Can I ask you to reach back into your memory, to get to the earliest point or earliest recollection when you disclosed some interest in art? You enrolled in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 1956, to begin your formal education; but before that, before enrolling in NAFA, did you show any symptoms or signs of interest in art, either in primary or secondary school, or on your own?
Well, my interest in art goes back to my school days. I was in primary two when the Japanese invasion occurred, and it disrupted my education for three years. During the war, I attended Choon Guan Chinese school, learning Chinese and some Japanese. After the war in 1946, I enrolled into standard one; I was already overaged. I attended Choon Guan English School; subsequently in 1951, it was renamed as Presbyterian Boys' School, and there I stayed until my Overseas Cambridge School Certificate. While in standard two, I remember the class teacher (form teacher) asking the boys what they would want to be when they grow up; without hesitation, I replied: "I want to be an artist". The form teacher was surprised and remarked: "An artist is a poor man!" I said, "I realise that." In school, we had art/craft classes, but they were nothing extraordinary, like in the present day. We did potato-printing, design and drew still life subjects to pass examinations. When it came to craft, we were given lumps of plasticine to work and produce whatever we liked. Often we threw balls of plasticine at one another all-over-the-place. The teacher was not bothered as he would be marking assignments. To him, it was a free period to grade papers, and that went on with each craft lesson. At the end of each class the teacher would get the students to put their plasticine into lumps and return these to a basket to be collected. Before doing that, he would come round and identify some works that could be kept as examples, and often my works were taken away. One day, a zebra I did was taken away for display. Richard Walker, inspector-of-schools, came round later and saw the zebra and took it away with him; to me that was something very encouraging, the first ever encouragement for my art effort. When I finally completed school education in 1953 I wished to study art, but I did not know of any art classes nor had I heard of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). Instead, I decided to be a teacher first and enrolled at the Teachers' Training College at the end of December 1953. I started the next year, as a trainee teacher. I then found out that I was sick, I was suffering from tuberculosis. I spat out blood one day and went for a medical examination and it was confirmed as tuberculosis. My teaching plan ended immediately. Instead, I was admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in June 1954 and stayed for seven months, after which I was an out-patient for several years. While an out-patient, I attended evening art classes organised by the British Council. These were conducted by British Military service personnel like Eddy Price, Roy Slade, Jim Russel, Warbrick and a few others who were sent
to Singapore. They were qualified with National Design Diploma (NDD) or Art Teaching Diploma (ATD). They taught oil painting and sculpture. Sculpture class was more theoretical. I met Teo Eng Seng at the painting classes; he was my earliest artist friend.
He is much younger than you.
Yes, no doubt much younger and since then, we have been good friends all along. And I am glad he's an outstanding artist.
When you were in Presbyterian Boys I School, Richard Walker selected a plasticine figure made by you. Was that your only contact with him? Did he talk with you, say anything about what you had produced?
No, I didn't think so. I was just a boy and there was nothing to talk about and he didn't ask questions. But I was encouraged that he liked my work.
Could you describe the classes in art at the British Council?
Well, the instruction there, I thought, was very good. They taught you how to prepare your oil paint with different pigments, how to grind the pigment and what to add in to make paint; also how to prepare and prime a canvas and a maisonette board. You know, during that time we were not well off financially and knowing how to produce paints and prepare one's own canvas and materials was very useful. To prime a piece of maisonette board usually needed about ten coatings of gesso prime. When each coat dried, sand paper was used to smoothen the surface before another coating was applied; eventually the surface was like marble. I am very grateful to the British Council for the introductory lessons on how to prepare painting materials. I continued to prepare my own materials even after I went to NAFA. I remember Cheong Soo Pieng, a lecturer, telling me one day not to waste time preparing my own
paints. He said: "You better use the time to create; after all, you can buy paints from the shop, why waste good time?" I stopped after his remarks. I am glad, though, that I learnt how to make paints as I m understand paint materials better.
The priming of surfaces and mixing of pigments must also inculcate in you a deeper understanding of the material bases of art, rather than merely use them as finished products; and this must in turn enable you to use the medium more thoughtfully and confidently.
Yes, understanding various pigments and the proportion of medium to mix in to the compositions will ensure better quality in the paint. In class, we were even taught the correct way to roll up a painted canvas. As a student, we usually use the same stretcher for several other works. Each completed painting will be taken out of a stretcher then rolled with the paint outside instead of inside to prevent cracking. This little knowledge I found very important. We did not know how good our works were but at least if we take proper care of them, people will have the opportunity to see them.
How long did you continue with classes at the British Council?
For some months in 1955.
From there, did you go on to enrol in NAFA or were there intervening years?
In late 1955, I joined the British Council classes; in 1956 I enrolled at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in the first year class.
You say 1956, yet according to publications your enrolment at NAFA is usually stated as spanning the years 1958 to 1961.
That is correct; but the real fact was l joined the Academy in 1956 for a few months; the principal then was Lim Hak Tai. Why for a few months? It was because of my illness, which wasn't fully cured. I was still struggling with my health. It was while at NAFA that a loving second uncle, Dr Ng Yew Seng, who had a clinic in Kuala Trengganu, asked me to follow him to Trengganu where he would look after Kuala Trengganu, 1957 my health. He was wonderful to me and I believed in him, and away I went to his clinic to recuperate. Strange, he didn't actually give me much medication, instead what he gave me was plenty of fresh air, loving kindness, understanding and confidence. He would check on my cough and my posture and advised that I keep my chest out and to breath deeply; that sort of thing. My uncle loved the great outdoors and each evening after his clinic, he would go out to shoot wild boar, snipe, rock pigeon, giant bat; at times he went crab netting in the Kuala Trengganu river mouth and occasionally for squid fishing in the open sea. He loved outdoor life, and I just followed. I did occasional game shooting as well. It was great; and all the time he made me forget I was sick. He applied psychology on me; I was very grateful and it worked. My health improved and I was soon helping him in the clinic as a dispenser. I was working well as a dispenser and enjoying the great outdoor life. He had a Malay maid to look after the house and cook tasty meals; soon with good food and care I increased my weight and my health generally. After one year, I told my uncle that I must complete my art education. I lacked the technique to draw and paint and capture the life in Trengganu, the people, the scenery, the sea and the boats.
Did you do any drawing or sketching when you were there?
