock Meng, has decided to compile his sketches and water-colour paintings done in the last decades into a book. This is a documentation of Chin’s life-long effort in the pursuit of art as well as allowing his fellow artists and friends to have an indepth appreciation of his talent. I am pleased to pen the above words as a recommendation of Chin’s artwork.

何家良博士 新加坡艺术总会长

艺术的最高境界,莫非是追求“真善美”。 要达到这个目标,艺 术家都要使出浑身解数,历经千锤百炼,创造出令多数人都 能接受的艺术作品。 艺术是多样化的,艺术家亦因人而异。 总 的来说,艺术是运用脑力的工程。 艺术家通过思考,融入自己 的素养和历炼,将自己的思想与感情呈献在艺术品上。 因而, 艺术品既是大众的,亦是个人的。 说艺术品是大众的,是因为 艺术品若束之高阁,永远不曝光,充其量它只能算是收藏品, 而不是艺术品;而说艺术品是个人的,因为凡是艺术品,不论 是用何种形式表达,或隶属何种流派,或采用不同的画种,都 必须渗入个人因素,这就形成艺术家的个人风格。 在众多的画种中,油画、水彩画、彩墨画、胶彩画等,都能以 色彩斑烂或画幅庞大取胜。 唯独速写和素描,长期被当作是 创作大画前的画稿,或画家在大自然取景时,或捕捉瞬间动 作如舞蹈的美姿时的记录罢了。 然在许多场合,由于画家观 察力强、速写技术娴熟,所绘出的作品亦可单独作为画作看 待,与其它画种平起平坐。 我国的资深画家陈振华便是属于 此范畴的画家。

振华曾在南洋美术专科学校(南艺前身)修读部分时间课程。 进入职场后,加入中华美术研究会和新加坡水彩画会,经常 跟随知名画家如林清河、王再造、吴承惠等写生作画,得益 匪浅。

嗣后因工作繁忙,振华鲜少参加画会活动。 但他对于追求艺 术的热忱,丝毫未减。 也因为他的工作与绘图扯上关系,使 他在线画方面能精益求精。 无论是风景、街景、人物等的速写, 振华都能用流畅的线条,勾画出瞬间景象的变化和层次。 该 刚阳处用笔较硬直,该柔软处则细若游丝。 整体配搭成的画 面,均衡得当,颇具三维空间的效果。

今振华受我国著名油画家萧学民的鼓励,汇集他多年来的速 写、淡彩和水彩作品,付梓出版,一来是记录他一生走过艺术 道路的痕迹,二来让同道好友能一睹他深藏不露的绘画锋芒。 我受邀为振华速写集作少许介绍,谨掇寸言,是为序。


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此次在画册里的速写,具有很强的吸引力,给我的感觉是近 几十年来他在对新加坡老街所见的直觉的流露反应。 尽管新 加坡的历史不长,况且高度城市化,但是我们还是悉心保留 了数量可观的老建筑,从而跻身于亚洲为数不多的珍惜历史 建筑的城市之列。

Dr Liu Thai-Ker Director, RSP Architects Planners & Engineers (Pte) Ltd

Chin Chun Wah and I have not seen each other for nearly four decades since his two years stint in HDB as a Senior Designer. I was delighted to see him again recently when he came to show me his collection of sketches and drawings in this publication. I recollect vaguely that while in HDB, I did see some of his perspective drawings, produced not by computer as we are accustomed to today, but through his personal artistic skills. The sketches he showed me recently are charming, like spontaneous responses to what he saw in the old streets of Singapore over the last few decades. Despite our short history and high degree of urbanisation, we in Singapore have kept a credible number of historical buildings and managed to place ourselves among a small number of Asian cities which care about their old buildings. However the flavour of the streetscape has been changed. Our historical areas are now cleaner, tidier whereas Chin’s sketches remind us of the rich and delightfully chaotic texture of the streetscape in old Singapore. For this reason, the collection of his work is a valuable memento of Singapore as it was in the early days of our independence. They remind us where we have come from. And I hope you enjoy his sketches as much as I do.

刘太格博士 雅思柏设计事务所董事

陈振华先生曾短暂两年在建屋发展局担当高级设计师。 回想 起来,我们阔别已近四十载了。 最近他突然不期出现,把这本 画作的原作拿给我看,令我又惊又喜。

我依稀记起当年在建屋发展局,的确也曾见过他的一些透视 图。 那些图并非以我们现在所熟知的电脑软件制作,而是他 凭自己的艺术技巧,用双手手绘而成的创作。

然而街景的味道毕竟已与往日有差异。 今天的历史老街井井 有条、一尘不染,但振华的画可以见证老新加坡多姿多彩、五 味陈杂、纷乱却又充满生机的街道的另一番景象。 就此而言, 振华的集作可以算是新加坡独立早期那些斑驳岁月的珍贵 缩影。 它们带给我们对老新加坡的回忆。 有鉴于此,希望各位 读者与我一样,沉醉于这些画作的魅力之中。


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Singapore River (1963) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm

Chin Chun Wah


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Singapore River (1963) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm

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Top to Bottom: Low Tide at Mouth of Singapore River (1963) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore (1963) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm


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Cavenagh Bridge, Singapore (1963) Watercolour, 90 x 70 cm

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Mending Fishing Nets, SIngapore (1976) Watercolour, 29 x 38 cm


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Top to Bottom: Temple Street (1976) Watercolour, 36 x 54 cm Kampong Hut, Singapore (1977) Watercolour, 35 x 43 cm

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Fruit Stall (1977) Watercolour, 36 x 53 cm

Chin Chun Wah


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Herb Shop (1977) Watercolour, 38 x 53 cm

