Composer Eric James Watson hits a cultural high note with Medallion honour

Composer Eric James Watson was conferred the Cultural Medallion by President Halimah Yacob in a ceremony at the Istana on Oct 15, 2019. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Composer Eric James Watson has become the 126th artist to be honoured with the Cultural Medallion for his artistic contributions to the country.

Mr Watson, 73, was conferred the award by President Halimah Yacob in a ceremony at the Istana on Tuesday night (Oct 15).

The award comes with $80,000 from the Cultural Medallion Fund that recipients can use to further their artistic pursuits.

Mr Watson told the gathering: "When I emigrated to Singapore in 1991 the arts scene was quite different from what it is now and in the intervening years, I have witnessed an enormous growth in size and diversity and, I might add, an astonishingly quick one.

"I am both blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity to be part of that growth."

About 180 guests, including 18 Cultural Medallion recipients, were present at the ceremony, which also honoured five arts practitioners under the age of 35 with the Young Artist Award.

They were visual artist Weixin Quek Chong, 31, lighting designer Gabriel Chan, 35, film director He Shuming, 34, composer Emily Koh, 33, and animation artist Tan Wei Keong, 35.

Cultural Medallion recipient Eric James Watson and Young Artist Award recipients (from left) He Shuming, Gabriel Chan, Emily Koh, Weixin Quek Chong and Tan Wei Keong. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

They were each presented with a trophy by Ms Grace Fu, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. They will also receive a $20,000 grant and a certificate.

Ms Fu said in a statement: "Their journeys have not been easy nor smooth, but they have demonstrated resilience and determination in pursuing their passions.

"We are committed to supporting our artists in their pursuit of artistic excellence, and look forward to seeing them scale new heights."

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Medallion. Poet Edwin Thumboo was invited by the National Arts Council to write a commemorative poem for the occasion.

In his poem, Cultural Medallion, which he read at the beginning of the ceremony, he celebrated the growth of Singapore's arts scene over the past four decades: "Our variety is infinite; immense. Many coming after us/ Give as freely; create as we still do. But more. Progress/ Is massive."

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National Arts Council chief executive Rosa Daniel said: "The Cultural Medallion has, for the past 40 years, honoured our talented artists who have defined our multi-cultural heritage through their works, articulating our identity as a nation and people.

"Cultural Medallion recipients are cultural heroes and role models who have raised Singapore's profile at home and abroad. Together with this year's Young Artist Award recipients, they attest to Singapore's rich artistic talent and I congratulate them for achieving this milestone in their careers."

There was also a short video tribute to all Cultural Medallion recipients, and an acknowledgement of the deaths this year of three of them - visual artist Chng Seok Tin, painter Tan Kian Por and performance artist Lee Wen.

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