Lot 087

b. China, 1906 - d. Singapore, 1991

SPARROWS 麻雀, 1969

Signed in Chinese with seal (upper right)
Ink and colour on rice paper
33cm x 44cm

Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur;
acquired directly from the artist.

ESTIMATE  RM 20,000 - 30,000

This piece depicting two birds perched on a branch and another bird taking flight is a finger painting by Chinese ink maestro Chen Wen Hsi. An influential figure in shaping Chen’s artistic career, Pan Tianshou had also taught him the technique of finger painting. The use of this technique made him feel liberated: “..the absence of the brush makes way for direct painting on paper in a freer, more expressive manner. I often use my finger to write calligraphy and paint the goldfish and Chinese wisteria. To me, it feels very much like applying oil paints with the palette knife to produce a painting. The freedom of expression derived from the experience is naturally a delight and joy.” As a student, the works of the Old Masters were to become the foundation of his training: Wu Changshuo (1844 - 1927) and Pan Tianshou (1898 - 1971) from whom he devotedly studied the art of calligraphy and seal carving.

Chen Wen Hsi was an artist and one of the finest fingerpainters, an academician and a gallerist (1976 to 1985). The highly regarded painter and art educator received his formal art schooling from the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts (1928) and then enrolled at Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts (1932) in Shanghai, during which he was exposed to both traditional Chinese painting as well as Western art. His tutelage under the great Pan Tian Shou and Zhu Wen Yun had given him a solid foundation although he also benefited from the sense of Western perspective under the training of Tan Hemu and Ni Yide. He arrived in Singapore in 1949 and taught at the Chinese High School for 20 years and at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) from 1951 to 1959. The legendary trip to Java and Bali with Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee in 1952 resulted in the development of the Nanyang style. He was awarded Singapore’s Public Service Star for his educationist zeal and role in advancing Chinese ink painting in 1964. Chen’s life-time accomplishment was recognised posthumously with the Meritorious Service Medal awarded by the government of Singapore in 1992 in conjunction with the National Day Honours Award. His other accolades included the Asean Cultural and Communications Award in 1987 and the Taiwan National Museum’s Gold medal in 1980. In 1975, the National University of Singapore awarded him an honorary degree and he was honoured with a retrospective exhibition in 1982.

Convergences: Chen Wen Hsi Centennial Exhibition
, Singapore Art
Museum, 2006.
Master of Tradition and Innovation
, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts,
Singapore, 2006.