COMPILED BY JOEL TAN
Published on 16 March 2015
Liu Kang was a pioneering Malaysian-Singapore oil painter known for his stylised, figurative paintings of Malayan scenes. He is widely recognised for establishing a distinctive visual-art idiom, dubbed the ‘Nanyang Style’, and for his efforts in education and mentorship.
Born in China’s Fujian province, Liu grew up in Malaya, but was educated in China. He took classes at the Shanghai College of Fine Arts and furthered his fine-art studies in Paris at L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière between 1929 and 1933, where he was greatly influenced by the modern works of Cézanne, Gaugin and Van Gogh. He spent World War II in Malaysia and arrived in Singapore after the war.
In 1952, he and fellow Singapore artists, Chen Chong Swee, Cheong Soo Pieng and Chen Wen Hsi, took a trip to Bali to search for a visual style that could be described as Southeast Asian. This was the beginning of this group’s development of the Nanyang Style, influenced by both Western approaches and Chinese painting traditions. On his return, Liu produced famous works like 1954’s ‘Artist and Model’ and ‘Batik Workers’. He accepted teaching positions at the Association of Chinese Artists of Singapore and the Singapore Art Society — among his students was Singapore’s former President Ong Teng Cheong.
Liu was the recipient of both the Public Service Star and the Meritorious Service Medal, given in recognition of his contributions to local art. Before his death in 2004, he gave a large part of his work, amounting to over 1,000 pieces, to the Singapore Art Museum.
A household name, Dick Lee is one of Singapore’s most well-known songwriters, composers and performers. Among his achievements: writing the music and lyrics for Singapore’s unofficial national anthem, ‘Home’, scoring landmark Singapore musical, Beauty World as well as contributions to Singapore music in the ’70s and ’80s.
Born Lee Peng Boon in 1956, Lee’s music career began as a teen when he took part in talent competitions with bands like Harmony and Dick and the Gang. Harmony was eventually invited to perform weekly on TV. Lee released his first album, Life Story (1974), followed by the hugely successful Life in the Lion City (1984) and The Mad Chinaman (1989). The success of The Mad Chinaman in Japan prompted a move there in 1990, where he produced more albums and penned songs for Asian stars like Sandy Lam and Japanese group Zoo.
Apart from his work as a recording artist and producer, Lee is also noted for his contributions to Singapore musical theatre as a composer, lyricist and sometime book-writer. His stage musicals include Beauty World (1988), Fried Rice Paradise (1991) and Sing to the Dawn (1997). Associate Artistic Director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre since 1998, he penned his first play, Rising Son, about his father’s experiences during World War II, for the company last year. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2005 for his contributions to the arts in Singapore.
Lit Up Fest
Lit Up Fest is an annual multi-disciplinary arts festival that celebrates theatre, puppetry, live music, improv-comedy and the spoken word, among other art forms. Held for the past two years at the Aliwal Arts Centre, the festival provides an exploratory, experimental platform for artists — most of whom are young, emerging talents — responding to a common festival theme. Previous themes have included ‘Progress’ and ‘Walk the Equator’. The festival is organised by Word Forward, a creative-writing organisation well known for its Poetry Slam and other spoken word events.