I did some drawings and paintings; but they were not satisfactory and it was very frustrating because I lacked technique. I kept on telling my uncle that health-wise I was alright and wanted to finish my art education in Singapore. He was reluctant to let me go but in the end he couldn't persuade me to stay any longer. So in January 1958, I returned to Singapore. But strange as it may seem, after returning I didn't rush into NAFA. I went to work with Shaw Brothers Company as a trainee artist. I suppose I did not want to depend on my parents for money. And during that time, I attended art tuition classes with Mr Liu Kang in his private studio, each Saturday, at Dhoby Ghaut; the studio was called "Morrow Studio". I started with pastel drawing and did well and very soon promoted myself and told him I wanted to go into oils. Usually, he started a student with pastel until he was satisfied with the progress before one could proceed into oils. I suppose I was doing good works, so he allowed me to proceed.
How did you know about Liu Kang? Did somebody mention him to you, recommend him to you, or was it just a chance effort on your part?
I believe it was at Shaw Brothers that I heard of him, or I had seen his works in exhibitions and was told he had a teaching studio. I could also have passed the place and discovered the studio, when I visited Cathay cinema. I knew of him as a famous artist then.
How long were you under his tutelage?
For a year or so. Anyway, I didn't work in Shaw Brothers for too long as my ill health was beginning to bother me again. I began to feel weak and felt awkward in applying for leave ever so often; so I resigned. When I had recovered sufficiently, I got employed into Fortune Advertising as an apprentice artist. There I was spotted by a European visualizer in the company; she took me under her guidance and taught me the rudiments of visualising work and got the company to sponsor me to study a course in "advertising and administration" in the evenings at Singapore Polytechnic; I completed that course.
But Eng Teng, you are now talking about 1959 and in 1958 you had enrolled at NAFA, had you not? So are these involvements additional to your formal education at the Academy?
Well, in 1958 when I came back from Kuala Trengganu I didn't join NAFA straight away, I worked in Shaw Brothers and later with Fortune Advertising.
When did you join NAFA?
I rejoined NAFA only in late 1959. Just before I joined NAFA, I also attended a short Chinese Brush Painting course at the YWCA at Shenton Way conducted by a woman artist who was a teacher at Chung Cheng High School then; I believe her name is Madame Ho. I found her teaching very good. She taught the Lingnan style of Chinese painting. In late 1959, I rejoined the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and persuaded Mr Lim Hak Tai, the Principal, to allow me to enrol at the second year level of studies; he agreed.
He agreed to let you into the second year which meant that you were there late of '59, all of '60, until '61. Can I ask you to stay with the Academy for a while? Let's begin by talking about the teachers; among them were Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi, Chen Chong Swee, Georgette Chen; and you have already mentioned Lim Hak Tai the principal, who I believe in the early years taught a little. Did you come into contact with all of them?
Lim Hak Tai was at that time a very sick man, having contracted tuberculosis; so he didn't teach, but was mainly dealing with administrative work. I attended Chen Chong Swee's class for Chinese painting; Chen Wen Hsi also came to teach Chinese painting. Attending Chinese painting class was optional; if you wished to, you could go and watch demonstrations, go back and paint and present your work at the next lesson and the instructor will comment or he may add a few strokes to correct the work. Groups of students will gather around a teacher to watch the demonstration. I was taught by Cheong Soo Pieng in the use of the oil medium for a period of time. He had a studio in NAYA at that time and I loved to watch him paint; usually be would paint when he was not teaching but sometimes even when he should be teaching. There he sat in his reclining deck chair, smoking, looking at and scrutinising his painting; occasionally, he would get up and apply a stroke or two and go back to his reclining chair to smoke and contemplate. I would stand there quietly; he was aware that somebody was standing at the door but would not acknowledge the presence so as not to distract his thoughts. It was interesting watching him paint, to watch how he went about solving problems. Of course, I could hardly understand the process or method as I only saw him get up occasionally, to put a dot here and a line there.
From accounts given by students who were enrolled in NAFA, there seems to be general agreement that among the teacher-artists there, Cheong Soo pieng was the most charismatic, he was also the most influential and the most watched person. Would you agree with this impression?
Yes, I fully agree. Even to this day I feel Cheong Soo Pieng is the greatest of the five pioneers.
You have talked about Wen Hsi, Chong Swee and Soo Pieng. What about Georgette Chen? She was the first lady of Singapore art; she was outstanding in terms of her personality, her worldliness; she stood apart, didn't she? Did she affect or strike you that way while you were a student?
Yes, Georgette Liying Chen, I had heard about her; I had seen her paintings in exhibitions when I was younger. In 1956 when I first joined NAFA I was taught drawing by Chua Mia Tee, a graduate from NAFA who was teaching the first year class. Georgette Chen was teaching the final year students in the main building; during intervals, I would peer through the window and watch Mdm Chen with awe. I knew she was a great artist. I wished to be taught by her one day.
Yes, when I re-enrolled in 1959, I was taught by her. She spoke Mandarin, English and French and Malay - all fluently. I was thrilled to be in her class which usually had a few foreign students, expatriate housewives who resided in Singapore as well as a few local English speaking persons. I remember Dr Nalla Tan in her class and one Mrs Kennison from Australia and several others; we had an interesting class. Sometimes on a free afternoon we would meet in one of the ladies' homes to paint portraits. While at NAFA I had the occasional use of the family car; I would gather a few students to paint portraits of friends and relatives or outdoor scenes because NAFA was a half day session and the afternoons were free. Mdm Chen taught us drawing; NATA emphasised good foundation in drawing.
Could we talk a little about the curriculum at NAFA and then come back to Georgette Chen? How did you progress from the second to the third year? What kind of exercises, studio projects did you have to do?
I don't think there was any fixed curriculum. It was vague and flexible. It all depended Oil the teachers you were with. Mdm Chen and Cheong Soo Pieng were my teachers and of course the Chinese painting teachers. There was another Chinese brush painting teacher who taught me, namely, See Hiang Tau. Liu Kang never taught in NAFA, but I learnt from him at "Morrow Studio". Another teacher was Tan Tee Chie. Yet another who had just returned from France was Lai Foong Moi. Like Mdm Chen, she was trained in Paris. She set up interesting still life compositions for her students to paint in oil. I remember her own paintings were equally interesting in composition, with sensitive colours. Mdm Chen taught us figure drawing using charcoal, she was very meticulous, very accurate, a lot of measuring and of course we did have some problems with her because of her size. She was shorter than most of us. She would come
and check on our drawing and each time she would change our view point, sometimes we would politely argue with her but she was always right so after a few times I realised I had to conform to her eye-level and slump in my chair to being at her eye level. I remember Seah Kim Joo had great problems with her because be was so much taller than most of us; these little incidents were humorous at times.
