The Nanyang Style
16 Mar, 2020
The local art scene dates to immigrants bringing in calligraphy, porcelain, and sculptures from China. The early fine art in Singapore then was heavily influenced by Chinese culture, and soon the Nanyang Style in fine art was founded by these settlers.
The Nanyang Style in fine arts comprises of painting, dance, sculpture, music, calligraphy, drama, and others. Tchang Ju Chi from Singapore, and Yong Mun Sen from Penang, Malaysia, were the pioneer two artists to create works for the special sections of the local newspaper to recreate local interest. While Tchang’s style was influenced by Gauguin – one of the representatives of Post Impressionist Style, Yong leaned towards watercolour paintings of ubiquitous cannas and coconut trees, fishing villages, and boats.
The art style made its major debut in Singapore’s art history during the 1950s where four of the six pioneer local artists, Chen Chong Swee, Liu Kang, Chen Wen Hsi, and Cheong Soon Pieng, returned to homeland with rural scenes of Bali and its villagers, using Chinese coloured ink, or oil on canvas.
Though the Nanyang Style has its origins with the Chinese, its incorporation of the paintings’ details and the medium materialized from other parts of the world, such as Indonesia and Europe. In hindsight, this proclamation can be recognised from one of the six principles laid down by Lim Hak Tai – the unification of western and eastern art, when he founded the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore’s first art institution. This reflects the grand visions for the development of the Nanyang Style. With this universal culture, the movement was solidified with forms of expression from local beliefs and practices.
While there were opposing voices whom question the term “Nanyang” and “Nanyang Style,” and suffered a decline in the late 1980s, it did not die out. Despite it all, the Nanyang Style was considered the closest indigenous art style that Singapore possesses, even though it carries inuences from abroad.