ZHONG SIBIN (1917 – 1983)

Boats on the Water ((CHEONG SOO PIENG, 1917 - 1983))

Signed and dated “SOO PIENG, 1961

Ink and colour on paper, framed Chinese painting

43.5 x 62.5 cm (17.1 x 24.6 ins)

Cheong Soo Pieng was born in Amoy, China in 1917. He studied art at the Xiamen Academy of Fine Art in 1933. He graduated in 1936 and went on to attend the Xinuha Academy of Fine Art in Shanghai. His time at the Xinuha Academy was cut short due to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War that destroyed the school. Cheong returned to the Xiamen Academy to teach .In 1942 he held his first exhibition showing watercolours as oil paint was scarce at the time. He relocated to Singapore in 1946 and lectured for the next twenty years at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art. Here he was a pioneer of the Nanyang art style, a Southeast Asian art movement that was characterized by Chinese ink paintings that had graphic outlines and muted palettes. He was at the forefront of developing Modernism in Singapore in the early part of the 20th century.

He is well known for his depictions of Malay and Balinese women with elongated features. He integrated Western and East Asian traditions and was constantly experimenting with different styles and techniques.

In 1955 along with five other artists he came to England to show their work. The exhibition was opened by the Duchess of Kent.

From 1961 – 1963 he went on a sojourn to Europe. This was to prove life-changing and was the influence that marked the start of his experimentation with abstraction.

Boats on the Water is an early example of Cheong Soo Pieng’s abstract works from the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s. The painting dates from his first year as a full-time artist. Boats on the Water demonstrates his fine use of line work and colour.