Public Art Programmes 2014


Picturing Nanyang: A Romantic Perspective of Southern Seas?

SATURDAY 16 August 2014, 2pm – 4pm

Free Admission


Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers (HBArt) present a series of public art programmes in conjunction with a Nanyang themed exhibition titled Nanyang: A Private Selling Exhibition which runs from 31 July 2014 to 3 August 2014 at artspace@222 in Singapore followed by at Curate in Kuala Lumpur from 6 to 22 August 2014.

The objective of this forum is to discuss the history and the works of pioneering artists of Malaysia and Singapore who have forged and claimed an identity of its own. Known as Nanyang or ‘Southern Seas’, the term was originally coined by literary intelligentsia of the late 1920s to represent contemporary Chinese narratives written based on local subjects of the region.

This exhibition is a survey of works by a selection of artists who had advocated the spirit of regionalism in depicting scenic landscapes of a new and faraway homeland and adoringly capture local essences by incorporating Chinese art with Western techniques. Aimed to highlight connections and coherence, this show will encourage viewers to develop their own understanding of the Nanyang style thus promoting continuity emotionally and culturally in preserving the history of our region. This exclusive exhibition also provides an opportunity for discerning collectors to acquire and possess a precious piece of history.

Among the artists represented in this show are Yong Mun Sen (1886-1962), Chen Wen Hsi (1906-1991), Lee Cheng Yong (1913-1974), Khaw Sia (1913-1966), Kuo Ju Ping (1913-1966), Tan Choon Ghee (1930-2010), Chia Yu Chian (1936-1991), Tew Nai Tong (1936-2013), and others.



Emelia Ong


Art Historian and Educator

Emelia Ong Ian Li studied Graphic Design from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA. She taught Design and Typography at various art colleges and universities while working as a freelance graphic designer. She then completed her postgraduate degrees in Art History at University Malaya (MA) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (PhD). Her research areas include modern Malaysian art, identity studies, cultural studies and postcolonial studies. Currently, she is teaching Art History at Universiti Malaya.


Kelvin Chuah


Artist and Writer

Kelvin Chuah studied Southeast Asian art history under the late art historian Redza Piyadasa at the University of Malaya, writing his Masters thesis on ‘Tracing the Origins and History of Watercolour in Malaya and Singapore until 1957’ which is published in a comprehensive book titled Imagining Identities: Narratives in Malaysian Art Volume 1 produced by RogueArt. He is now pursuing his doctorate on the modern condition in Malaya and Singapore, selecting Cheong Soo Pieng as a case study.



1.         Briefly describe the term Nanyang Art and what it represents in visual art.

2.         Is Nanyang art a movement of its own? If so, is it comparable to Mooi Indie of Indonesia (c.1930s) and/or the Romantic period (1820 – 1900) of Filipino art?

3.         In what way does the romantic notion of the subject matter encapsulate the term Nanyang?

4.         What did all the Nanyang artists have in common and how did they translate their similarities and/or differences into their work of art?

5.         What did they strive to achieve in their expressions and did they create for the society of their time i.e. in particular, did they intend to reach out to their subject matter?

6.         How does the present day society analyse the works of Nanyang artists and what does the future hold for Nanyang-style works in relation to modern day context?