artcommune and AC43 Gallery are pleased to present The Story of Two Presses, which delves into the little-known history and collaborative culture of contemporary printmaking in Singapore. Featuring works by Chen Cheng Mei, Chng Seok Tin, Chen Shitong, Chiew Sien Kuan, Chua Chon Hee, Ho E Moi, Nhawfal Juma’at, Nyan Soe, Oh Chai Hoo and Tan Sock Fong, this multi-generational showcase centres on the developments of two specific printmaking workshops helmed by local artists in Singapore - the LASALLE Printing Workshop (in LASALLE College of the Arts) led by Chen Cheng Mei and Chng Seok Tin between the mid-1980s and 1990s, and Pulp Editions founded by Chen Shitong in 2017.
Though operating over 30 years apart, both printers embody the fervent ground-up initiative of local artists whose passion and sacrifices became instrumental in developing the contemporary printmaking scene in Singapore. The Story of Two Presses presents around 30 fine art prints spanning the period of 1980s to 2022, with almost all being produced in these two workshops.
Celebration of Chng Seok Tin’s birthday, circa 1992.
Artists Ho E Moi, Chen Cheng Mei, and Chng Seok Tin (from left to right in the foreground) with students at the LASALLE Printing Workshop in Telok Kurau. Photograph courtesy of Dahlia Osman (2nd from right in the background), student of Chng Seok Tin.
More often than not, a series of small, thoughtful gestures from one or two individuals is all it takes to set forth a course of meaningful developments for an entire community. In 1985, the dedication of Brother Joseph McNally, who founded LASALLE College of the Arts in 1984, was met with an equal measure of selflessness from artist Chen Cheng Mei, who readily helped facilitate the inception of the school’s printmaking department by placing her own newly imported English etching press and print materials in the school’s printing workshop for all students and interested artists to use.
Chen Cheng Mei (b. 1927, Singapore - d. 2020, Singapore) herself was primarily an oil painter who had trained at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (1949-54). While visiting Paris in 1980, she hung out at the renowned Atelier 17 printer owned by Stanley William Hayter and was determined to experiment further with press techniques. This prompted her purchase of an expensive English etching press in 1985 for her personal use. In the early years of the newly-opened LASALLE, Brother McNally had had to contend with limited funds and resources, and Chen Cheng Mei’s generous gestures had allowed the school to run its printmaking department with verve and aptitude. Her informal gifting of the etching press and materials enabled LASALLE to hire Chng Seok Tin (b. 1946, Singapore - d. 2019, Singapore), who had just returned to Singapore after many years of training and experimenting with print techniques in the US, to helm the department in 1985. In the late 80s, Chen Cheng Mei also added an imported German lithograph press to the workshop. Over the years, she continued to donate many print materials including paper, imported plates and acids to the workshop.
As a teacher and mentor, Chng Seok Tin was instrumental in fostering the first of print majors amongst art students in Singapore. For up until the late 80s, printmaking was offered only as an exposure module at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the lessons focused more on woodcut and silkscreen printing. LASALLE was effectively the first art school in Singapore to offer a degree majoring in Print, encouraging a more specialised interest in etching and lithography.
Between 1985 and up till the 2000s, Chen Cheng Mei, Chng Seok Tin and Ho E Moi (also Chen’s sister-in-law) worked often at the LASALLE Printing Workshop to produce their own etchings and lithographs. Several students and graduates from LASALLE who were active members of the Contemporary Printmaking Association, Singapore, such as Tan Sock Fong (b. 1966, Singapore, who was amongst LASALLE’s first batch of print majors), also produced many of their works here. In an informal and organic manner, the LASALLE printing workshop functioned as a fecund space where artists of different backgrounds and styles came together to learn and transfer knowledge, bonded by a common interest to pursue contemporary printmaking as an avenue of expression.
The Story of Two Presses aims to celebrate this uniqueness and spirit embodied by the LASALLE printing workshop with a selection of prints completed by Chen Cheng Mei, Chng Seok Tin, Ho E Moi and Tan Sock Fong in this very space.
Anthony Chua Say Hua
The Echoes and Eclipses of Traditions
16–30 September 2022
AC43 Gallery is pleased to present Singapore artist Anthony Chua Say Hua’s latest solo exhibition, Anthony Chua Say Hua: The Echoes and Eclipses of Traditions. Featuring around 15 ink works completed in the period of 2015-2022, the showcase provides audience a quick survey of Anthony Chua’s contemporary ink approach, which experiments widely with effects of smudging, rubbing and layering of ink, as well as non-brush and collage techniques. The show officially opens on Friday, 16 September 2022, 6 - 8pm at AC43 Gallery, with the artist in attendance.
Anthony Chua is most known for his contemporary abstract ink renditions of local heritage shophouse scenes. His interpretations of these familiar landscapes and buildings, such as Under the Banyan Tree and Boat Quay, merge Chinese monochrome aesthetics and daxieyi (大写意; writing the idea) brush style with Western abstraction techniques in pure lines and shapes.
In Search of Shangri-la 新桃花源记
2022, Mixed media and collage on rice paper, 120 x 230 cm
Like the Nanyang art pioneers before him, Anthony Chua holds sacrosanct the principle of learning from and drawing on traditions without being slavishly bound by them. Having worked with Chinese ink and rice paper for over two decades, he constantly seeks to transcend beyond familiar techniques and conventions. His new mixed media collage, In Search of Shangri-la, presents an enormous euphonious network of association formed through disparate and painted paper fragments that include spliced rice paper, newspaper, calendar pages and even a money bill. Images are laid upon images, just as his ink sits layered upon ink, evoking a multi-layered continuum where time, space and cultures collide. Amidst this Western collage approach, his handling of materials and paints amplifies rather than diminishes the rich ink wash subtleties intrinsic to Chinese ink tradition, revealing a work that successfully embodies an East-West fusion and the expressive potential woven from these tensions. Bold and stylised in conception, his work invites viewers to meander through the echoes and eclipses of traditions.
About the Artist
Anthony Chua Say Hua (b. Singapore, 1966) is a multiple award-winning artist who has been practising full-time art since 1996. An alumnus of the Goldsmiths College, University of London under the Chen Chong Swee Overseas Art Scholarship and former winner of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award (2001), Anthony Chua also won the Silver Award in the established artist category in the 33rd UOB Painting of the Year Competition in 2014. Apart from experimenting with different compositional themes, Anthony Chua is versatile in employing effects of smudging, rubbing and layering of ink to expand on the interesting subtleties of ink wash on rice paper. The artist is also known for utilising different types of brushes and unconventional tools such as peacock feathers and squeeze bottles in his paintings.