In memory of late artist and his portraits

Madam Li Zhengxiu standing between a portrait of her late husband, artist Qu Jinzhong, and that of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Madam Li Zhengxiu standing between a portrait of her late husband, artist Qu Jinzhong, and that of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A posthumous exhibition of 24 portraits in oil, charcoal and pencil sketches by the late Chinese painter Qu Jinzhong opened at a Singapore gallery on Sunday, just over a year after his sudden death of acute myeloid leukaemia, which took many of his collectors and students here by surprise.

Qu, who came here from Kunming, China, to teach and paint six years ago, was admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital following gum bleeding and a high fever on Aug 11 last year. He died less than 12 hours later, aged 57, leaving behind his 40-year-old wife and a 15-year-old son, both residents here.

Wife Li Zhengxiu, owner of Nanman Art at Tanglin Shopping Centre, is staging the show titled In Loving Memory at her gallery to mark the first anniversary of his death.

Many of the works are portraits in oil and charcoal as well as pencil sketches he made of Singapore's late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew months before and after Mr Lee's death in March last year. There is also a portrait of himself done in 2012, besides several others he painted of other people.

  • VIEW IT / IN LOVING MEMORY

  • WHERE:NanmanArt, 03-54 Tanglin Shopping Centre, 19 TanglinRoad

    WHEN: Till Oct 5, 11am to 6pm daily

    ADMISSION: Free

Explaining the large number of Mr Lee's portraits in the show, Madam Li says: "My husband was an admirer of the Singapore leader. He started reading about Mr Lee and painting his portraits since early last year.

"He often told me life is transient and only art can last forever."

She adds: "Little did my husband realise then that his own life was to end so soon after Mr Lee's."

Madam Li also says her husband, who graduated from the Yunnan Academy of Fine Arts in 1986, was an idealist and a serious artist who would go to great lengths to paint the subjects he liked.

"For example, in order to paint the life of the rural folk in the obscure villages in the country, he could spend months living among them," she explains.

Most of the portraits at the show, she says, were painted in Singapore at his studio in Tanglin Shopping Centre in the past few years.

Her husband left behind many other works painted in different media and genres over his three-decade career, including those in Chinese ink, landscapes, watercolours and even those in semi-abstract, which are kept in their home in Kunming.

"I will show them later, starting with this show of his portraits first," says Madam Li.

Singapore Watercolour Society president Seah Kang Chui, who had his pencil-sketch portrait done by Qu just two weeks before his death, says: "Mine was probably the last portrait he did for anybody. I miss him as a good artist friend."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'In memory of late artist and his portraits'. Print Edition | Subscribe