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Art What!: Centenarian Singaporean Artist, Lim Tze Peng’s ‘From Then To Now – Capturing Life’ at Ode To Art

Lim Tze Peng

Lim Tze Peng, widely known as Singapore’s oldest artist, will be unveiling fifty of his works in his latest solo exhibition titled From Then To Now: Capturing Life that will run from 11 October to 25 November 2022. Guest-of-Honour, Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, will grace the launch of the exhibition on 11 October to celebrate Lim Tze Peng’s 50 exclusive works, unveiled for the first time in Ode to Art Gallery.

Despite his age of 101 years, he continues to paint daily, bringing us scenes of Singapore’s yesteryears as drawn from his rich well of memories of his home country. Viewers are invited to immerse themselves in Lim Tze Peng’s six paintings that were painted in the 1980s and newly-recoloured in the last two years, bringing his memories of Singapore’s yesteryears to life and a stark reminder of how far the nation has come in a mere 57 years since its independence. These canvases that were initially painted black and white are now given a second layer of narrative – colourful and rich.  Scenes of Singapore’s hustle and bustle are added with vivid, and vibrant hues, imprinting a Singapore remembered by Lim, unforgotten and clear as day even after half a century. 

The two pieces above by Lim Tze Peng feature the stylistic difference half a century can make. Both works were first painted in the 1980s, but the piece on the left (Evening Gatherings II) was recently recoloured whereas the piece on the right (Busy Day at the Market) retained Lim’s mid-career monochrome painting style

Through these 50 exclusive works, visitors will get a unique overview of the artist’s evolution and a glimpse into the development of his love for Singapore throughout his life. Immerse in the tale of Singapore through imageries of everyday scenes across the decades like Chinatown, Singapore River, old kampung life, a traditional mooncake shop, local food stalls, still life and more.

On the exhibition and its focus on local scenes, Lim says, “I think an artist should paint things native to their own country – it is only then that they will do it well. Painting things that are not native to an artist would be like a tree without roots, or like water without a source. If an artist were to plumb the depths of his own origins, he would see that there are actually many themes that can emerge from within oneself.”

Jazz Chong, founder of Ode to Art says, “From Then to Now: Capturing Life explores not only Lim Tze Peng’s fascination for our way of life, but also his fierce and relentless passion for life itself. At an age where mobility may have proven an obstacle, his lust for life carries him and he pours his whole being into his works just as much today as he did fifty years ago. Despite his many successes and accolades, both in Singapore and overseas, he never rests on his laurels, keeps working and always strives for more. This admirable aspiration towards constant betterment pushes him to keep experimenting and innovating.”

Dried Goods (Work started circa 1980s with colours added in 2020)

Lim Tze Peng is famously known for his Chinese ink drawings and paintings of Chinatown and the Singapore River produced in the early 1980s after having embarked on his artistic journey in the 1950s. His paintings of these landmarks signified and reflected the change these prime locations were undergoing during urban development in Singapore. These paintings are a memory of what Lim saw as a Singaporean watching his kampong transform into an urbanized capital, and documented the cultural diversity and transformation of the city. In the late 1990s to early 2000s, Lim embarked in his Larger Than Life series where he painted monumental pieces of the Singapore landscape while standing. Lim then revolutionised Chinese calligraphy with his invention of “hu tu zi” (art calligraphy). Marked by a confluence of brushstrokes that weave in and out and into abstraction, Lim’s calligraphy bursts forth from the two-dimensional plane, carrying its own life force.

His masterpieces are exhibited in the National Gallery, Singapore Art Museum and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and are part of many prestigious collections. Lim has been bestowed several awards including the Special Prize at the Commonwealth Art Exhibition in England in 1977, the prestigious Cultural Medallion in Singapore in 2003, and the Meritorious Service Medal in 2016. In May 2012, he broke records with the sale of his works at a Christies auction in Hong Kong.

From Then To Now: Capturing Life runs from 11th October to 25 November 2022 at Ode to Art, #01-36E/F Raffles City Shopping Centre, Singapore 179103. More information available here

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