Speech by President Halimah Yacob for the Launch of “The Art of Chua Mia Tee: A Portrait of a Life’s Work”,
Mr Chua Mia Tee and the Chua Family
Mr Siew Peng Yim, Chief Executive Officer, Times Publishing Group
Dr Eugene Tan, Director, National Gallery Singapore
Mr Low Sze Wee, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning everyone. It is my pleasure to join you at the launch of “The Art of Chua Mia Tee: A Portrait of a Life’s Work”.
Mr Chua is one of Singapore’s foremost artists and a recipient of the Cultural Medallion in 2015. What impresses me more is that today even at age 86, he is still actively painting and travelling around the world.
Singaporeans are familiar with many of Mr Chua’s paintings. His portrait of our first President, the late Mr Yusof bin Ishak, graces our currency notes! In fact, Mr Chua had painted portraits of Singapore Presidents from Mr Yusof Ishak to Mr Ong Teng Cheong.
Mr Chua’s body of works has been described as one which tells the story of our nation. His earliest works in the 1950s captured scenes of life in Singapore that were fast disappearing. He also featured workers who toiled ceaselessly to bring about the young nation’s development and progress. His famous 1955 Epic Poem of Malaya and 1959 National Language Class paintings portray the sentiments and conditions of Singapore’s pre-independence years, and are currently exhibited at the National Gallery Singapore.
Mr Chua’s paintings of post-independence Singapore are just as insightful and evocative. They capture the essence of the Singapore spirit, such as the contributions of workers at a Jurong shipyard canteen to our ambitions of rapid industrialisation and economic growth in the 1974 piece, Workers in a Canteen. His 1979 depiction of a family on a day out in Toa Payoh’s town garden reflects the energy and determination of a young nation to provide a home for its people to live, work and play.
I would like to commend everyone involved in making this book possible. Not only does this book feature Mr Chua’s works and his legacy, it also provides us with valuable insights into the history and development of Singapore over the years.
Finally, I would like to show my appreciation to Mr Chua. Thank you for giving us a lifetime of beautiful paintings, which also documented the story of our nation.