Hundreds pay last respects to Chen Wen Hsi
The Straits Times
| Dec 22, 1991
By: Goh Beng Choo
IT WAS a simple, rain-delayed funeral for a world-class artist,
one which provoked much thought and sadness among those who knew
and admired him.
At 4.30 pm yesterday, Mr Chen Wen Hsi, an internationally
celebrated artist who died at age 87 on Tuesday, was buried at the
Choa Chu Kang Christian Cemetery.
About 100 people came to take a last look at
Mr Chen as he lay in a cherry wood coffin together with his favourite
paint brushes, palette, ink stone and rice paper.
Among the relatives, friends and students present
was Mr Lee Chi Rong, a museum director from Kaohsiung, southern
Said Mr Lee: "News of his death has saddened
the art communities in China, Hongkong and Taiwan and brought on
a spate of reports on his works."
Mr Lee is now trying to get people here interested
in setting up a memorial foundation, and possibly a private museum,
to honour him.
Among the hundreds of Mr Chen's students is Mr
Peh Chin Hua, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC.
Mr Peh, who learned painting under Mr Chen from
1962 to 1965, recalled: "I was then a student of the Chinese
High School. I was very interested in painting and had won several
awards for my works. Mr Chen was particularly
encouraging. He even spent his own time guiding me at his house."
Brigadier-General (Res) George Yeo, Minister
for Information and the Arts, had wanted to visit Mr Chen a month
ago but the meeting was called off because Mr Chen was ill.
Then, on Tuesday morning, he had asked Professor
Tommy Koh, Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large, to arrange a new date
for the meeting, but was told that Mr Chen had died that morning.
"I was shocked and saddened by news of his
death," said BG Yeo.
"His deep knowledge of the art of East and
West and his successful synthesis of the two should be an inspiration
to us all in Singapore."
Asked how he felt about the fact that Mr Chen
was not given the Cultural Medallion Award, BG Yeo said: "When
the Cultural Medallion Award was introduced in 1979, Mr Chen had
already (in 1964) been given the Public Service Star by the President
of Singapore in recognition of his artistic achievements. The Public
Service Star was then deemed, and still is, a higher award than
the Cultural Medallion. Thus it would not be appropriate to confer
a Cultural Medallion Award on Mr Chen."
Mr Chen, a Teochew who came from Shantou, Guangdong,
was one of Singapore's four first-generation pioneer artists. Two
of them - Chen Chong Swee and Cheong Soo Pieng - are also dead.
They are survived by Mr Liu Kang.
Laments Mr Liu, 81,: "My best memory of
Wen Hsi was the painting trip the four of us took to Bali in 1952.
"Our joint exhibition celebrating that trip
was considered a landmark event in the Singapore art world. Now
all of my peers have passed away, I am feeling very sad.