Behind languid strokes and the iridescent meld of transient color lies the hand of a man enchanted by light, devoted to color and inspired by the honesty within the artistic throes of creation. A self-taught observer, traveler and passionate learner, Ong Kim Seng has climbed the ranks of formal appreciation to claim his title as one of the most celebrated watercolorists of our age, gaining international renown and staking his claim as a modern-day cultural treasure.
Born in 1945 in Singapore, Ong Kim Seng held a fascination for the arts since early childhood, steadily growing in skill and recognition to become a practiced and acclaimed connoisseur of colors and form. A patron and practitioner of the ‘plein-air’ technique, the artist has shown mastery over the capture of light, expertly using positive space and shadows to create stunningly realistic depictions of silhouettes and representation. From scenic friezes to humble streets and back lanes, the artist venerates the natural elements in his visuals, bringing together elements and mediums to create a medley of colors and form that stem from imitation and yet, result in a creation of a distinctive oeuvre.
From a boy of humble means to one of Singapore’s most prominent artistic icons; the secret behind Ong Kim Seng’s art is his extraordinary control over his medium, loyalty to his subject matter and discipline of practice. His lack of formal training imbued his artistic sensibilities with an intrinsic instinct of depiction. He sometimes renders details with exquisite sharpness and sometimes blends misty washes of transient color together as he deems fit. The broad spectrum of his concepts has allowed the artist to explore the varying degrees of mediums and depictions, even moving into post-impressionistic ‘California Style’ colors and strokes.
The images contained in his art do not convey extreme emotions, they simply play on the nuances of natural light, exacerbating the ordinary into visual splendor and capturing texture and luminescence with layers of pigment. The skill in his art is indelible, and his aesthetic eye even more so. Merging concepts with finesse of execution, the artist presents representative images which are also ethereal in their beauty, flawless in their elemental flow and appropriation of light.
Ong Kim Seng has exhibited worldwide and won a multitude of awards, including six awards from the American Watercolor Society, and the coveted Cultural Medallion for visual arts by the Ministry of Information and the Arts, Singapore. The artist was President of the Singapore Watercolor Society from 1991 to 2001. Ong's works have graced the collections of a number of museums and art galleries as well as the residences of foreign dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II of England and Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations. His works are also exhibited in foreign missions and embassies of the Republic of Singapore. Public and private patrons have commissioned paintings from him. For instance, in 1984, he was given the honour to paint the National Day Parade by the Straits Times, and a year later, the late President Ong Teng Cheong commissioned a painting for his new official residence, the Command House, at Kheam Hock Road. In February 2004, he received a commission to paint for Singapore Polytechnic's Convention Centre and Plaza. In 1993 his work, 'Bhaktaphur' was the first Singapore watercolor painting to be auctioned by Sotheby's in Hong Kong, and in March 1994, his work, 'Bali' was auctioned by Christie's in Singapore. His works are now auctioned annually in Singapore and in the region and in addition, Ong's weekends for the past ten years have been spent conducting watercolor painting classes
"I have to feel a place before I paint it. If I have good feelings for a scene - just as I may have good feelings for someone I meet - I know I'll have the will to paint it well. For me, and for all painters, I believe, inspiration comes naturally when there's a link between the artist and his subject."
Corporate and Public Collections
Queen Elizabeth II of England
The Prime Minister of the People's
Republic Of China
The Secretary-General of the United
President of the Republic of Korea
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of
The President of the Republic of the
The Prime Minister of Japan
The Prime Minister of India
The Governer of Hokkaido
Singapore Arts Museum
Singapore Maritime Museum
The Agung Rai Museum
Neka Museum in
Awarded the Silver Award by the organizing committee of the National Watercolor Exhibition of the People's Republic of China in Fuzhou, China.
Supported of the Arts Awards presented by the National Arts Council. The Singapore Internationale by the Singapore International Foundation
Awarded the Winsor & Newton Award presented by the American Watercolor Society at the Salmagundi Club, New York on April 28, 2000 for the painting "Old Corner, Nepal"
Conferred the Dolphin Fellowship by American Watercolor Society
Awarded The Excellence for Singapore Award 2000 by the Singapore Totalisator Board on 4 August, 2000. Presented by Singapore Ex-President, Dr Wee Kim Wee.
Pingat Apad, awarded by the Malay cultural group, Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya 9th December 1995, National Museum by Mr. Mohamad Packer Mohd. MITA. Perm-Sec.
Awarded the Base Miller Memorial Award presented by the American Watercolor Society at the Salmagundi Club, New York on May 1st 1992 for the painting "Gyantse Market."
Paintings, Sentosa from Mt Faber and Raffles Hotel selected by the "Look JTB" travel magazine cover from 1992 to 1994, distributed in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Sapporo.
Awarded the 1990 Cultural Medallion, Presented by the Ministry of Information and the Arts., Singapore
Presented the "Ponnadai" (Golden Shawl) by the Singapore Kairalee Kala Nilayam (Singapore Kairalee Arts Centre) in recognition of the artistic achievements given to Singapore.
Active member, American Watercolor Society (A.W.S) New York, U.S.A.
Clara Stroud Memorial Award by American Watercolor Society, New York, U.S.A. (Third work to win the AWS Award, Thimi Nepal)
Lucy B. Moore Memorial Award by American Watercolor Society , New York, U.S.A. (Second work to win the AWS Award, Backyard, Singapore.)
Paul B. Remmy AWS Memorial Award by American Watercolor Society, New York, U.S.A. (1st work to win AWS Award, Heart of Katmandu.)
P.J. Ireland Award, Macquerie University, N.S.W. Australia.
Medal Award, Presented by the Ministry of Culture at the National Art Exhibition for painting exhibited.
First Prize, Port of Singapore Authority Artist Encouragement Scheme Open Art Competition.
Nostalgia in Transformation, Ode to Art, Singapore
Solo Exhibition with Quanhua Watercolour Art Gallery, Shanghai, China
Poems in Watercolour, Galerie Belvedere, The Arts House, Singapore
Home and Nation in the Art of Ong Kim Seng, Singapore Art Museum
Shanghai Land of Splendour, Shanghai Art Fair
Guangzhou Art Fair, Guangzhou Commodity Fair Exhibition, China
Moments of Light, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore
Mastering Light and Shade, National University of Singapore
Timeless Jiangnan - with Kwek Leng Joo, Singapore
Recent works of Ong Kim Seng, Singapore History Museum