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Cheong Soo Pieng:

Ambition for Originality

01.08 // 16.08 2020

CSP 471 60 Abstract (Kelong) 49 x 59.5 c

artcommune gallery is proud to announce this special showcase featuring 10 significant works that are highly stylised in visuals and themes by Singapore pioneer master, Cheong Soo Pieng. Throughout his career, Cheong Soo Pieng (b. 1917, Xiamen, China - d. 1983, Singapore) was a trailblazing figure in the Singapore Modern Art scene. In addition to being a pioneer of the nanyang art style, he is today widely hailed as one of the most creative Chinese artists of the 20th century. Over the course of four decades, the prolific artist established a wide-ranging output famed for its bold pursuit of Modern aesthetics and innovative amalgamation of forms and techniques derived from both Western and Chinese art traditions.

Born in 1917 in Xiamen, China, Soo Pieng studied at Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts and furthered his education at Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts in Shanghai. Being schooled in the Beaux-Arts type of education at both academies had been pivotal in exposing him to the fundamentals of Chinese and Western Modern art (Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism) in his early formative period. In 1946, Soo Pieng relocated to Singapore to escape the civil war that broke out between the Communists and Kuomintang forces after the end of the 2nd World War. He took up a teaching position at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and thereon began his fervent amalgamation of Western and Chinese pictorial styles, often drawing from themes and subject matters relating to his new, immediate environment in Malaya.

Several overseas painting sojourns undertaken between the 1950s and 1970s were known to have effected distinct stylistic transitions in Soo Pieng’s artistic oeuvre. For example, the historic 1952 Bali trip (with Liu Kang, Chen Wen Hsi and Chen Chong Swee) culminated in the

birth of a regionally influential nanyang art style and seeded Soo Pieng’s lifelong fascination with Balinese figures and ornamental oriental motifs; his longhouse stay in Borneo in 1959 inspired as well a lifelong interest in styling the indigenous Dayak people in a variety of formats and mediums; his European trip from 1961-63 gravitated a significant part of his practice towards abstract and mixed media work; and his first return trip to China in 1979 saw an increasing body of oil and ink work that boldly re-interpreted the ancient Sung classical aesthetics.


Focussing on works created between 1960 and 1980, Ambition for Originality throws the spotlight on the creative crossroads and continuous strive for original expressions that are reflected in Soo Pieng’s explorations of different themes and mediums in this period. More than any of his nanyang contemporary, he worked prolifically across mediums and constantly engaged in the interrogation of traditional forms and values. A close study of the works on exhibit would reveal that, beyond studying and referencing the origins of established art traditions such as Western cubism and abstraction, Soo Pieng’s ambition was always to re- invent and extend these discourses through an authentically personal and original vision informed by his Chinese identity.

Exhibition Period

Dates: 1 - 16 August 2020

Time: 12 - 7pm daily

Venue: artcommune gallery (address below)

Contact Information

artcommune gallery

76 Bras Basah Road

#01-01 Carlton Hotel

Singapore 189558

Tel: +65 63364240 M: +65 97479046

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