You had instructions in still life which had to do with compositions, placements, measurements, in so far as Chen taught you. Then, did you have exercises in watercolours, did you also have sessions using oil, did you deal with figures? At NAFA plastercast figures were used extensively to develop some understanding of the human figure. Did you go through all of these stages yourself?
Yes, drawing from plastercast went on from first to final years but you chose from your plastercast parts of the figure such as the nose, the mouth to the head, and progressed to full figure. You went through the whole lot, tedious but good training for the eyes. Nowadays art colleges don't believe in drawing from plastercast.
You have mentioned Kim Joo; you have also mentioned Chua Mia Tee, Tan Tee Chic who were tutors. Can you recall any of your contemporaries at the Academy?
Sui Hoe was there. NAFA admitted students twice a year so we were six months ahead or behind somebody else. Every half a year, there would be students graduating. I remember Thomas Yeo, Lee See Sin, Wee Beng Chong, Wong Kian Ping and Kuan Soong. There must be many others.
Were there students from Malaya whom you remember?
Seah Kim Jon, Khoo Sui Hoe were from Malaya and also Cheah Yew Siak, Jehan Chan and Ibrahim Hussein.
You completed your studies at NAFA in 1961. While you were a student there, your interest was principally with painting, and you have produced a considerable body of pictures. There was hardly any involvement with three-dimensional study. Why this exclusive emphasis on painting? Is it because sculpture was secondary or non-existent?
Sculpture wasn't taught in NAFA in the first place. But, before I got into NAFA, I was already experimenting with three-dimensional works on my own, referring mainly to books and through trial and error and getting occasional tips from people who did sculpture. In 1959, I had the good fortune to meet Jean Bullock who arrived with her British air force husband, John. Through the British Council, Jean approached to meet local artists who spoke English. Chia Yew Kay of the British Council introduced Jean Bullock to me. We became good friends. I used to get my nieces to pose and we worked together on developing sculptures featuring the head. I was learning and she was teaching me the finer aspects of sculpture making. I also helped her cast her works in ciment fondu concrete and in the process began to understand the material. I learnt a lot from her and considered her my teacher. If not for her, I would not have been working in ciment fondu. I find ciment fondu a great material for sculpture, although it is industrial concrete and this puts people off it.
Before we leave Singapore and move on to your travels and studies in England, could you say something about the art circles in Singapore? Which artist did you admire most? Who influenced you at that time?
I am lucky in many ways to have been taught by all the five pioneer artists. But of course, as I mentioned, Cheong Soo Pieng, to me, was the greatest. We looked forward to seeing his new works every year in the Singapore Art Society Exhibition. You can be sure there would be something new and interesting from him each year. As a result, in the following year, you would see a few following him in terms of style, images or colours, something of Soo Pieng. Chen Wen Hsi was another artist who was being watched. He painted both Chinese painting and in oil; but I like his oils more because they were big, lively, and quite abstract using swift 'Chinese painting strokes'. He was a vigorous artist. Mdm Chen was a quieter artist. There was much sensitivity and quality in her works. Her colours were very rich in tones and shades; a precise and accurate painter, she would mix her colours very accurately in the palette and each stroke she put on canvas counted. I observed her when she taught oil painting in other
classes. Some of my early paintings had a touch of Mdm Chen, and that was the time when I was exploring and experimenting with different styles and ideas from different teachers. Cheong Soo Pieng has also left quite a bit of his imprint on my paintings.
You talk about the Singapore Art Society exhibitions and how you all looked forward to them. During these years were there exhibitions that you recall which were memorable? You already mentioned how everyone anticipated Cheong Soo Pieng with his works; did you submit any of your own works to be selected and shown?
Well, I can't remember any special great shows or one-man-shows, but the Singapore Art Society (SAS) annual shows were very important to me.
Did you submit any of your own for consideration?
My earliest attempts to exhibit with the SAS were rejected. Then in 1959, at the 10th SAS show, a piece of plaster relief titled Miss Vogue, done in 1957, was accepted. Another work, a collage on board, using pieces of wood and netting material and paint to create a dancing ballerina, was rejected. While I was in NAFA, towards the end of the course, my works started to be accepted for exhibitions.
Both painting and sculpture?
Yes, both painting and sculpture.
Were there others that you remember at that time who were making and showing sculpture?
After Miss Vogue was exhibited in the 10th SAS show, I submitted a work called My Sister; it was the only sculpture in the exhibition. The 12th SAS show had two sculpture works; one was by Lim Nan Seng, called Woman, the other, Aboriginal Woman, a plaster by myself. Just before I left for England in 1962, I had an joint exhibition with Katherine A Schmid; we presented a total of 181 works of which 25 were sculptures and relief in plaster, terra-cotta, ciment fondu and mosaic, The 13th SAS annual show in 1962 displayed 15 sculpture works, by Jean Bullock, Chee Peck Hoe, Mrs A Gunaratnam, Koh Hong Yiang, Lee Leong Looi, Lim Nan Seng and myself.
The two-person show with Schmid had works in a variety of categories, did it not?
Yes, beside sculptures there were oil paintings, Chinese brush paintings, mixed media and drawings as well.
Do you recall the response of the public? Were there reviews and comment? Did anybody buy your works?
I didn't think my works were good. The SAS annual shows were usually reported in the local papers as news items, with occasional reproductions of certain works. I didn't sell my works or, for that matter, remember anybody buying works. Anyway, the SAS annual exhibition was a platform for me.
It's clear that the interest in sculpture was developed by self-study. You obviously were drawn to the world of three dimensional form; it is also quite clear that there was no formal instruction in sculpture in NAFA. You developed this interest outside the Academy and through the encouragement of individuals. What aspects of sculpture engaged you most at this stage?
I was interested in three-dimensional form as I found out I was particularly good with my hands. To interpret thoughts and ideas, giving them form and concrete presence, I needed to understand the various materials and appropriate techniques used in order to visualise what I had in mind. To sculpt just a head, I must be able to interpret in clay and subsequently cast it in more durable material like ciment fondu or metal. My earliest cast was using plaster of paris, learning the difficult way through books. I can still remember vividly what a mess I did with my first cast. From a plasticine model, I made the mould with plaster of paris; not realising that I needed to apply a separator, I just poured another lot of plaster mixture into the mould. And of course, it did not work. I learned through trial and error and soon found out why the mould couldn't get out from the cast. I checked out with more books and the progress was very slow.
