Highlights from the 26 works donated to the National Gallery by DBS Bank

Silk Road by Wee Beng Chong. 1986. Chinese ink and colour on paper, 121 x 61 cm. Gift of DBS Bank Ltd. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL COLLECTION, SINGAPORE 
Silk Road by Wee Beng Chong. 1986. Chinese ink and colour on paper, 121 x 61 cm. Gift of DBS Bank Ltd. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL COLLECTION, SINGAPORE 
Longevity Tree by Tan Swie Hian. Undated. Acrylic and Chinese ink on paper, 154 x 122 cm. Gift of DBS Bank Ltd. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL COLLECTION, SINGAPORE 
Barber by Ong Kim Seng. 1982. Watercolour on paper, 54 x 70 cm. Gift of DBS Bank Ltd. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL COLLECTION, SINGAPORE 
River Bank by Chen Chong Swee. 1971. Watercolour on paper, 76 x 97.5cm. Gift of DBS Bank Ltd. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL COLLECTION, SINGAPORE 
Temple by China-born Gog Sing Hooi (1933 - 1994), one of Singapore's pioneer watercolourists. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL GALLERY 

DBS Bank made headlines on Thursday for donating $25 million to the National Gallery Singapore. But art lovers will also be keen to see the other donation the bank made: the 26 artworks by local artists such as Cheong Soo Pieng, Anthony Poon and Ong Kim Seng, from the bank's corporate collection.

Here are some of the highlights from the paintings donation.

1. Temple (above)

China-born Gog Sing Hooi (1933 - 1994) was one of Singapore's pioneer watercolourists. He moved to Penang with his widowed mother when he was one. Although his education was interrupted by the Japanese Occupation, he went on to teach after completing his primary and secondary school education. He came to Singapore in 1957 to enrol in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts as well as to teach at a primary school and to study at the Singapore Teachers' Training College.

He is known for his use of thin transparent washes, which give his work a much-admired luminosity. His favourite subjects included the Singapore river as well as street scenes. This 1981 work captures the elaborate architectural features of the Thian Hock Keng Temple. Gog, who helped co-found the Singapore Watercolour Society in 1969, never became a full-time artist but taught for more than 20 years in schools till his death in 1994.

2. Returning From Market

Pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng (1917 - 1983) is one of Singapore's best-known artists and a major proponent of the Nanyang style of art. Born in Xiamen, China, he came to Singapore in 1946. He taught at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time artist.

He is known for his fusion of Asian, Southeast Asian and Western aesthetics. His distinctive treatment of human figures - the curvaceous lines and elongation of limbs reminiscent of Modigliani - is evident in this work. The colour scheme and patterned background - echoing the women's sarongs - also suggest the batik prints native to the region. S

3. Sisters & A Boy

Another work by Cheong Soo Pieng showcasing his distinctive way of painting women. The female figure is a favourite subject of the artist. The painting is a good example of Cheong's fine brushwork, which captures in delicate detail the different foliage and the patterned sarong. The greens and orange also lend the work a fresh vibrance.

4. R-Flo Waves

Anthony Poon (1945 - 2006) belongs to the second generation of Singapore artists and was a major proponent of abstract art. The artist and sculptor is best known for his wave paintings, including this work.

The Cultural Medallion recipient explores lines, forms and colours in his works. This particular example offers a harmonious arrangement of waves rendered in a carefully selected palette of graduated shades.

5. Silk Road

Artist and sculptor Wee Beng Chong (born 1938) is a versatile practitioner who works in various mediums from modern sculpture to Chinese ink. The first recipient of the Cultural Medallion in 1979, he co-founded the Modern Art Society and was the head of the Fine Art Department in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) from 1982 to 1989.
This 1986 Chinese ink and colour on paper work shows his deft fusion of genres and influences. The abstract composition feels very contemporary while the ink wash and calligraphy harks back to ancient roots.

6. Longevity Tree

Another Cultural Medallion recipient, multidisciplinary artist Tan Swie Hian (born 1943) is known for his calligraphic works. He is also a prolific author, having published poetry, essays and stories. His works are also influenced by his religious beliefs - he is a Buddhist.
This undated work in acrylic and Chinese ink is typical of his fusion of Eastern and Western influences. The energetically bold black slashes reflect his calligraphic influences while the ink washes draw from the tradition of Chinese painting.

7. Barber

Watercolourist Ong Kim Seng (born 1945) grew up in a Tiong Bahru kampung. The self-taught artist worked with oils and pastels before settling on watercolours as his chosen medium. He worked various jobs, from welding to policing, to support himself. He told Life! in an interview: "It was a life full of struggle. It was hard to even exhibit works. Artists in my time used to give their works to the Singapore Art Society and we even had to pay an entry fee for submitting our work. At that time, getting the space to exhibit our works was like striking lottery."
His detailed watercolours, such as this once-common scene of a barber pursuing his profession on a five foot way, capture long lost aspects of the Singapore landscape with telling affection but without sentimentality.

8. River Bank

Guangdong-born Chen Chong Swee (1910 - 1985) was another pioneer of the Nanyang school of art. He arrived in Penang in 1932 and taught art in schools there and in Malacca before moving to Singapore in 1934. He taught art in Chinese schools here before becoming head of the Chinese painting department in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art in 1951. He taught there till 1975.
This 1971 watercolour is typical of his realist style, and likely painted "en plein air", the French term for "in the open air", a method he favoured. There is a sense of stillness in painting, emphasised by the wide expanses of paper tinted by the barest wash of colour. But also a sense of anticipation; the clutter and the battered nature of the boats, as well as the busy line of boats in the background are a reminder this is a busy working river.

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