ABC Issue 25

Published on 15 September 2015



Tan Swie Hian is a multi-faceted artist known for his poetry, novels, translations, paintings, calligraphy and sculptures.

Born in 1943 in Pulau Halang, Indonesia, Tan was later enrolled at The Chinese High in Singapore where he cultivated a love of the arts. He subsequently pursued a degree in Modern Arts and Languages, graduating in 1968, and began a long-term career with the French Embassy in Singapore.

That same year, he published The Giant, a collection of experimental Chinese poetry that earned him acclaim and kick-started his literary career. His output includes 39 publications of poetry, essays, fiction, criticism and translated work, for which he was won numerous accolades, chief among them the Chavalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1978) by France. He was also accorded Singapore’s Cultural Medallion in 1987.

PHOTO  Wikimedia

Tan is perhaps most well known for his oil and acrylic painting, ink painting and calligraphy. His work is particularly well-received in China. In a Southeast Asian first, his painting, ‘When the Moon Is Orbed’, sold for a record S$3.7 million in 2012. In 2014, his ‘Portrait of Bada Shanren’, sold in Beijing for S$4.4 million.


Established in 1985, TheatreWorks is one of Singapore’s most prominent and active theatre companies. It was founded by director Lim Siauw Chong, actor Lim Kay Tong and architect Justin Hill, who together produced early work like Michael Chiang’s Army Daze (1987). Theatre director Ong Keng Sen took over as artistic director in 1988, directing several landmark productions such as Dick Lee and Michael Chiang’s Beauty World (1988) and Tan Tarn How’s The Lady of Soul and Her Ultimate ‘S’ Machine (1993).

TheatreWorks also brought many of its productions on tour, notably Kuo Pao Kun’s Lao Jiu and Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral, to Australia and Germany respectively. At the same time, the company developed its brand of inter-cultural, experimental work, such as the site-specific The Yang Family (1996) by Leow Puay Tin, performed in an Amoy Street shophouse.

 (Illustration Jimmy Lee)

The company is also recognised for the creation of numerous artistic platforms like the Flying Circus Project, which brings together practitioners of diverse Asian art-forms to promote inter-cultural understanding and creation; and The Writers’ Laboratory, an incubation programme for Singapore playwrights. A key component of the company’s work is in international showcase and collaboration. The company regularly presents international collaborative work in Singapore, and in turn, much of its recent work has been presented abroad, such as a Paris production of Lear Dreaming (2015).


Tang Da Wu is a Singapore artist most recognised for his performance and installation art, and for his founding of Singapore’s first artist colony, The Artists Village, in 1988. He earned his degree in Fine Arts (Sculpture) from Birmingham Polytechnic’s School of Fine Art, and later obtained a Master of Fine Arts from London’s Goldsmiths College. On his return to Singapore, he established The Artists Village at Lorong Gambas. Here, he took on a mentorship capacity.

Tang’s own performance and installation work are concerned with the social and political role of art, with a strong interest in the environment, the natural world and mythological narratives. He often works with materials such as tin, rubber and plants to help explore these themes. Notable works include They Poach the Rhino, Chop Off His Horn and Make This Drink (1989) and Tiger’s Whip (1991).

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