I presume it was the need to develop this particular area of three-dimensionality that prompted you to further your education. In 1962, you set off for England, to North Staffordshire College of Technology and Stoke-on-Trent School of Art. I am intriguedby your choice. Why go to the heart of industrial England? I ask this because the magnet is London, and the art institutions in that city. What prompted your choice?
It is a long story. I think it started with the suggestion of Mdm Georgette Chen; she asked what I would do after graduation. I told her I shall advertise for a few students and give tuition. She said that was not good enough, everybody was doing that. She continued and said that I had seen her pottery in her house and liked them. Why not go into ceramics? Mdm Chen had done some beautiful pots and pieces of ceramics when she was in France and these were displayed in her home. So on rare occasions when I visited her, I got very excited with these works. She remarked: "They are very easy to make and technically very simple"; she suggested why don't I go and do ceramics. My parents were not well-off and they had to support two other children overseas; my brother was studying medicine, my younger sister training in mid-wifery in Australia; and that was a heavy burden for my father. Nevertheless, Mdm Chen did say to team to pot was not difficult, you could master the skill in just three to six months. That sounded very encouraging and I wanted to study; so I persuaded my parents. They believed in a good education; reluctantly, they let me go. When I was there, I overstayed. I set off for a three to six month duration of studies. But I remained for four years, instead. There was so much to learn.
Why North Staffordshire?
While I was still in NAFA, I did sculpture works on my own with clay from Alexandra Brickworks. After the clay works were done, I sent them to be fired in the kiln. From my dealings with Alexandra Brickworks, I was able to enquire from the British Clay manager as to the best place in England to study ceramics. He graduated from North Staffordshire College of Technol-
ogy (NSCT) in the heavy clay department. He suggested North Staffordshire and claimed it was a good college for ceramics and gave me the address. I wrote to the principal and enclosed photographs of sculptures and paintings I had done. The reply came very soon after, accepting me for a pottery designer's course in the college of ceramics. I was taken aback because it seemed so simple and I was asked to go, yet not knowing exactly what I was heading for. I made preparations; because of my health and worries of the cold weather, I requested to attend one semester. I travelled by boat, P & O "Himalaya", like a slow boat to China. The boat trip took 19 days, allowing me to get acclimatised. When I got to NSCT, I discovered the course was a post National Design Diploma (NDD) pottery designers' course, jointly organised by the North Staffordshire College of Technology and the Stoke-on-Trent School of Art. All in all, there were 11 students including myself The other 10 students were all graduates with NDD from colleges all over England. I was the only 'black sheep' who did not know anything about pottery. What was I doing there? I didn't have an answer, and the students wondered. I was just accepted so simply. So I had to work terribly hard, very, very hard in fact, learning as much from fellow students; I stayed in the College from 9 am to 9 pm each day.
Were they generous? Your fellow students?
They were wonderful, very sympathetic and understanding to whatever and whenever I requested for help and explanation. And the lecturers were very helpful too. It was quite incredible, how they accepted me. The post-graduate course was for one year, but I had one extra semester. Class ended at five each day but I usually stayed on to do more work. Soon, I realised this course was on industrial pottery. And I thought I was in the wrong course of study. But anyway, in Stoke-on-Trent School of Art I was able to pot with Mr H Thomas, a very famous thrower, teaching in the studio pottery department. So I spent some time learning how to throw pots with him, my very first art pottery teacher.
How long did the course last?
The course was for one year. Before I completed it, I decided to continue to study handmade studio pottery for another year. So, during that summer holiday I travelled down to the south and visited Farnham School of Art. What I saw there was terribly interesting and exciting. And I liked the place immediately. So I registered and reserved a place there, to continue after I finished at North Staffordshire.
That's interesting because I was teaching in Farnham School of Art, but I arrived a year after you left. I know the place well.
Fascinating, such a small world!
They did mention that there was a Singaporean there, but I did not know who you were. Paul Barron and Henry Hammond mentioned that my countryman had studied there. It left me wondering.
Farnham was a very good college for studio pottery because of Henry Hammond, Paul Barron, both of whom were contemporaries of Bernard Leach. We also had visiting lecturers who gave short courses and workshops; we were taken on field trips to visit potters' studios like Alan Caiger-Smith. When in Farnham, I was on a special student programme so I planned my timetable and chose the subjects and classes to attend. Life drawing was a subject that I had always wanted to do even before I left NAFA. We were desperate for life drawing in NAFA but were not allowed; the nearest we had was when a European lady volunteered to pose in a bikini, reclining and facing the wall; we only painted her back view. And imagine we had to close all doors and windows! In Farnham, I had a great time in life drawing sessions, and the instructor was incredibly good; unfortunately I cannot recall his name. Still, I learnt a great deal drawing the nude.
There were a number of Singaporeans studying art in colleges in England. Did you meet with any of them?
Yes, a few of them; they were mainly in London. I recall Tan Teo Kwang, Mak Kum Siew and Lee Sik Choon; and there was Ibrahim Hussein from Malaya. By the way Sik Choon eventually enrolled in Stoke-on-Trent School of Art where he studied ceramics, with Chia Yew Siak who subsequently set up an art school in Kuala Lumpur.
When and how often did you meet any of them?
Well, whenever I visited London, usually during the vacation. I looked them up; we visited galleries and socialised. I recall visiting Choy Weng Yang at his flat, on the eve of his departure for Singapore.
You also met Cheong Soo Pieng in London, did you not?
Soo Pieng was preparing for his exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in London. On one occasion, we all gathered at Kum Siew's room, cooked a meal and invited Soo Pieng. Being hearty and generally in good spirits, we asked him to sketch each one of us, and he readily agreed. That was quite exciting.
You remet with Jean Bullock, all of this must have been quite heart-warming!
Yes, we met on a number of occasions in London; and as usual, we did the gallery circuit. On one occasion, with Soo Pieng and the others, we visited Malaya Hall. During the vacation, I visited Jean and John at their home in Oakham, Rutland. It was enjoyable to meet, see her again; we shared and continued with our interest in sculpture and art.
Could you tell us of your experiences outside colleges and schools; your travels, your visits to exhibitions, to great collections?
