Cheong Soo Pieng 钟泗宾

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Artist Profile
Cheong Soo Pieng, born in 1917, Amoy, China - died 1st July 1983, Singapore, was one of Singapore's pioneer modern artists, and a key proponent of the Nanyang style of art. He is known for his paintings of Malay women depicted with elongated limbs. Having taught for many years at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, he has influenced many of his students as well.
 
Early Life
The youngest of seven children, Cheong Soo Pieng started studying art at age 16, in the Xiamen Academy of Fine Art. It is noted that his parents neither encouraged nor discouraged his pursuit of the arts. After graduating three years later, he moved to Shanghai for further studies.  However, his time at the Sin Hwa Academy of Fine Art in Shanghai was disrupted by the Sino-Japanese war. The Japanese destroyed the school in 1938. Hence, Cheong Soo Pieng returned to the Xiamen academy to teach. He held his first solo exhibit there in 1942. At that time, the artist painted primarily in watercolours as he had little opportunity to paint with oils, oil paints being hard to find. Cheong Soo Pieng decided to leave China in 1945, and spent some time in Hong Kong before relocating to Singapore in late 1946. He quickly gained employment at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, teaching for over 20 years there before becoming a full-time artist in his late 40s.
 
Career
Whilst known as a dynamic teacher, Cheong Soo Pieng's first commitment has always been to art-making. His innovative spirit has been recognised as a major influence on Singapore modern art. In a short span of time his works had progressed through several phases: From post-Impressionist to Cubist to abstract, semi-abstract and more. They showcase his versatility as an artist. He was especially fond of early Egyptian and primitive art forms, and liked to paint squirrels.
Cheong Soo Pieng was often said to be a man of few words, who valued his privacy, led a simple lifestyle and let his artworks speak for themselves. In fact, some have dubbed him a journalist's nightmare. He had never been interviewed in-depth by the English press.
He formulated his distinctive style of painting Malay women after a 1959 trip to the Dayak longhouses of Borneo. Besides painting both in the Eastern and Western techniques of Chinese ink and oils, Cheong Soo Pieng also sculpted and crafted metal installations. But it is his Nanyang-style paintings in particular that have received much attention. The techniques used are recognised as a creative blend of West and East, and the subject matter was inspired from his Southeast Asian surroundings hence the term Nanyang or South-Seas style. He was one of the first artists to paint in this theme. Inspiration for this stemmed from a Bali trip in 1952, which he embarked with three others: Liu Kang, Chen Wen Hsi and Chen Chong Swee.
A favourite with critics and curators, many have lauded Cheong Soo Pieng's works, calling the artist a pacesetter and a dominant figure in Singapore's modern art scene. To recognise his contributions to Singapore's art history, the National Museum Art Gallery organised a retrospective exhibition of his works in 1983. Unfortunately he did not live to see this: four months shy of the exhibit, he died of heart failure on 1st July 1983 at the age of 66.
 
Artwork
Women Chatting oil painting on tile 1976 . <strong>SOLD</strong>
Women Chatting oil painting on tile 1976 . SOLD
Family Pen sketch on paper 1959. <strong>SOLD</strong>