There were media listings on an exhibition simply titled Harry, Lee Kuan Yew. The picture was a painting of Lee as a boy. The resemblance to the man is remarkable. In fact, at the exhibition, in the paintings of Lee as a baby and a child, you can see the man.
The artist, Ong Hui Har, is a teacher who took time off last year to paint. Her choice of subject coincides with a film Homerun is developing. Hence my interest. The execution of Lee and his family in the 15 oil paintings shows a steady confidence and focus that is intimate yet not personal. Although the references are public photographs, there is a glimpse of the private man behind the larger than life persona. I was lucky enough to meet the artist at the Arts House and she quickly told me she didn’t know Lee or anyone from his immediate family. Her style is no less matured and contemporary than some artists I collect from China or South East Asia. Her works at this exhibition are not for sale.
Will Lee Kuan Yew be as iconic as Mao, JFK or Obama in the world of contemporary art? Lately, some contemporary artists are painting him and the paintings sell well. If more South East Asian contemporary art take off as well as those from Indonesia, and if more artists paint this founding father of Singapore, he may well be the next Mao in the art world.
So here is an early insight for contemporary art collectors. Start buying Lee Kuan Yew in oil!
Copyright © of the above images is with the artist and they are reproduced here from the artist’s blog – onghuihar.wordpress.com.