TEW NAI TONG
B. Selangor, 1936-2013
Study for A Golden Era II, 1980s
Signed “NAI TONG” on lower middle
Pencil on paper
9 x 25.5 cm
Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
The combination stems from his time in Singapore and Paris, with his art being described as representing the tail-end of the old Nanyang (the Southern Seas of China) style as well as embodying the spirit of the new Nanyang style, a combination of stylised Balinese-Sarawakian figure types, the School of Paris chic and Chinese painting traditions. The amount of research that he always puts in for his art is exemplary. He visited Bali from 1996 to 2006, while also making a return to Paris from 1999 to 2002 in order to conduct research for his artworks as well as to look for inspiration, visits that have also played a part in molding his unique style.
Born in 1936 in his hometown in Klang, Tew Nai Tong attended Peng Hwa Chinese School at the age of seven. By the time he turned eighteen, he decided that he wanted to pursue his dreams of being an artist, a proper artist. With his mind set on painting his way through life, he upped sticks and moved to Singapore, enrolling at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and studied there for two very fruitful years. Focusing on sketching, watercolors and landscape painting during his early years at NAFA, he, along with his contemporaries, became part of the watercolors movement in Malaysia, promoting the art style to the people in Malaysia.
For alumnus of NAFA, it was customary and essential for them to further their studies in Paris. Thus, for another two years, Paris became his home away from home as he studied oil and figurative painting at the Ecole Nationale Superieure Des Beaux-Arts de Paris. From 1967 to 1968, Tew Nai Tong immersed himself in the kaleidoscope of arts and culture in France and across Europe, visiting museums and art galleries in search of inspiration, for new ideas. His time in Paris instilled in him a newfound creative energy, which he used to great effect as he went through an experimental phase on forms, compositions and colors, which shaped his unique art style: an interesting and beautiful combination of Oriental charm and Parisian elegance injected into dreamy watercolor on canvas, playful collages within oil paintings to geometrical abstracts depicting rural living, local culture and landscapes.