Anthony Poon


Anthony Poon (Chinese: 方谨顺; 1945 September 2, 2006) was one of the pioneering abstract artists in Singapore. Winner of the prestigious Cultural Medallion, he was best known for his "Wave" series of paintings. He died from lung cancer at the age of 61.

Anthony Poon graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 1964. He pursued further studies at Bynam Shaw School of Art in London in 1968 on a Lee Foundation study grant, returning to Singapore in 1971.

His early works, although containing figurations instructive of the formal teachings of NAFA, already showed signs of semi-abstraction. He quickly developed a unique style, centred on his interest in the spatial relationship between line and colour. This was evident in the Kite series of geometric abstractions and aerodynamic shapes on shaped canvas, developed just before his return to Singapore.

His re-entry into the Singapore art scene was marked by regular exhibitions at the Alpha Gallery. Here, abstraction was the predominant form of expression, although Poon differed in being more conceptual, analytical and controlled as compared to his contemporaries.

In the late 1970s, he produced the Wave series, abandoning the shaped canvas for the square frame, although order and symmetry remained the operative logic. This was followed by the Frequency series in the early '80s, a truncated variant of the wave motif. Here, the illusion of three-dimensionality emerged as an interest of his. He also explored chromatic ranges in the Colour Theory series during this period.

He then expanded fully into the third dimension in the mid 1980s, with the Wave relief marking his progress into three-dimensions on canvas.

Sculptural works followed in the early 1990s, allowing for an interactive play of volume and void to form. His sculptures told of his meticulous slant towards precision, which were a creative engineering feat of geometrical shapes.

More than 20 of his works can be seen throughout Singapore, from the Singapore Turf Club to the National Library, Ministry of Information and the Arts, and the HDB Hub. Public collections can also be seen overseas in Brunei, Beijing and Washington DC. He was a busy artist with many commissions. Even after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he continued to work as per normal, completing a sculpture for the Beijing 2008 Olympics soon before he passed away, fulfilling a wish he made in 1991 when he said, "I would like to end my life with a paint brush in my hand."

He was known in the art world for his professionalism and discipline. Fellow artist Teo Eng Seng said, "He was a good example of a successful artist. People tend to think that artists are not organised, but Anthony was highly organised, highly competent."

He sat on the specialist panels of many art advisory boards, including the Singapore National Arts Council. He was also a member of the Third Singapore Note And Coin Advisory Committee, assisting in the design of new currency notes and coins. In 1990, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Art, Singapore's highest award for those achieving artistic excellence.

Source: GNU Open Source Project at Wikipedia


Squatri Purma from "Shaped Canvas" series by Anthony Poon. Year: 1970. Medium: Acrylic on canvas. Size: 213 x 318 cm

Source: Kwok Kian Chow. Channels & Confluences: A History of Singapore Art. Singapore: National Heritage Board/Singapore Art Museum, 1996. Plate 96.

Anthony Poon is a graduate of NAFA and he furthered his studies in England from 1967 to 1971. Poon's work centres on his interest in the spatial relationship between line and colour. From the Shaped Canvas series and the Waves series of the 1970s, where the basic square was mutiplied and rearranged, to the works of the 1980s, when he began to explore chromatic ranges in the Colour Theory series, Poon's works deal with the innermost relationship of form and colour. In CR on Black Square, which represents the beginning of Colour Theory and the accumulation of his Waves series, brushwork and texture have been completely eliminated in favour of a carefully modulated shade of deep cadmium red contained within repetitive linear elements and his characteristic "waves". The hard-edged precision of the work emphasises the surface plane and its two-dimensional quality.

Source: Kwok Kian Chow. Channels & Confluences: A History of Singapore Art. Singapore: National Heritage Board/Singapore Art Museum, 1996.

Reference: T.K. Sabapathy. Sculpture in Singapore. Singapore: National Museum, 1991.


Space-Time Link, 1997

The sculpture, Space-Time Link is based on the principle of two interlocking Mobius strips, the smaller one within the larger. It captures to movement of travel through time and space. It reaches into abstract symbolism yet is rooted in physical reality - link the space-time diagrams which help scientists comprehend the complex relationship of time and space. It lends perspective in the broader sense of the word, going beyond the tromp l'oeil of the creators of cyberspace.

Sculptor: Anthony Poon

Location: Shell Tower, UE Square
Patron: Shell