As both Leo Hee Tong and Singapore approach milestone birthdays in 2015, there could be no better way to celebrate this award-winning artist’s contribution to the local art scene than through a rare solo exhibition of his works spanning from the 1980s.
Born in 1940, Leo’s interest in art first blossomed as a child studying in Pei Chun Primary School. The seeds of interest were sown by school principal, Mr Foo Tuck Sun, whose drawings in class left a great impression on Leo.
However, it was his mentorship under the late artist Mr Cheong Soo Pieng in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts that would substantially influence his artistic style in years to come. Traces of Cheong’s impact on Leo’s paintings can still be found even today.
After some time, Leo decided that he needed to break away from the Nanyang art style, which focused heavily on depicting the Balinese culture. Fortuitously, in 1973 the People’s Association awarded him a scholarship to study fine art at the Ashiya Art College in Japan. This trip proved to be the turning point in his life.
Leo’s stay in Japan exposed him to original paintings by famous Western artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso for the first time. Inspired by these encounters, Leo started to further develop his painting techniques by incorporating Western abstract and cubist elements into his art pieces.
In Japan, he encountered something else for the first time: snow. Leo was immediately enchanted by its beauty, and dashed out of class when he saw the dazzling white crystals falling down. This enchantment shaped Leo’s now-signature art style, inspired by the frosty winter days of his youth. With smatterings of white, Leo conjures up the serene calm of snowflakes in the wind.
Leo’s paintings often feature another distinctive element – the humble pigeon. His affinity with pigeons did not start in Japan but during his boyhood, when he reared over a hundred of them. However, it was during his time in Japan that Leo started to view them as symbols of peace.
Over the course of the past five decades, Leo has developed a unique art style through the fusion of various influences in his illustrious life. Unfortunately, the number of Leo’s artwork produced every year is on the decline. In order to maintain meticulous standards befitting of his reputation, Leo takes his time to lovingly build upon each piece until his desired perfection. Indeed, Leo has approached the zenith of his craft but continues to reach ever higher.
That Leo remains humble and conscientious so far along in his career is inspiring. With 9 distinction awards in the UOB Painting of the Year competitions under his belt and a host of other awards, Leo Hee Tong is no doubt an accomplished artist of our time.
The Art Fellas celebrate Leo’s achievements with a rare solo exhibition in his honour this November, entitled “Five Decades of Leo Hee Tong”. The exhibition will showcase his works from 1980 till today, and visitors will be in for a treat as rare “not-for-sale” pieces will also be put up. Join us in supporting our home grown artist by visiting the exhibition at The Art Fellas’ gallery from the 1st to the 10th of November 2014.
Exhibition: Five Decades of Leo Hee Tong
Dates: 1 – 10 November 2014
Venue: The Art Fellas, 46 Kim Yam Road #02-25, The Herencia
Hours: Weekdays: 9am – 6pm, Weekends: 12pm – 6pm
Info: www.theartfellas.com, www.fb.com/theartfellas