Father and son hold joint exhibition

Singaporean artist Tan Gay Beng (above) and his work titled Tokyo and his father Tan Leong Kheng with his watercolour work.
Singaporean artist Tan Gay Beng (above) and his work titled Tokyo and his father Tan Leong Kheng with his watercolour work.PHOTO: MAURICE TAN
Singaporean artist Tan Gay Beng and his work titled Tokyo and his father Tan Leong Kheng (above) with his watercolour work.
Singaporean artist Tan Gay Beng and his work titled Tokyo and his father Tan Leong Kheng (above) with his watercolour work.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Paris-based Singaporean artist Tan Gay Beng's interest in art started at age five, when he followed his watercolourist father to his Sunday painting sessions almost weekly.

That spurred him to leave home to pursue an art career overseas after completing national service and a course in graphic design here in 1994.

Ironically, it was against the wishes of his father, veteran watercolourist Tan Leong Kheng, now 78.

"My dad taught me to paint when I was a boy and yet he didn't think art was the best of careers," says Tan, 46, who is married with no children.


Singaporean artist Tan Gay Beng and his work titled Tokyo (above) and his father Tan Leong Kheng with his watercolour work. PHOTO: MAURICE TAN

More than 20 years on, father and son will stage their first joint exhibition titled The Colours Of Travel. It opens on Friday at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

  • VIEW IT / THE COLOURS OF TRAVEL

  • WHERE: Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, 47 Hill Street, Level 2, Exhibition Hall

    WHEN: Friday, 1 to 7 pm; Saturday & Sunday, 10am to 6pm

    ADMISSION: Free

The younger Tan, better known as Mo, will display about 10 works, all cityscapes in oil and acrylic inspired by the more than 90 cities he has visited over the years.

"I like to paint cityscapes because I like to travel," says the modern urban landscape artist, who has held shows in London, New York and Paris.

His father, who retired in 2000 after more than 40 years as a school teacher, will show 36 of his watercolour paintings of local scenes and those overseas, including one he painted in France in 1999 when he visited his son there.

The senior Tan, an alumnus of Chinese High School, was taught there by pioneer painters such as Chen Wen Hsi and Chen Chong Swee. He studied briefly at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. He was also a member of the Equator Art Society, a now-defunct leftist art group, where he learnt watercolour painting.

An active member of the Singapore Watercolour Society now, he says he learnt the most from his Sunday sessions with fellow artists Ong Kim Seng, the late Gog Sing Hooi and Ong Chye Cho.

He says: "I still paint on Sundays with the group whenever I can."

Though he has already staged four solo shows, the last in 2009, he says the upcoming one is special because it is held jointly with his second son, the only one among his four children who is an artist.

He says: "Looking back, I am glad he insisted on what he wanted to do and has become a successful artist."

Gay Beng adds: "The show is very special to me too because I know it will make my dad very happy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Father and son hold joint exhibition'. Print Edition | Subscribe