Well, before I touch on that, let me go back to graduation at North Staffordshire College of Technology. We had to present a graduation exhibition, demonstrating what we had learnt, done, and were able to do. During the exhibition, designers, consultants, managers from pottery factories would come and scout for potential designers to employ. I was invited by a consultant for Carrigaline pottery factory in County Cork, Ireland. They wanted to employ me straightaway, but I said no, as I had decided to enrol in Farnham School of Art to study studio pottery. If after one year they still wanted me, I would be available. And true enough, they waited for me
for one whole year and as soon as I completed my year in.Famham, I wrote to them and asked whether the job was still available. They said, "yes". I was shown a big empty room and asked to design a studio (I was the first residential designer for 32 years). I designed a nice studio with a dark room to process silkscreen designs for transfers to ceramic wares. At the same time I was training an Irish designer to take over when I had to leave. My job went on very well. Before I started work, I told the Company that I must have a potter's wheel to throw my own pots during my off-office time. I worked on the wheel with the factory clay and glazes to explore different forms and designs, and that helped in my work and potting skill.
How long were you there as a designer?
Well, I was there for nearly two years. Good job, good pay, life was getting comfortable; I didn't have to depend on any money sent from home. I was earning and saving and in fact, when I had to return, I paid my own passage, imported an electric furnace, a kiln, potter's wheel and some ceramic materials to start my workshop in Singapore.
What of your travels in England and in Europe? Did you move around? Did you get a feel for places, and took beyond your immediate engagements in study and work?
While in Staffordshire, with friends and college mates, we went youth hosteling, visited Liverpool, the Lake District, Stratford-upon-Avon, Coventry and elsewhere. In Farnham, during the long holidays, I worked with fellow students in the railway station, sweeping railway carriages. After working for a few weeks, I travelled to Europe.
Where did you go?
I went by the cheap way, like youth hosteling to Amsterdam, Paris by rail and road, all the way down to Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome.
Did you visit the great museums, the collections in the museums in France and Italy? was it primarily for travel, without any particular purpose or goal?
Well, it's mainly for travel to look and see the countries of Europe; to experience the various cultures and ways of life. In Italy, I did see quite a bit of Michelangelo's sculptures and paintings in the Sistine chapel. Paris didn't give me a very good impression because, when the train stopped, I wanted to stay in Paris for a few days and tried to get some information from the station master, who refused to speak to me in English; so I got fed up and took the next train back to London. That was unfortunate.
What prompted you to return?
There were a few reasons why I decided to return. While in Carrigaline I was awarded with membership of the society of industrial artists and designers (MSIA), a professional qualification
and was entitled to the designation of MSIA. Presently, the Society has been upgraded to the chartered Society of Designers, MCSD. I had also designed and introduced a whole new range of dinner wares and tea services from the plaster model to the finished products, including decorations, and exhibited them in trade shows. The orders were good; the managers were reluctant to let me go. I told them that my ambition was to set up my own studio in Singapore, the sooner the better.
When you say studio, you mean studio as a practising artist, as a creative practitioner.
Yes, an art studio workshop; I needed bigger space with facilities. To produce ceramics, you need at least a wheel to start with, a kiln, an area to mess about in, and storage space; this would take time to set up and the sooner I got back to start, the better. Money was just another matter. Another reason why I came back was for my parents; they were getting on in years. When I left in 1962, I left with a lousy impression; I was unpleasant, unhappy; I was all bogged down with poor health and anxiety, my future was uncertain and questionable. So, after I had done so well in health and life, I thought I must come back before it was too late. And the third reason I came back was because before I left, Mdm Chen had told students that she hoped eventually some would come back to help NAFA; I thought maybe I could help to start a pottery workshop; but the suggestion was not taken up at all by the Academy.
You offered to initiate such a programme?
Yes, in fact I was willing to set up a ceramics department because it was something very new and nobody had done it, But the idea fell flat. Well, I tried. In Europe, I was enjoying life and earning money. All of a sudden, I had stopped earning and was now spending so much money. It became depressing as I couldn't find a job suitable to my qualifications. I thought of going back to Eire or England; I thought of Fambam; they needed a technician when I left, but it was too late, the post was taken. The general manager of Carrigaline was very kind; he recommended a pottery factory in Jamaica. Somehow, the job did not materialise. For two long years, I wasn't employed; it worried me as my limited money slowly ran out, yet it didn't worry me too much because I began setting up my workshop and started to create. I began producing works and built a gas kiln in the kitchen; the interior height of the fire chamber was 4 feet tall (122cm). My father was very helpful and encouraging; each evening after work at the OCBC Bank, he would help chip individual bricks to fit into certain nooks and comers. He was the one who actually gave me permission to build the kiln in the kitchen. At first, I had decided to put the kiln in one of the three rooms in the annex; I started clearing the rooms. He saw the small space and said, "why not make use of the other part of the kitchen which is quite big". He was truly very supportive of my needs. By the end of nearly two years, Vincent Hoisington recommended me for a job in the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in Gilstead Road; IPPF is an affiliation of UNESCO and was the regional headquarters for the Southeast Asia and Oceania regions.
How did you come to meet with Vincent Roisington?
I think I met him before I left for England. When I returned, I exhibited with SAS again. We could have met at exhibitions and at other occasions. He was a very kind man. In 1967, seven sculptors came together to present the first Singapore sculpture show at the National Library Hall; Vincent was one of us.
Can we return to your job with the IPPF?
In the International Planned Parenthood Federation I was a visual aids officer. IPPF was a training centre for doctors and para-medical personnel from Southeast Asian countries, to understand and propagate family planning practices. I was helping delegates to prepare visual aids materials, literature, posters and exhibition materials on family planning; also making models of the womb to demonstrate IUD devices. It was interesting and absorbing.
You have vividly described setting up a kiln in your residence, and the unstinting support of your father. Can I ask you to discuss your practice? When you left for England, your formal education had been in painting. When you returned from England you did so as a trained ceramist and a ceramic artist. Can you tell us something about that? What is ceramics as fine arts? What does it mean? What does it entail?
At the back of my mind, I wanted to do individual works to express myself, to explore forms. But one needed to survive anyway and so with my training as an industrial designer and potter, I started to design a series of works for slipcasting and soon found that was too commercial. Once you mass produce works like that, people don't buy many and the money was little; so it was not worth getting into. Eventually, I switched to press moulding which was more artistic and the numbers limited; each work was individually finished and unique. Press moulded works took more time to complete but then it was for my survival. I believe one must be able to survive. People seem to think a starving artist produces good works; but I don't think I can create without food.
