Artwork on wheels for Beautiful Singapore

Chieu Shuey Fook with a 1961 Morris Minor which he was commissioned to paint for a charity auction. It is one of the exhibits at Art And Alchemy.
Chieu Shuey Fook with a 1961 Morris Minor which he was commissioned to paint for a charity auction. It is one of the exhibits at Art And Alchemy.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

A 1961 Morris Minor painted in a psychedelic mix of colours stands out at second-generation Singapore artist Chieu Shuey Fook's retrospective exhibition, Art And Alchemy.

Now on at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa), it shows more than 60 of his works, including his batik paintings and sculptures spanning five decades.

The car, literally an artwork on wheels, was painted for a charity auction in 1990.

The Singapore Automotive Engineering commissioned Chieu to paint it based on the theme, Beautiful Singapore, before an exhibition company here bid successfully for it, reportedly for $50,000.

  • VIEW IT / ART AND ALCHEMY

  • WHERE: Ngee Ann Kongsi Galleries 1 & 2 at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, 80 Bencoolen Street

    WHEN: Till Aug 14, daily from 11am to 7pm, except National Day on Aug 9 when the galleries are closed

    ADMISSION: Free

Chieu took 10 hours to design it and another 50 to spray-paint the body in six colours - red, yellow, blue, white, black and purple.

"It was an unforgettable project and the only time I painted on a car," says Chieu, 82. He is well known for his zinc etchings and metal relief works such as those on copper and aluminium.

Most of them are incorporated with various chemicals, including acrylic paint and enamel powder.

Chieu borrowed the car from its current owner, Mr Lee Choon Khim, for the show.

Mr Lee runs The Coastal Settlement, a restaurant in Changi.

"I am glad that after more than 25 years, the colours on the car are still bright and beautiful," says Chieu, who gave up a 28-year career in advertising art to become a full-time artist in 1984.

The Nafa alumnus' metal relief murals decorated offices of many big corporations such as Neptune Orient Lines as well as interiors of Singapore Airlines' fleet of Boeing 747 planes in the 1970s.

His most prominent public artwork was a 30m-long copper frieze depicting Singapore's diverse ethnic culture that stood outside Orchard MRT station from 1987 until it was removed to make way for Ion Orchard mall in 2009.

Chieu says he turned to working with metals because "they are cheaper than paint".

He had studied under pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng on the medium when he was at Nafa in the early 1950s.

"I chose to work with metal also because few artists do so and I enjoy it even now," he says.

Though most of his works in his show are metal reliefs and zinc etchings, he says the earliest works are his batik paintings which he did in the early 1960s.

His recent metal relief works include the 92cm by 214cm National Gallery Singapore which he did in 2013, and the 122cm by 456cm Wow! Merlion, a semi-abstract work he completed last year.

A widower with five adult children, Chieu has just published a book on his art titled Art And Alchemy.

It is dedicated to his wife, Madam Hah Kim Lian, who died four years ago, aged 76.

"It was her wish to see me publish the book before she died suddenly of a heart attack," he says.

Tomorrow, Chieu, together with Nafa lecturer Joshua Yang and fellow alumnus Liyu Minzie, will be speaking at a public forum titled Language Of Materials In Art at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Galleries 1 & 2 at Nafa between 1 and 2.30 pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Artwork on wheels for Beautiful Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe