Bookends

Artist-writersongwriter Chng Seok Tin.
Artist-writersongwriter Chng Seok Tin. PHOTO: ST FILE

Who: Chng Seok Tin, 69, artist- writer-songwriter

The 2005 Cultural Medallion recipient, who is visually- impaired, is a Renaissance woman, being adept at art and writing.

She has held 30 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 100 group exhibitions locally and overseas.

She has also published 13 Chinese books and has written columns on art and travel for national newspapers and magazines, including the now-defunct Nanyang Siang Pau and its successor Lianhe Zaobao.

As a songwriter, she penned the lyrics to Chinese songs Walk Out Of The Darkness, My Friend and Actually What I Have Left Is Still A Lot.

She writes on paper before having a friend transcribe what she has written and read it aloud to her. She has not learnt Braille reading and consumes texts by listening to audiobooks and having friends read to her.

She is holding an exhibition titled My World Of Prints now on till Wednesday at Art Commune Gallery in Bras Basah Complex. The exhibition showcases various prints she made in her younger years and is open daily from noon to 7pm. Admission is free.

What are you reading now?

Singapore Writers' Group's first anthology of short stories, Rojak. I was at its book launch and I got to hear the authors read their stories aloud. I enjoy hearing the varied voices of locals and expatriates.

It is great that the love of writing can bring a disparate community together as they write on similar themes of love, home and relationships. One interesting story was founder Alice Clark-Platts' story Lions In The Morning which was inspired by Paralympics athlete Oscar Pistorius' shooting incident.

One of the other stories in the book, Kim Ong's Mr Lim And Minah, is about the forbidden relationship between a widowed retiree and his domestic help. I suspect it is based on a true story.

What books would you save from a burning house?

The first book I would save is the first book on Chinese philosophy that I read: The I Ching, or, Book Of Changes by Wilheim-Baynes.

It is ironic that I was introduced to Chinese philosophy by my Western classmates at the art universities I attended in United Kingdom and the United States.

It was only when I was overseas that I started to read the English translations of Chinese philosophy. I now have the audiobook in its original language.

Another audiobook I would save is Lao Chuang, the writings of philosophers Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu which are always read together. The closest equivalent book in English would be The Essential Tao: An Initiation Into The Heart Of Taoism Through The Authentic Tao Te Ching And The Inner Teachings Of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Cleary.

The books include thoughts about yin and yang and have inspired my artworks and my philosophy in life.

In these classics are words of wisdom on how to live one's life meaningfully, how to be an authentic human and how to treat people.

  • Rojak: Stories From The Singapore Writers' Group ($16, 2014, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform), The I Ching, or, Book Of Changes ($17.90, 1989, Penguin Books) and The Essential Tao: An Initiation Into The Heart Of Taoism Through The Authentic Tao Te Ching And The Inner Teachings Of Chuang Tzu ($17.80, 1993, HarperOne) are available from Amazon.com.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'Bookends'. Print Edition | Subscribe