And the products that you were making, were they utilitarian objects of limited editions? Is this what you were producing?
No; when I started with slipcasting, I was making figurines. I started with a series consisting of a Malay woman, a Chinese woman and was getting down to designing an Indian woman when I felt discouraged to continue. By the way, I submitted the Malay and Chinese figures to a craft competition sponsored and organised by the Singapore Tourist Promotions Board in 1970, and the Malay Woman got the second price in the ceramics section. I did design several other figurines, a pair featuring a Malay boy and girl, a little figurine of a boy, and a reclining lady based on an earlier sculpture in ciment fondu.
This brings us to an important and interesting intersection in your development When the name Ng Eng Teng is mentioned, it is most readily associated with sculpture. So from the inception of establishing your practice on your return to Singapore and in using ceramic methodology, you did not produce ceramic wares but figurines. In other words, you developed sculptural interests which you initiated before you left Singapore to pursue your advanced studies. Would this be a pertinent description of purposes and intentions?
Yes, I think so. Because I had the necessary knowledge on pottery making and the know how to set up a ceramic workshop and build a kiln, naturally, ceramic figurines were produced. At a later stage, I was actually producing both ceramic and ciment fondu sculpture. To me, ciment fondu sculptures were more serious works; they took more time to develop and produce; the whole process was longer as I would take more time to work on the clay model, gain satisfaction before I cast it. Ceramic sculpture, on the other hand, would be more direct work; you need not take too long to complete a piece, otherwise the clay would get too dry, and after firing it would shrink as much as ten to fifteen percent.
Would it be fair to say that you were the first to establish a practice with a kiln of your own design as part of your studio facilities in Singapore? And principally devoted to fine arts ceramics? Would it be a fair claim to make?
Well, I won't make that claim. We had traditional potters in Jurong; there were those who came from China, set up dragon kilns and produced mainly bricks and hollow wares.
Another was Aw Eng Kwang in Johore, in Ayer Hitam. But he and others you refer to were primarily commercial potters who, from time to time, made hollow forms which were figurative.
Yes; commercial pottery was for his family's survival. Aw Eng Kwang did figurines too, individual works, and during our first sculpture exhibition in '67, he did exhibit a number of ceramic figures. When I returned from Europe, I briefly visited Sng Cheng Kiat's pottery studio at Scotts Road. I didn't know him before; it was Aw Eng Kwang who introduced us. In the studio, there was an imported kiln and several potters' wheels; he had a few friends sharing the workshop. Sng was then teaching in the Teachers' Training College.
You are now back in Singapore, having found full-time employment, having set-up your studio at home, producing work. You were re-familiarising yourself with Singapore, beginning to think of making works fir exhibitions. Did it occur to you that you might want to be a full-time artist, a professional artist, making a living by producing art?
When I was working in the IPPF, the job was interesting; but I had always wanted to be a fulltime art worker and create. The opportunity came after two years, when IPPF moved to Malaysia and I had to apply for a work permit. That was the time I decided to go full-time. During the last four years, I was producing works in my spare time, exhibiting them in group exhibitions; interest in my art practice was getting more serious. Often I worked late into the night and found it not satisfactory that I bad to set off to office the next morning. I stopped, and began a full-time career in art at the end of 1969. In 1969, Singapore was commemorating the 150th anniversary of its founding and Dr Nalla Tan, the principal of Eusoff College, instead of spending money on feasting, commissioned me to produce a piece of sculpture for her College titled Women's Aspirations. So that really got me busy. And then I wanted to prepare for a solo exhibition to display works I had done, from the time at NAFA, to North Staffordshire College of Technology, Farnham School of Art and including recent works completed after returning home from Europe.
Would that have been you first solo exhibition as well?
What year was that?
November 1970. Yes, it was an exhibition where I displayed, apart from ceramics and sculpture, paintings in oil, Chinese brush painting, mixed media painting and drawing. Yes, it was a comprehensive exposition of my varied engagements.
Before we proceed to discuss your work, can I invite you to reflect on larger social, national and political issues to see if these affected your thinking? I am here referring to the rapidly changing Singapore situation in the late 50's and early 60's, when you were in NAFA and when you proceeded to England to pursue your studies. The move towards self-government, initially, and then independence in the context of Malaysia, and the subsequent ouster from Malaysia in 1965. And in the middle of all of these, there was confrontation with Indonesia. I know that for much of the time, you were in England, did these touch you in any way?
During those very important events of the merger with Malaya in 1963 and the eventual separation in 1965, I was in England and Eire; so I didn't know too much. When I returned in early 1966 there was confrontation with Indonesia. I didn't know much about this either except from the news, of infiltration by the Indonesians, and there were a few explosions.
And then there was civil strife in Malaysia, usually referred to as the May 13 events or incidents; these had reverberations in Singapore.
Yes; from the May 13 incident, subsequently, I produced a piece of sculpture called The Draughts. I made use of slip cast figurines of Chinese and Malay women. I gathered a number of them and put them standing on a board, Chinese women on one side facing Malay women on the other; should any side start to move, eventually, there will be only one left. In a multi-racial society we should be very tolerant towards one and another. There cannot be a wrong move because once there is, there won't be any winner at all; all will be losers.
We can return to this aspect a little later. Can we track the development of your thoughts, your practice at the conceptual, material and technical levels after 1970, when you began to practice as a full-time artist? Would it be correct to say that your development was chiefly focused on the figure? The figure is central to your thinking.
Humanity, yes, life itself is my main inspiration. All along I've been working on figures, human beings, the good and bad side of life, the achievements and downfall of mankind. The thought of losing life and wasting one's life is urgent in my mind. While we have life, we must treasure it. In the early days, such thinking got me to produce two sculptures called Tragedy of War I and II. Humanity begins with the family, parents and children, their upbringing and relationships. So the mother and child theme has been very prominent in my work. Although over time, the s le, form and symbolic meanings did change.
Yes, humanity, in the sense that you talk about it. Yet such concerns are perennial and surface in many cultures and in a number of historical contexts. In your work these are not settled issues; they are not given and they are not taken for granted. The children or the child for example, even as it is dependent, it is also asserting a sense of individuality, asserting a presence either to get away from, or wrapping itself around the mother, what emerges are conditions of duality. On the one hand attentive, and on the other hand looking away. There are tensions, all the time. Do you think my reading is way off.?
