Watercolourist's comeback after stroke

Harry Chin Chun Wah with the watercolour painting of Singapore Press Holdings' News Centre.
Harry Chin Chun Wah with the watercolour painting of Singapore Press Holdings' News Centre.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

After laying off painting for nearly four decades and surviving a mild stroke recently, watercolourist Harry Chin Chun Wah, 75, is staging his fourth solo exhibition since returning to the art scene about three years ago.

The founding member of the Singapore Watercolour Society in 1969 and a well-known artist here in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is showing 40 of his mostly recent watercolours at Ode To Art Platform at Raffles City Convention Centre.

His first comeback show was held in 2013, followed by a charity exhibition at Keppel Club a year later. He staged his last solo show a year ago.

On the frequency of his shows, Chin, who was well known for his sketches in pen and wash - a painting technique using marker pens and watercolours to depict scenes with light, deft strokes - says he is catching up on lost time as an artist.

The 1967 Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts graduate worked as an artist and designer first for the former Radio and Television, Singapore, then the Culture Ministry and later the Housing and Development Board for a total of 10 years. He then gave up painting to join developer Far East Organization as its advertising manager in 1977.

He retired in 1999 and became an avid golfer.

  • VIEW IT / MOMENTS

  • WHERE: Ode To Art Platform, Level 4 foyer at Raffles City Convention Centre, 252 North Bridge Road

    WHEN: Till May 19, 11 am to 9pm (Sunday to Thursday) and noon to 10pm (Friday and Saturday)

    ADMISSION: Free

But three years ago, when his daughter showed him paintings of the late Malaysian artist Tan Choon Ghee, whom he knew when they were artists in Singapore in the 1960s, it spurred him to pick up his brush again.

He says: "I had just recovered from glaucoma, which required a cornea transplant, and my wife died in 2010. I was all alone. With the encouragement from my two sons and two daughters, I started to roam the streets here again to paint and realised that my love for and skills in watercolour painting had not left me."

He quickly put his paintings, both past and present, into a book and published it in conjunction with his first exhibition, at a local art gallery in December 2013.

Tragedy struck just a few months later when he suffered a mild stroke. His speech became slurred and the right side of his body was weak.

"I thought my comeback to art could last only a few months and I would never be able to paint again," he recalls.

But he was determined not to be defeated and, after a few months of therapy, recovered fully.

He says: "I see this as my third chance to be an artist again and I treasure it even more now. At my age, I paint because I enjoy it more than anything else."

Most of the works in his show are local scenes he painted recently, including an 80cm by 52cm watercolour painting of Singapore Press Holdings' News Centre in Toa Payoh.

He presented it to Mr Goh Sin Teck, chief editor of Lianhe Zaobao, who officiated at the opening of his show last Friday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline 'Watercolourist's comeback after stroke'. Print Edition | Subscribe