Ng Eng Teng is an exceptional achiever in the field of visual arts. His enduring career in art, spanning 39 years, is laced with achievements of one kind or another. Examples: countless sculptures scattered all over the country as artworks in prestigious at decorative murals adorning buildings or monuments in public places; 10 series of sculptures or ceramics exploring diverse themes; 9 solo exhibitions in Singapore and abroad; recipient of the Cultural Medallion and the ASEAN Cultural Award for Visual Arts (sculpture); a dedicated ceramic teacher nurturing a number of young potters.
As an artist and as a person, one of Eng Teng's formidable strengths is his ability to conceive ambitious projects and subsequently to see to their fruition often doing so for art's sake. And through the years he has moved swiftly through a chain of projects. Another strength is his confidence and fortitude in taking on the most daunting of commissions and meet its intricate problems calmly.
He is constantly extending himself as a sculptor or potter. Even as a well-established mature sculptor of considerable standing and success, he would, as he did in 1989, work in the famed Pietrasanta, Italy, with the very special marble which the legendary Michelangelo used to create 'David'. Besides testing out bronze casting in Perth and Thailand, he also tried out the popular fiery ox-blood glazes of the Shikwan wares at the Shikwan studios in China.
In the years after his return from England where he received at North Staffordsire, Stokeon-Trent and Farnham a most comprehensive training in ceramic art, Eng Teng was obsessed with originality and the vision for a unique art form in his pottery. This means a new perception, new clay, new techniques. Soon he was scouring construction sites for local clay. Everything must be discovered anew from personal experience through seeing, feeling, washing, sieving the raw clay -- an arduous process. But the results were heartening: many fresh unexpected properties emerged. The next stage -- improvising suitable techniques to match -- was straightforward.
So prolific was Eng Teng that between 1966 and 1990, no fewer than 10 distinct series of sculptures or ceramic art emerged intermittently from his Joo Chiat Place studio. The 10 series was wide-ranging in themes: Female, Bondage, Pressed Moulds, Faces, Mobiles and Rockers, Oil Crisis, Split Forms, Man, Child Freedom, Tienannmen.
The 10 Series is revealing in many ways. Eng Teng is clearly a master-planner with a long range strategy. The consistency of his chain of projects shows that he is always looking ahead charting his course with unwavering concentration. Secondly, he is always seeking comprehensiveness in his artistic expressions. Thus, each series has its own mandate to explore certain possible dynamics or nuances often with different materials or techniques or emphasis. Through the series too Eng Teng shares his reflections on diverse subjects and issues with the spotlight moving from the family heroes and heroines to the primitive society to the international arena and then to Tienannmen Square. His emotions are stirred when he dwells on the states of the human drama: nobility, suffering, hope, conflict, fear, tragedy and humour.
Few in Singapore exemplify more than Eng Teng the artist who knows how to stretch his talent to the fullest as well as exploiting the medium which is its vehicle to the brink. There is no doubt in his mind that stretching his art is to stretch himself towards a more fulfilled life.
Three years ago, Eng Teng began doing life drawing on a regular basis to rediscover the human form and gradually built up an impressive portfolio. He said recently, "Nude drawing is the study and appreciation of form and mass...the understanding of subtle flow of contour and the vigorous change of angle and plane".
On the spur of an inspiration in 1992, Eng Teng began to extract the essentials from his life drawings and evolved them into ceramic sculptures. Working at a feverish pace with every work inspiring the next, he eventually completed his series of 40 sculptures. The focus of the collection is the torso, a theme which has challenged the minds of painters and sculptors for a century. Backed by decades of dedicated commitment, the Torso Series will make its debut in the first ceramic art exhibition at Takashimaya Gallery.
Contrast. Recent Clay Creations by Iskandar Jalil & Ng Eng Teng, Takashimaya Singapore Ltd., Singapore, 1994, unpaginated
Last updated: 11 January 2001