Aw's artistic career has spanned six decades and transcended a bewildering host of disciplines oil and acrylic, water colour, Chinese ink, calligraphy, seal carving, opera mask painting, woodcut, fiber glass sculpting, bronze sculpting, paper mache, copper tooling.
Aw's work of art is a true reflection of his rich life experiences. Born in Hainan Island, China, he fled to Kelantan during the Japanese Occupation. Despite the adversity, Aw received his artistic education in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore and Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing during the 1950s. Having escaped the brunt of the Cultural Revolution in China, he expressed the plight of the people through the art of woodcut. His favourite subject matter were people of those times samsui women, hawker and coolies.
In the 1970s with the proliferation of industrial materials, Aw experimented with alternative material such as fibre glass, enamel, and paper relief and made breakthroughs which today still occupy pride of place in our cultural and artistic landscape. Aw's first ever paper relief exhibition in 1972 was a milestone in his career and for Singapore's artist as it brought fresh perspective and spurs local artists to seek new frontiers in their works.
During the 1980s, Aw worked with the then Singapore Tourism Promotion Board to develop a range of Chinese Opera Masks and other cultural products. These went on to become iconic souvenirs that promote Singapore as a tourist destination. Aw was often invited by STPB to participate in trade shows to various countries in Asia, Middle East and Europe to demonstrate the uniqueness and richness of Singapore Art.
As urbanization relentlessly transforms our once tranquil fishing village into today's modern Singapore, Aw is eager to capture the remaining memories. He captured the essence of Singapore's residual memory of yesteryears on canvas, reminding us of the fast changing evolving landscape and lifestyle.
A part of Aw's heart never left Beijing even as he sought to put down roots in Singapore. In 199495, Aw was invited back to his alma mater to conduct a series of thematic lectures on pottery Aw's original forte. In recognition of his contribution, Aw was conferred the title of Visiting Professor by the Central Academy of Fine Arts, now known as Academy of Arts & Design Tsinghua University.
Pioneering Spirit, Sculpture, 1988, Raffles Place MRT Station
Struggle for Survival, Sculpture, 1988, Raffles Place MRT Station
Epic of Singapore, Mural, 1989, Tanjong Pagar MRT Station
Dancer, Sculpture, 1990, Ministry of Community & Development
Mother & Child, Sculpture, 1993, KK Women & Children Hospital
In Safe Hands, Sculpture, 1993, Civil Defence Club
Series of life size figures representing 4 races of Singapore, Sculpture, 2002, Singapore River outside May Bank Building
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Aw's contribution to Singapore's art and cultural scene lies most significantly in his dedication and commitment to continuously develop and refine his talent and skills. His inventiveness and resourcefulness have seen him produce works of art that have helped redefine conventional art forms and techniques. Aw has been an inspiration to art and culture through his tireless pursuit of artistic excellence, continuous refinement of his own artistic talent, constant innovation and enhancement of his various visual art forms from fiber glass Chinese opera masks to Chinese brush painting to acrylic. Aw's oeuvre of art works speaks for itself and for him.
Aw Tee Hong Biography