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Fan Chang Tien:

The Timeless Ink Heritage

03.01 // 19.01 2020


As a gallery dedicated to the promotion and appreciation of Singapore Modern Art and artists, artcommune is pleased to present Fan Chang Tien: The Timeless Ink Heritage for BBC Joint Art Week and Singapore Art Week 2020. The exhibition will open officially on 4 January, Saturday, 3pm, with Fan’s family in attendance, followed by a panel discussion on “The Life and Art of Fan Chang Tien” at 4pm. The panel features Mr Teo Han Wue (Art Writer and Independent Curator), Mr Ho Sou Ping (Artist and Director of artcommune gallery) and Mrs Teresa Yao (Fan’s daughter), and is moderated by Curator Mr Tan Yong Jun.

Featuring a collection of about 25 ink works by the first-generation master, this show is a timely follow-up to last year’s successful exhibition in Beijing, Fan Chang Tien: Homecoming of a Heritage held at the China International Cultural Exchange Centre from 21 to 30 August 2019. Fan Chang Tien’s work has been very well-received in China and it is only natural that his artistic journey and achievements should also be celebrated in Singapore, where he dedicated much of his life to art and helped nurtured a new generation of local ink artists. Some of his notable students include Nai Swee Leng, Lim Kay Hiong, Tan Oe Pang, Henri Chen Kezhan, Lim Cher Eng, and Chua Ek Kay. Being a link between the haipai tradition in China and the burgeoning art scene in Singapore, Fan was essential in providing Singaporean artists an alternative mode of modernist ink paintings that, though with an entwined heritage, was ultimately different from that taught in NAFA.

Fan Chang Tien: The Timeless Ink Heritage is curated by historian Tan Yong Jun and aims to uncover the many facets of Fan’s adherence to classicism and traditionality - aspects of his art that continue to be relevant today as his students further posit the form of a ‘new literati painting’. In addition to his ink work, a selection of Fan’s seals - self-carved or carved by other artists - and personal items from his study will be on display to provide audience a broader perspective on his artistic practice. We hope to show that rather than being slavishly bound to older forms, Fan innovated on tradition in order to draw cultural meanings from tradition, and in doing so made sense of his cultural Chineseness in diaspora.

Fan Chang Tien 范昌乾 (1907, Jieyang, China – 1987, Singapore) graduated from the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts and the Changming Art Academy, both in Shanghai, under the tutelage of Shanghai School (haipai 海派) masters such as Wang Geyi, Wang Zhen (Yiting), Pan Tianshou, and Zhu Wenyun. This allowed Fan to draw a direct lineage to the great haipai master Wu Changshuo, who modernised literati ink paintings for the cosmopolitan inhabitants of Shanghai. 


Fan migrated to Bangkok, Thailand to teach in 1947, then to Singapore in 1956, with the Chinese Civil War preventing his return to China. Establishing himself in a studio in Balestier Road, Fan taught ink painting free of charge. Many of his students were involved in the Hwa Han Art Society, established in 1973 with Fan as head advisor.


Being part of the Teochew intellectual community led Fan to emphasise the literati aspects of the haipai tradition, most importantly in the assemblage of meanings provided within a piece of artwork through the four components of poetry, calligraphy, painting, and seal-carving. In particular, his self-composed poems, making full use of the metaphorical meanings of flora and fauna entrenched in Chinese literary culture, set him apart from other ink painters in Singapore. It is also within this textuality that Fan made sense of his Nanyang environs.

*BBC Joint Art Week is a self-started initiative led by a group of art galleries housed in Bras Basah Complex and is currently in its 3rd edition. Audience can expect to revel in the vibrancy of Singapore’s visual arts scene and be acquainted with Bras Basah Complex’s long-cherished authenticity and reputation as Singapore’s largest and oldest cultural centre for the arts. The event is supported by the National Arts Council, Singapore.

Exhibition Information

Dates: 3 - 19 January 2020

Time: 12 - 7pm daily

Venue: artcommune gallery (address below)


Official Opening and Panel Discussion, 4 January 2020, Saturday

Opening, 3 - 4pm

Panel Discussion: The Life and Art of Fan Chang Tien, 4 - 6pm

Speakers: Mr Teo Han Wue, Mr Ho Sou Ping, Mrs Teresa Yao, and moderated by Mr Tan Yong Jun


Evening Art Talk in conjunction with SAW 2020 Late Night @ Waterloo / Bugis Bras Basah district

11 January 2020, Saturday, 7 - 9.30pm

Early Singapore Art Scene

Speaker: Mr Ho Sou Ping

For registration, pls email contact details to

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