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Exhibition Extravaganza: Johnny Quek’s My Brush at the Merlin Gallery


In his inaugural exhibition, gallerist, entrepreneur, art collector, and calligrapher Johnny Quek presents My Brush at the Merlin Gallery. In My Brush, the exhibition honors the private collection of calligraphy works by the 72-year old Quek, who is also a long-time director of Merlin Gallery, besides being known as a key collector and promoter for works by Singapore’s pioneering artist Dr Chen Wen Hsi.

From an early age, Quek’s love for this heritage form of Chinese writing was instilled in him by his scholarly father. Ever since he was a primary two student, Quek has been practicing Chinese calligraphy daily for over sixty years, writing up to 1000 characters per day. He was initially introduced to the ancient art by his father, who made it imperative for him to practice daily as a child; Quek eventually took it upon himself to perfect the skill.

Traditionally, Chinese calligraphers tend to model after historic masters’ works as a way to learn. In 1972, Quek’s calligraphy teacher advised him to learn the style of Liu Gongquan’s “Mysterious Tower”, which he followed diligently. After practicing for 10 years, Quek decided in 1982 that it was a mistake – and he decided to change his course of practice for the next 35 years, following his heart and creating his own style and technique of calligraphy, which he follows till today.

My Brush is a special exhibition that showcases sixteen inspirational calligraphy pieces best representing this unique style of calligraphy, which suggests that one should practice habitually and write naturally. When it comes to his choice of material, he believes in using the highest quality brushes and ink. He specially commissions animal-based brushes custom-made in China to ensure that the brush quality is refined and authentic. Painting daily on calligraphy sheets of up to 8 feet is not a new feat to Quek, as he masterfully completes most of the pieces in less than 20 minutes each. The two largest works in the exhibition each took him over an hour to complete.

Quek most recently scored a record with Singapore’s Book of Records as the nation’s largest display of Calligraphy – a collection that he has built and stored for over 30 years. Each of his large-scale calligraphy pieces has been carefully preserved, labelled, and kept in his warehouse for decades. For the first time, Quek has decided to display his compilation – and to share his story to his family, friends, and the younger generation about his journey and his quest to perfect the art of calligraphy.

Calligraphy is celebrated as an outward expression of the artist’s inner psychology. As such, Quek believes that leaving a beautifully written scroll is akin to giving gold to the future generations.

My Brush runs from 17th to 21st January 2020 at the Merlin Gallery, #01-11, Waterloo Center. For more information, visit their website here


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