Terminally ill artist stages fourth solo show

One of the paintings (above) in the Return To Nature series by watercolourist Chew Piak San.
One of the paintings (above) in the Return To Nature series by watercolourist Chew Piak San.PHOTO: SOOBIN ART INT'L
One of the paintings in the Return To Nature series by watercolourist Chew Piak San (above).
One of the paintings in the Return To Nature series by watercolourist Chew Piak San (above).PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Singapore second-generation water- colourist Chew Piak San, who is terminally ill, is staging his fourth solo exhibition.

Chew, 74, who declines to reveal the details of his illness, is showing 53 of his works he painted over the past five decades in the retrospective show at Soobin Art Int'l in Ubi Techpark which opened last Saturday.

Gallery owner Chua Soo Bin, a long-time friend of his, is offering his gallery space free to Chew.

Mr Chua is also not charging the artist any commission for the sale of his works - all measuring about 50 by 70cm each and priced at $10,000, except a larger piece he painted of the Singapore River in 1996 which has a price tag of $20,000.

  • VIEW IT /CHEW PIAK SAN WATERCOLOUR EXHIBITION

  • WHERE: Soobin Art Int'l, 04-90, Lobby E, Ubi Techpark, 10 Ubi Crescent

    WHEN: Till Dec 9, 11am to 6pm daily, except Saturdays and Sundays

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: Call 6837-2777

"I am doing this to encourage my friend who is one of the most diligent and serious Singapore artists I have ever known, but who kept a low profile all these years," says Mr Chua, 84, a Cultural Medallion recipient for photography before he went into the gallery business in the early 1980s.

Chew, a graduate of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa), who became a full-time painter in 1998 after teaching art in schools for 35 years, divides his life's works into three stages.

"I was taught sketching in the school by Georgette Chen, sculpture by Lim Yew Kuan, oil by Tan Tee Chie and watercolour by See Cheen Tee, and I tried doing all that before I settled on painting in watercolour," Chew says.

His second period of watercolour paintings started in the late 1960s after he joined the Singapore Watercolour Society to paint outdoor every Sunday on subjects such as the Singapore River and old street scenes. He did this together with the society's founding members Lim Cheng Hoe, Gog Sing Hooi, Ong Chye Cho and others - a practice he kept up till recently when he fell ill.

The third period, he says, began in 1998 after he became a full-time painter when he turned his attention to nature's beauty and scenery. These are shown in his works such as the Return To Nature series, which he created last year.

In conjunction with the current show, Chew, who is married with twin daughters in their 30s, has published a book of his works.

He says: "I still hope to paint again when I get well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2016, with the headline 'Terminally ill artist stages fourth solo show'. Print Edition | Subscribe