No Chinese ink exhibition by second-generation Singapore artist Lim Kay Hiong is complete without his paintings of cats, and black ones at that.
His latest show L'amore Ink On Paper, now on at The Fullerton Hotel, is no exception.
Of his 37 recent works in Chinese ink and colours which are on display, nine of them show his signature cat in different poses.
Although cats are not usually subjects in traditional Chinese ink paintings, the 69-year-old artist, who graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) in 1966, says he started painting them in the early 1980s.
A student of the late pioneer artist Fan Chang Tien, he says he was at his teacher's studio one day, learning to paint birds and flowers when he suddenly remarked: "How nice if a cat could appear in the composition as well."
VIEW IT / L'AMORE INK ON PAPER
WHERE: 01-08 The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square
WHEN: Till Monday, from 10am to 7pm daily
A fellow student retorted: "You think it is so easy to do? Try to paint one yourself."
He felt challenged and spent the next three months painting cats until he came up with one in black ink that he was satisfied with.
Since then, he has been studying cats closely and had one as a pet.
Now he is so good at it that his paintings of cats are the most sought after by collectors.
He says: "Painting the cat is no easier than the horse or other animals, especially in black ink, as it requires good control of both the ink and brush."
Lim, a full-time painter since 1991 after stints as an art teacher and freelance illustrator, has a repertoire that spans oil, watercolour, modern abstract works and Chinese calligraphy, which he studied under another pioneer artist, See Hiang To.
Gallery Nawei's owner Jenny Zhu, 47, who curated Lim's current show, says his versatility can be seen even in his ink paintings, which include representational, semi-abstract and Chinese calligraphy works alongside more traditional ones of birds, flowers and domestic animals, including the cat.
China-born Lim, a widower with a grown-up son, left China for Singapore with his mother when he was six.
He learnt Chinese brush painting when he was studying at Thomson Secondary School in the early 1960s, before enrolling in Nafa.
While at the art school, he founded the Molan Art Association with other like-minded Chinese ink painters and has been active in the local Chinese art scene here since then.
"I will continue to paint the cat, but will try to present it in a more creative manner for my next show," he says.