Chen Wen Hsi 陈文希

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Artist Profile
Chen Wen Hsi ,was born 1906 in Baigong ,in Guangdong province, moved to Singapore where he lived until his death in 17 Dec 1991. 
His early education at Chen Li Primary School and St. Joseph Middle School. 
After graduation from secondary school, Chen Wen Hsi decided to study full time in fine art at the Shanghai College of Art in 1928, despite his uncle's objection. Unhappy with the college, Chen transferred to the Xinhua College of Art in Shanghai, where he was taught by renowned artists such as Pan Tianshou, with half of his classmates a year later. It was at Xinhua that he became acquainted with Chen Jen Hao, Chen Chong Swee and Liu Kang, all of whom were to become Singapore's pioneer artists and art educationists. After four years at Xinhua, Chen graduated and returned to his hometown.
After getting married at his hometown, Chen Wen Hsi went to South China College at Shantou in China to teach fine art from 1946 to 1947. He also founded the Chun Yang Painting Society there.
 
Chen's art career began with his first exhibition in Swatow in 1929, at the age of 21. He left China in 1947, and since then he continued to have solo exhibitions in other parts of Asia: Shanghai (1931, 1933),Guangzhou (1932, 1936), Saigon (1948), Hong Kong (1949), Bangkok – Kuala Lumpur (1949), and Bangkok-Singapore (1950). In 1937, he received the recognition and praise of Chinese painter Xu Beihong at the second Chinese National Art Exhibition in Nanjing. In the same year, an  English arts magazine elected him as one of contemporary China's ten greatest artists.
In 1948, Chen arrived and settled in Singapore, where he originally planned to stay for not more than three months. In Singapore, he proceeded to teach art at The Chinese High School (1949-1968) and the  Nayang Academy of Fine Arts (1951-1959). Chen travelled to various places in Southeast Asia to collect drawing materials during his vacations, and he was especially inspired by the people and customs of Bali and Java. In June 1955, Chen took part in a seven-artist group exhibition organized by the Singapore Art Society
In 1968, Chen retired from teaching, and decided to concentrate on drawing. Between 1923 and 1992, he conducted 38 one-man exhibitions in Singapore and other countries such as China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong
 
Style
Chen was proficient in both traditional Chinese Ink and Westernoil painting , and experimented with a variety of styles ranging from Fauvism and Cubism. In Chen's exhibition held in May 1956, Sullivan noted his fascination for man-made things and clutter. The artist loved to experiment with the interplay of light and forms in chaotic subjects, like a  junkyard. His unique style which showed interest in angles but not Cubist; strays not far from reality and is obsessed with shapes, and yet not an abstract painter. Chen also did not take to modern western art philosophies of that by western counterparts of his time like Picasso and Salvador Dali
Chen was also interested in human figures. He also did not see that humans are complex with distortions and conflicts, but merely a pattern of images, yet not like a pieced jigsaw puzzle. His interest was especially in local Indian people, particularly blue-collared workers and dairymen working in cattleyard; the geometric forms of Indian women dancers was an ideal subject of study for the artist
Chen's mastery in depicting human figures was also found in keen observation of nature and animals His subjects include landscapes , figure, birds and animals, still life studies andabstract compositions.
Chen was especially adept at drawing egrets and monkeys. Among all the animal paintings by him, Chen's gibbon paintings stand out, as they were noted by Chen's attention to detail and sensitive rendering of the beautiful creatures.His first inspiration from painting gibbons came from a reproduction of a gibbon painting that formed the right triptych of the famous painting, White Robed Guanyin, Crane and Gibbon by the 13th century Southern Song Dynasty Chinese artist Mu Xi (牧溪). 
Awed by its lifelike quality, he was convinced with Mu Xi's great skill in close observation of the gibbons. So day and night, Chen studied Mu Xi's print and emulated the painting. Chen had never seen a gibbon when he was in China, and as a result he did not realize that gibbons, unlike monkeys, had no tails!
It was only much later in the late-1940s, that a foreigner pointed out his error in his painting, and corrected him. At around then, he had bought a white faced gibbon for $300 at a local pet shop shortly after he arrived in Singapore. This gave him immense opportunities to study the creature's postures and its characteristics, by rearing it in his home garden. In time, Chen had a total of six pet gibbons - one white, one grey and four black ones
 
Honours
For his contributions to the fine arts in Singapore, Presiden Yusok Ishak conferred Chen the Public Service Star in 1964
In 1975, the National University of Singapore conferred Chen an honorary doctorate, and Chen became the first local artist to be given the honour
Chen was also awarded the Golden Chapter by the Taiwan National Museum in 1980, 
and the first ASEAN Cultural and Communication Award in 1987
After his death in Dec 1991, Chen was awarded a  posthumous Meritorious Service Medal 
 
Awards
1964: Public Service Star 
1975: Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, National University of Singapore (NUS) 
1980: Gold Medal, The National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan
1987: The First ASEAN Cultural Ad Communication Award
1992:  Meritious Public Service 
          Award ( Posthumous)
 
Artwork