I think you are correct. I look on the whole emotional aspect of mankind. The struggle, the heartache, the love, the hatred and bitterness of life; all of this with mother and child, also mother with twins. When depicting two children, usually I place them in opposition, one obedient while another will be over mother's head or looking away. T often feel that the stubborn child may be the brighter one. After many years working on the mother and child theme, I produced the first father and child, in early 1970, titled Chip Off the Old Block, why not? To me, the father is as important as the mother. The mother figure is often more physical, more in contact with the child. A father is like a mountain overlooking the valley which is the child, very attentive, guiding and guarding from afar. From a distance, yes. Sometimes, we see a father carrying a child, or a child sitting over his shoulders which a mother does not do. This, to me, is a father's way of guiding a child to be brave, looking ahead with confidence. Mother is generally more gentle and protective.
There is an aspect of the figure in your practice, the partial figure, in which case you tend to leave certain parts of the anatomy out, or amplify certain aspects of the anatomy, giving emphasis or focus. Are there particular motivations that spur your thinking in recomposing the figure?
I suppose as one goes on producing works, one simplifies and seeks to get to the essence of the subject, the essence of a figure or a movement. In order to do that, I must not be fussy, to include and interpret everything; that stage seems to be over. What I am doing now is to leave out the non-essential areas and parts, and to develop more feeling. In spite of the abstraction in my later works, I still retain the hand, feet, mouth and eyes in many cases. I feel these are the very essential and sensual qualities of a body, which convey much. You just have to put a hand on a correct part of the body and the emotion is obvious.
In this respect, you have great faith in the figure as embodying essences. Is this the case? Is it a declaration of faith on your part?
A person assumes the form of a body, with enclosed emotions. Body movements interpret emotions. The structure of the body is a very powerful symbol of emotion and feeling; I am fascinated by the immense potential in the use of the figure. Be it a young body or an old body still conveys a story emotionally, with its parts.
This is interesting because, in away, you are restating more firmly your belief in humanity. A counter argument would be that the human form, the human body, is gradually being erased, distorted, mangled by technology, by science. It can be said that increasingly, human beings are losing contact with their own bodies. You talk about hands, you talk about feet, it is intriguing to see you reasserting such primary notions. Do you see this as a conscious resistance against the overwhelming weight of a great scientific and technological demi-god that is threatening, and therefore altering, what it is to be human?
There is certainly a lot of intrusion from the sciences into the human body. I don't know whether that has any relation in my recent works where I use certain parts of the body to humanise a new form, like fusing parts of the torso and hands; this is so in my current series titled Torso to Face where you can see it as a torso, and then again you may read it as a face with certain expressions and emotions. Organ transplant and inter-change of body parts in advanced medical sciences have resulted in many wonders. Similarly I suppose you could say I am reinterpreting the body and am moving away from conventional representations of the figure.
Yes, I find those extremely fascinating, they strike me as being highly ambiguous. They appear as figures that are continually transforming themselves. You make the body continually regenerate itself. Yet, at the same time, you are not inhibited from dealing with non-figuration; I am thinking of your use of abstraction, of your employment of geometry in three-dimensional compositions. These surface as parallel interests.
I am still in the process of discovering. I am exploring different materials as well as forms. The use of certain materials dictates certain forms; if you use sheets of brass or stainless steel to weld, the form has to be geometric and angular. Nevertheless, the subject matter may still be based on human values and relationships.
In all these ways, it would seem that you define sculpture in the traditional sense of the term, of creating a special unique form and presence. What is more, that form and presence are embedded in the figure. So, when viewing sculptures, one encounters discrete objects, standing on pedestals, conveying or embodying distinct messages or content and shaped by a highly individualised mind and hand.
To me, a piece of sculpture or painting has got to be a personal expression. It has to come from within the self, and for that reason, I like people and love life more than anything else. I will continue to explore and interpret life and have faith in humanity. Although in recent times the trend in art is to work on installations and to partake in performance, I feel I don't have the personality to be a performer. Performance in the 60's was considered sculpture but now it has become a stage act. To act, you have to pretend while you perform. I don't think I can pretend for too long for I will burst out laughing and that defeats the whole purpose. As for installation work, the concept is considered more important than the production of objects as works; installation artists will buy or collect existing things and material and put them together. Present day young artists are in a great hurry to succeed; everybody wants to create very quickly; so the fastest way is to go and collect various forms, shapes and objects and put them together and call it art. I still believe I must work on the form individually myself, before I can feel really happy and satisfied with it.
In this respect, would it disturb you in any way if you are labelled as a traditional sculptor? Would it matter to you at all?
No, I don't think that worries me. In fact, I mentioned sometime ago that I am an old-fashioned art worker producing a wide range of works using varied materials and techniques. Not many, use the figure to express feelings and emotion in art. I guess I am one of the older school of sculptors and a rather stubborn one at that; this could all boil down to my upbringing, my education, my family, my friends, my health and maybe my religion. All these may be guiding factors as to how I work and my choice of certain forms. I suppose it is difficult to change unless there is a great need to. I've tried occasionally to go into pure abstraction, but after one or two pieces I get tired because I don't have the rapport and feeling with such compositions. I'd rather work on something I can enjoy and communicate, be happy and be fully absorbed with. And whether a piece of work is acquired or not doesn't bother me. I want to have fun with what I'm doing and hope to produce good, interesting works of quality and durability; works that will live on over the years for the public to see and judge. For a work of art to be well known and to live on, it must survive with time and be interesting and captivating.
Can we shift our attention and discussion to an arena you have been actively engaged in, namely: art in public spaces? Is there a difference in your approach, in your thinking, when you are offered a commission for creating for a public space, a building, a park, from the kind of work you do which will be exhibited in a gallery or a museum?
There definitely are differences. Regarding work arising from my own preoccupations done in my own time in the studio, working at my own pace or schedule- these have to do with varied subject matter, often difficult and unpopular; I do not worry about their popularity. Often, before a piece is completed, something else about it, either in terms of form, feeling, composition or texture, will spark me to work on another, following the same subject, thus creating a series, which I enjoy. These works are rather personal; they are not done for anybody else except myself. Some people do appreciate them and that is encouraging; well and good; but for some others who do not react to them well, that is just too bad. Not everyone can like my works; we do not see and think alike anyway. The other type of work is the sculpture commission, the big work that stands outdoor or in public environments. These works are site-specific. First you have to listen to the commissioners and try to understand the clients, and their desire for a piece of sculpture; and then go away and research on a suitable design, to tell a little story and to enhance the site. I usually present drawings on my concept, including a maquette for the client
to consider. When the design is approved and the price agreed upon, laborious manual work begins and it could take many months. You have to study the site first. I usually view the surrounding area too, and if the sculpture is meant for a building, the design and line of the building need to be taken into consideration, in order that the work will complement and enhance the building. You have to consider the scale and relation of the proposed piece to the site; subject matter is important, and the size and volume of the work have to be suitable to the location. And of course, the completed sculpture has to be safe for the public, no unnecessary low protrusions endangering people. You should not design a sculpture with cavities that will collect rain water and breed mosquitoes. The work should not invite people to vandalise it. yet it should be appealing. I suppose these are basically a few important practical points. Foremost, an outdoor work must enhance the site or the building and hopefully signal a sense of identity for that particular location, as a landmark.
