TAN CHOH TEE
B. China, 1942
Singapore Street Scene, 1985
Signed and dated on lower left
Acrylic on canvas
53 x 64 cm
Provenance Private Collection, Canada
RM 25,000 – RM 50,000
Born in Guangdong, China in 1942, Tan Choh Tee relocated to Singapore in 1953 and developed an interest in art at a young age. He studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) from 1958 to 1962, where he studied under the tutelage of pioneer artists such as Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang and Georgette Chen. As a student, he became deeply inclined to European modern art, particularly that of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
After graduating from NAFA, Tan worked as a book designer for McGraw-Hill Far East for over a decade before eventually practicing his passion as a full-time artist in 1976. The artist is best known for his stunning depiction of realist-impressionist oil paintings of landscape and still life subject matters. While his subject matter often illustrates the various scenes of Singapore landscapes since the 1970s, he has also ventured to Bali, Taipei, Hong Kong, Paris, Suzhou, and many other places for plein-air painting.
Tan’s pictorial language is generally characterised by layered gestural brushworks, paired with meticulous attention to detail. After the 1990s, Tan’s artworks reflect an increasing use of palette knife effects, great for building up a thick texture and creating a broken colour effect. Over the decades, Choh Tee has remained a persistent plein-air painter when it comes to
rendering nature, rural scenes and urban landscapes, translating the intrigue of fleeting light conditions through colour, onto his oil painting. In 2006, Choh Tee was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Visual Arts by the Singapore Government. Additionally, he received the Asia Visual Arts Award from the Korean National Cultural Research Organisation.
In the early 1970s, Tan discovered that many parts of Chinatown were fast disappearing under the government’s redevelopment plans. Having grown up in the area, Tan had a special affiliation for the place and felt an urgent need to capture the charm and uniqueness of the Chinatown he knew. Working relentlessly, he once managed to finish a painting in just two days. During this period in time, Singapore’s art scene entered a vibrant phase. There was an increase in the appreciation of the arts and art patronage. Thenceforth, the artist produced a large number of impressive works featuring picturesque scenes of ‘old’ Singapore. Part of the artworks in this series is the ‘Singapore Street Scene’, illustrating zinc roofs, vintage buildings take centre stage amid the flurry of activities.
In 1984, Tan returned to NAFA, his alma mater, to teach. He subseque to attend a masterclass at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China in 1987.