Chua Mia Tee



Chua Mia Tee was born on 25 November 1931 in China. In 1937, his family migrated to Singapore when he was six. He grew up, playing along the banks of the Singapore River. His childhood experiences influenced him in his choice of theme and subjects. He attended Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts from 1952 to 1957. He is one of Singapore's pioneer artists. He starts by painting on location, refining and completing the process in his studio later. To him, Art must reflect real life.  It need not necessarily be fully naturalistic but it must be firmly grounded in reality, so that the work is in no way ambiguous but rather offers an easily accessible point of reference for the viewer.  A member of the Equator Art Society founded in 1956, he is one of the pioneer practitioners of Social Realism. His famous works include National Language Class (1950) (Medium: Oil on canvas. Size: 112 x 153 cm. Collection of the Singapore Art Museum) and Workers in a Canteen (1974) which underline a vigorous search towards an anti-colonialistic and nationalistic identity in art. The 1953 Chinese High School Arts Association catalogue contains oils, woodcuts and drawings by Chua Mia Tee, and his associate artists such as Lim Yew Kuan, Lee Boon Wang and Lai Kui Fang. Later, these artists were active members of the Equator Art Society which opposed the formalist and newer "Western" trends which were regarded as going against the grain of the development of a national identity in art.

Chua Mia Tee is also a highly regarded master of portrait painting. He has captured on canvas prominent businessman and politicians including past and present presidents and prime ministers of Singapore. He has been invited to design currency notes and has proven his talents in creating the fifty-dollar commemorative banknote in celebration of Singapore's 25th year of independence, as well as a limited edition one million dollars commemorative note to mark the handover of Hong Kong to China.

His solo shows include the 1988 exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore, the 1985 exhibition at the Lone Pine Gallery and the British Council Art Gallery, Singapore, in 1974 and 1982. Group exhibitions include the 1989 National Museum Art gallery, Brunei and the 1980 Chinese Chamber of Commerce group exhibition. Private collections such as the American Embassy, IBM Corp., DBS Bank, Credit Suisse, Hong Leong Organization and the Singapore Island Country Club hold his works. Public collections include those at National Museum, Ministry of Community Development and the Urban Redeveopment Authority.

He lives at Kheam Hock Road, just behind the Command House, Singapore.


Passages of Time

Chua Mia Tee, 71, is one of Singapore's most famous and skilled realistic artists. He has captured significant moments in Singapore history. In Passages of Time, Chua's works of the Singapore River, Chinatown of the 1980's, paintings from his travels, and latest masterpieces of koi and animals will be on display until October 13th 2002.

Linda Gallery, Blk 15 Dempsey Rd #01-03, Tel: 6476 7000

Chua Mia Tee
SOURCE: Preface by Mr Ho Kah Leong, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore

My love for Chua Mia Tee's paintings dates back to my school days more than 30 years ago. One of his paintings has left an indelible impression on me. It depicts a trishaw-rider pedaling home along a dimly lit street in the dead of night. The realistic rendition and the subdued coloured tone, with the trishaw and its rider casting a long shadow, give the painting a somber, desolate air. I find it most touching and unforgettable. I cannot attribute this to factors other than the captivating power of art.

Such power is a crucial element of a good painting, though not the only one. Some paintings may look attractive but lack what may be called "lingering charm". When this exquisite value and the captivating power merge, a superb work of art is born. To be able to impart both artistic qualities requires self-cultivation, great skill and talent.

Mia Tee's paintings in general display these twin features. As a member of the realistic school, he has reached the stage of near-perfection, in skill and technique. His adept use of colour and strokes sets him apart as a celebrated artist. He has great zest for life and is a meticulous observer of people and nature. He is able to place different elements in their proper perspective.

His early works are, mostly about people and therefore thematic. His recent works focus more on local scenes and display greater maturity. The Singapore River and China Town are among his favourite themes. His works, past or present, possess a three dimensional quality so realistic that the viewer often finds himself transported into the scene portrayed. They are a pleasure to look at. They arouse one's zest for life and generate a deep affection for one's motherland.

The most striking difference between art and nature is that the former is an inspired creation. Otherwise, there would be no place for art in today's world of advanced photography.

Art is not merely a reproduction of nature; it is a crystallization of the artist's creative efforts. To express his thoughts and emotion well, he must have a strong foundation and well-versed techniques. Years ago, Mia Tee already attained this level of achievement.

I am one of his many admirers, not so much because of our master-student relations in the 1950s, but more, because I have benefited a great deal from his guidance. All these years I have not missed even a single exhibition by him. While his style has remained the same throughout, his skill has improved remarkably. Without doubt, he has established a unique style of his own.

Singapore is a free and open society for artists as well. All schools of art - be they realists, impressionists, romanticists or modernists - are flourishing. Among his contemporaries in Singapore, Mia Tee is at the head of the school of realism.

His works have enriched our country's art treasures. With the publication of this art album, more people can now appreciate his works at leisure.

May he scale still greater heights and help bring about bumper harvests in the field of art in Singapore