Dramatist, pianist, writer and painter awarded Cultural Medallion

Cultural Medallion recipients (from left) Lin Gao, Haresh Sharma and Chua Mia Tee.
Cultural Medallion recipients (from left) Lin Gao, Haresh Sharma and Chua Mia Tee.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Anothe recipient, virtuoso pianist Margaret Leng Tan, was the first woman ever to earn a doctorate from The Juilliard School.
Anothe recipient, virtuoso pianist Margaret Leng Tan, was the first woman ever to earn a doctorate from The Juilliard School.PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL

SINGAPORE - Dramatist Haresh Sharma, virtuoso pianist Margaret Leng Tan, Chinese writer Lin Gao and painter Chua Mia Tee received the Cultural Medallion on Friday (Oct 16).

At a ceremony held at the Istana, President Tony Tan Keng Yam presented the four artists with the award, the highest Singapore accolade for contributions to the arts.

Established in 1979, the Cultural Medallion has been presented to 119 artists to date, including this year’s recipients. Each recipient is eligible for a $80,000 grant, which can be used to fund artistic endeavours over their lifetime.

For Chua, who at 84 is the oldest of this year’s recipients, the occasion recalled memories.

Over a career spanning six decades, he has documented watershed moments in the nation’s history, such as the swearing-in of then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. He has also painted portraits of the country’s first President, Mr Yusof Ishak, and its late founding father Lee Kuan Yew. 

“I feel particularly moved today at the Istana, where I have met and painted various generations of presidents and prime ministers,” said the painter in his acceptance speech. His portraits of  Mr Yusof Ishak and Mr Lee appear on Singapore’s commemorative SG50 $50 note.

Sharma, 50, is the resident playwright at local theatre company The Necessary Stage, known for its incisive and observant works on society. One of last year’s Medallion winners, Alvin Tan, is the company’s artistic director.

 

Sharma is also an accomplished author, whose works such as Off Centre (1993) have been used as literature texts in schools here. Last year, he won the Southeast Asian Write Award, which honours literary excellence in the region.

New York-based Dr Tan, 70, was the first woman ever to earn a doctorate from the prestigious The Juilliard School in the United States. She studied under the late American avant-garde composer John Cage.

Chinese author Lim Hung Chang, 66, better known as Lin Gao, last year clinched the Singapore Literature Prize in the fiction category for his work, Micro-fiction, which explores the human condition in his distinct narrative style. 

Seven artists also received the Young Artist Award, which recognises those aged 35 and below who have shown promise and artistic excellence. Recipients can apply for study or project grants of up to $20,000.

This year’s recipients are: multi-disciplinary artist Loo Zihan, 31; composer Diana Soh, 31; lighting designer James Tan, 35; film-maker Kirsten Tan, 34; percussionist Muhammad Riduan Zalani, 30; and visual artists Chun Kai Feng and Chun Kai Qun, twins who are both 33.