Cultural Medallion recipient Chng Seok Tin dies aged 73

Artist Chng Seok Tin lost most of her eyesight in 1988 after a surgery to remove a brain abscess, but persevered in her art making, relearning printmaking techniques and turning her focus to sculpture and mixed media. PHOTO: CHNG SEOK TIN

SINGAPORE - Visually-impaired artist and Cultural Medallion recipient Chng Seok Tin has died of cancer at the age of 73.

Chng was a versatile artist who worked in diverse media such as printmaking, painting, sculpture.

She lost most of her eyesight in 1988 after a surgery to remove a brain abscess, but persevered in her art making, relearning printmaking techniques and turning her focus to sculpture and mixed media.

She had been receiving treatment for lung cancer but at the end of last year, it spread to her liver. She died at 1.30pm on Friday (Sept 6) at Assisi Hospice, where she had spent the last few months. Chng, who was single, leaves behind three sisters and two brothers.

Awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2005, she has held 30 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 140 group exhibitions.

Her most recent exhibition, An Unbroken Line at Jendela (Visual Arts Space), The Esplanade, traces her evolution as an artist through her early works.

In January, she had also worked with charity Very Special Arts Singapore (VSA) on a solo exhibition, My Journey.

VSA programme manager Malcolm Tan, 51, who was her former student at Lasalle College of the Arts, said: "I feel Singapore has lost a very good artist and I have lost a very good teacher. She was so giving and would share without reservation."

Arts educator Kng Mian Sze, 42, who, with her husband, visited Chng regularly at the hospice in the last couple of months, said: "Every time we visited her she seemed to be in good spirits. When I told her I spent a lot of time on the computer which tired me, she even taught me how to massage my eyes."

Chng started learning sketching, watercolour and sculpture when she was 19 years old.

She worked as a Chinese-language teacher at Tanjong Katong Girls School and later went on to study art formally at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, then at the St. Martin's School of Art in London.

She earned her bachelor's in art from the Hull College of Higher Education in 1979, followed by a master's in arts at the New Mexico State University in 1983 and another in fine arts in 1985 at the University of Iowa.

She has taught at the Lasalle College of the Arts and held residencies in universities in the United States and China.

A lover of classic literature, she was a prolific writer of columns, essays and short stories in Chinese. She published 13 books and was set to launch another, a collection of her poetry, this weekend.

Esplanade head of visual arts and children/youth Peggy Leong, 46, said: "We are sad to have lost one of Singapore's most versatile and engaging artists... Seok Tin's generosity of spirit and devotion towards the arts will always be remembered and be an inspiration to us."

Dr Bridget Tracy Tan, director for the Institute of Southeast Asian Arts and Art Galleries at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, paid tribute to the artist's multidisciplinary practice and her personal voice. "She often incorporated the fiction of tragic protagonists in her practice, offering insights into her own spiritual resilience and bittersweet journeys."

"The deeply personal aspect of her practice allows her to stand out. We should remember Seok Tin as above all, a humanist. Through her life's challenges and various setbacks, she has persevered in using her art as a means of realising human value and self-worth."

The wake will be held at Block 8 Haig Road from Friday evening until Tuesday (Sept 10), when the cortege will depart at 10.25am for Mandai Crematorium Hall 4 for cremation at 11.25am.

According to her family, Chng requested no flowers and that those who pay their respects should not be in mourning colours "in celebration of her life".

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