Travelling painter Ang Ah Tee captures spirit of Bhutan

Travelling painter Ang Ah Tee's latest solo exhibition features the mountainous kingdom, which he visited last year

One of Ang’s works, titled Punakha Dzong.
One of Ang’s works, titled Punakha Dzong.PHOTO: ANG AH TEE

Second-generation Singapore artist Ang Ah Tee started travelling to paint almost as soon as he graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) in 1962.

The 72-year-old Cultural Medallion recipient remembers making his first trip in 1963, when he went across the Causeway to explore rural Malaysian towns and fishing villages.

Since then, he has been leaving home to paint every year, sometimes with his artist friends, but often alone.

"I have lost count of the number of countries and cities I visited, but there are still many more places I would like to see and paint," says Ang, who became a full-time painter in 1977 after helping out at his mother's provision shop for several years and working briefly as a clerk in a transport company.

In April last year, he spent 12 days in the mountainous kingdom of Bhutan, which is near the Himalayas.

"It is one place I am very fascinated with and had wanted to visit a long time ago because I was told the people's spirit shows peace and true happiness," he explains.

He took his 33-year-old son Jeremiah along to assist him during the journey. They went from the capital Thimphu to faraway places such as Paro, Punakha and Gangtey, where they visited Bhutanese abodes and monasteries, most of them on top of mountains and accessible only by foot.

The result of his journey is his latest solo exhibition, titled The Spirit Of Bhutan, which opened last Saturday and features 12 semirepresentational landscapes in acrylic-on-canvas that he painted soon after his return.


  • WHERE: Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery, 140 Hill Street, Old Hill Street Police Station, 01-06

    WHEN: Till Aug 29, 11am to 7pm daily


He began making semi-representational paintings after his sixth solo exhibition in 1993.

The new show at the Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery in Hill Street runs till Aug 29.

Ang started painting using watercolour, then oil, before switching to acrylic because "it dries fast" and allows him to paint "spontaneously".

He says the show follows his last three solo exhibitions at Nafa, which each featured works based on his travels in 2006, 2010 and 2013 respectively.

But this show is different, he says, because "it shows only Bhutan, its architecture, culture and religious heritage".

Did he see only happy faces among the less than a million population there?

He replies: "Yes, I sensed calm and peace among the people and all I met were happy. There were no traffic lights or fast food. And television, I was told, came to Bhutan only after 1992."

His next stop is Japan, he says, a country he misses.

"The modern cities there may be a challenge for me, but I will try," he adds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Capturing the spirit of Bhutan'. Subscribe