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Top to Bottom: Hock Lam Street (1977) Watercolour, 38 x 52 cm Street Market (1977) Watercolour, 45 x 56 cm

Chin Chun Wah


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A Bustling Morning of the Singapore River (1977) Watercolour, 53 x 292 cm


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Chinatown (1977) Watercolour, 50 x 65 cm

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View of Boat Quay, Singapore (1977) Watercolour, 35 x 52 cm

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Street Wayang, Singapore (1977) Watercolour, 37 x 53 cm

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Cavenagh Bridge at Singapore River (1978) Watercolour, 53 x 73 cm

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Bee Cheng Hiang Store (1979) Watercolour, 37 x 54 cm

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Back Lane (1979) Watercolour, 50 x 66 cm

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Back Lane, Singapore (1980) Watercolour, 65 x 45 cm

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A Day at Middle Road, Singapore (1982) Watercolour, 40 x 52 cm

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Central Fire Station, Singapore (1982) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm


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Keong Siak Road, Singapore (1982) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm


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Bicycle Rental Kiosks at Pulau Ubin (2004) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm

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Chinatown, Singapore (2012) Watercolour, 43 x 63 cm

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Market in Ubud Bali (2013) Watercolour, 53 x 73 cm

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Top to Bottom: Thian Hock Keng at Telok Ayer Street (2013) Watercolour, 53 x 73 cm Hawkers at Roadside - Bali (2013) Watercolour, 53 x 73 cm


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Melati at Tanah Lot - Bali (2013) Watercolour, 53 x 73 cm

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Singapore River (2014) Watercolour, 66 x 90 cm

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Singapore River (2014) Watercolour, 70 x 60 cm

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The Island of the Volcano, Santorini, Greece (2014) Watercolour, 60 x 102 cm


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An Obsession with Light, Venice, Italy (2014) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm

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Pulau Ketam, Selangor, Malaysia (2015) Watercolour, 43 x 60 cm


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Riverside in Malacca, Malaysia (2015) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm

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Street Scene in Malacca, Malaysia (2015) Watercolour, 30 x 42 cm

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Street Scene in Malacca, Malaysia (2015) Watercolour, 30 x 42 cm


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Street Scene in Malacca, Malaysia (2015) Watercolour, 30 x 42 cm

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Street Scene in Malacca, Malaysia (2015) Watercolour, 30 x 42 cm

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Street Scene in Malacca, Malaysia (2015) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm


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Pulau Ubin (2015) Watercolour, 62 x 86 cm

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Chinatown, Melbourne, Australia (2015) Watercolour, 30 x 42 cm


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Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia (2015) Watercolour, 30 x 42 cm


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The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore (2015) Watercolour, 70 x 90 cm

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Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore (2015) Watercolour, 60 x 94 cm


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Toa Payoh Town Park (2015) Watercolour, 60 x 100 cm

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BIOGRAPHY

TIMELINE 1941 Chin Chun Wah was born in Singapore 1967 Graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts 1967 Joint Exhibition held at Victoria Memorial Hall together with four other artists Joint Exhibition held at National Library with another artist 1970 Became a member of Singapore Art Society

EXHIBITIONS 2016 Moments, Solo Exhibition at Ode to Art 2015 Solo Art Exhibition held at Nanman Art Gallery Participated in the SG50 Watercolour Exhibition —50 Cultural Landscapes of Singapore

Became a member of Society of Chinese Artists

2014 Solo Art Exhibition held at Keppel Club’s Charity Event

A founding member of the Singapore Water Colour Society

2013 Solo Art Exhibition held at Hai Hui Art Gallery

2013 Member of the Singapore Water Colour Society 2014 Life time member of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Alumni Association

Chin Chun Wah with Guest of Honour, Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the SG50 Watercolour Exhibition—50 Cultural Landscapes of Singapore.


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AWA R D S A N D ACHIEVEMENTS 1976 Won 3rd prize in the Singapore Skyline Open Art Competition organized by Oversea—Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC Bank) 1977 Won 1st prize in the Parks and Recreation Logo Design Competition

Chin presenting to Minister, Mr. Lim Swee Say, an autographed copy of his sketch book which consists of a compilation of all his works over the years.

CAREER 1970 Senior Artist (Scenic Painting) in Radio and Television Singapore (RTS) 1972 Artist in the Ministry of Culture 1973 Graphic Designer in Robina Advertising (Pte) Ltd 1975 Senior Designer in Housing and Development Board (HDB) 1977 Manager (Advertising) in Far East Organization

Chin inviting Dr.Ho Kah Leong, President of The Singapore Arts Federation, for the official opening of the Art Exhibition being held at Hai Hui Art Gallery.

Chin Chun Wah (left) with Dr Liu, Thai-Ker (from right) whom was Guest of Honour for the solo art exhibition held at Nanman Art Gallery in 2015 and with Dr Ho Kah Leong (centre) as the invited guest.


Moments C H I N C H U N WA H First published 2016 Ode To Art Raffles City 252 North Bridge Road, Raffles City Shopping Centre, #01-36E/F, Singapore 179103 Tel: +65 6250 1901 Fax: +65 6250 5354 Ode To Art Kuala Lumpur 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang, The Pavilion, #06-24E/F, Kuala Lumpur 55100, Malaysia Tel: +603 2148 9816 Fax: +603 2142 6816 info@odetoart.com odetoart.com Š Ode To Art 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Printed and bound in Singapore

Moments by Chin Chun Wah  

As a prolific artist in the pen and wash technique, Singaporean artist Chin Chun Wah Harry’s comeback is seen as a natural and inevitable tr...