I think you have made your position very clear and firm, in that the function of public sculpture is to enhance, to complement. In this connection, you refer to establishing landmarks, and crystallising a sense of identity for place; you also claim that such sculpture should radiate wide appeal. Well, these mark one set of functions which are affirmative and conforming. One could think of other functions which maybe provocative and indeterminate. Still, let us move on to the issue of the possible connection between the personalised, private life of the artist and the work that is produced. There are theories, expectations concerning these. Some insist that there is a close relationship between one and the other; others want to put a distance between one and the other. Do you consider there is a close relationship between Ng Eng Teng the private person and the kind of work you produce as an artist?
I don't think there is a division. Eng Teng the private person and Eng Teng the art maker have got to be one. If I want my work to be good, it has to be convincing, and I have to be truthful to myself The subject matter that I am dealing with is basically life, being human, and of human emotions. My upbringing, my experiences in life, my education, the way I was brought up, my beliefs, the family, in short, the way I live and survive as a person -- all these inevitably find their way into my work. Although, at times, I refrain from being too direct or explicit; but you can read between the lines in my works.
You talked about emotions; would you like to refer to some of them in relation to your work in terms of content and form?
Well, you remember the earlier series on "Bondage"! In developing it, I did not use the female figure, because it would have given a different message. I used the male figure with its hands and feet tied, to depict my frustration and helplessness with life because I didn't have the necessary facilities to work and visualise my thinking. Unless somebody could help to untie the rope, I wouldn't be able to create freely. I used the rope to indicate lack of facility. Tension is a subject I produced in the 70's, a series of mobiles and ''rockers' which were ciment fondu sculptures that came down to earth from pedestals allowing you to play and kick them around. Tension shows
a man struggling for dear life. We experience this situation when, in a terribly lost moment in time, just to survive and live are of utmost importance. You forget about anything and everything else. It's just like this mobile, with a person on top of a semi-spherical form which works on the principle of a European "Kelly doll" that does not topple or like the Chinese "pu tao oung". You can roll it around but it will not turn upside down. You see this poor man struggling on top the semi-spherical form, gripping for his dear life so as not to fall over. The emotion of Tension is very difficult to depict on a stabile, so I used movement to create this tension. I had another work entitled Declining Man, a stage and position we all reach when we age. This work, I think, has some reference to my early poor health when I was down and out. Subject matter like this is not popular at all but I just had to realise it, to get my feelings and emotions out of my system. Yet other works like Tragedy of War I, Tragedy of War II, these have wider thoughts on the world situation. I hate wastage of life; I have been struggling to get my life going and to live. In war, many people are eliminated in a short time. Another thing that upsets me is when I read in the newspaper of people committing suicide. I don't understand why they take their lives so easily when others are desperately trying to live a little longer. There was yet another work called Do we look down? It is in relief, and displayed almost at floor level. The work shows two fore-shortened children looking up at us, one holding a begging bowl. By the way, when this piece of work was shown in Malaysia at the Salon Malaysia show, Arthur Yap saw the exhibition and told me he saw a few coins in the bowl; I was fascinated beyond belief. Subsequently, I had my first solo exhibition at the National Library hall in 1970; and true enough, as I sat quietly in a corner of the stage, I observed a young boy put a coin into the bowl and leaving. Soon after, a well-dressed adult man came to the show and picked it up. This incident confirms that we cannot judge people from appearance. I was satisfied that my work generated such diverse, e reactions. Another moving incident I observed was when I had a work titled Sorrow in the same show. One day, a young, cheerful girl came to see the exhibition and acquired it; I was shocked over her choice. When I delivered the work, I asked her why she chose it; I found out she was a student all by herself, as her parents were working overseas and she felt very lonely; she felt empathy towards Sorrow. It's fascinating to observe how people react to certain sculptures. Yet, on another occasion, at this exhibition in the National Library Hall, I observed a young girl repeatedly going in and out of the exhibition hall. I asked her why; she said that when the hall was empty she was afraid of my sculptures without eyes, only sockets. I asked her why she  continued to view the show; she replied, she was interested in the works. I suppose my sculptures must have conveyed certain emotions that touched her.
Can you say something on the creative process in your practice? How do you make decisions regarding concepts, forms, materials? Is there a set of circumstances for making art which can be said to be a philosophy, a philosophy of creativity or a philosophy of making art for you?
My goodness, I was hoping you would not ask these questions. In fact, I don't ever think about a philosophy in art and in life. My main purpose in life is to be happy, healthy and artistically productive. As for art, it is not what I have to do, but rather, what I feel I have to and want to do. It is basically to create, visualise my emotions and my thinking, sharing these ideas and productions with others. When I get into my studio, a piece of clay will do wonders and soon I feel free and forget myself, unpleasant things forgotten, ideas flow into forms and thoughts tam into shapes with material. I have recalled a number of reactions of viewers to my works; these responses to forms and images demonstrate that there is contact and communication between my works and viewers; this gives me joy and satisfaction. These reactions are the best I can hope for. If a work is ignored, not noticed, either positively or negatively, then it has failed. A work becomes famous because of public reaction and appreciation. Because it is talked about continuously. Like the Mona Lisa; it has withstood the test of time, and is acclaimed as one of the most renowned works in the world; so has Michelangelo's David. I hope some of my works may have certain qualities that viewers may seek to appreciate. When it comes to the durability of work, I am particular about this. A piece of work must survive time in order that more people can appreciate and judge. In one's own generation, journalists and critics may write nice things on certain works; these may not be true assessments; true judgement may have to wait until the next generation. Whether a piece of work is good or indifferent, unless it survives time, opportunities to see and judge it would be gone. It is most important that an art work survives for a long time.
Last updated: 11 January 2001