Choy Weng Yang (b. 1936, Singapore - ) is one of Singapore's most notable abstract painters in the post-independence period from 1965. For more than three decades, he has been an artist, curator and educator, contributing actively to the local art scene. Presently an independent curator, he was once the curator of art for the National Museum of Singapore from 1978 to 1985.
Choy was trained in the Hornsey College of Art, London, United Kingdom. He majored in painting and graduated with a National Diploma of Art in 1962. The following year, he studied art education at the University of London's Institute of Education and obtained an Art Teachers' Certificate from the Institute.
Having an education abroad benefited Choy immensely. During his student days in London, his frequent travels to other European cities provided him with the opportunity to view up close the original significant works of prominent artists who played an instrumental role in the development of modern art. Such encounters had a huge impact on the way he perceived art. In particular, he was deeply inspired by the works of Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Constable, Turner and Bacon.
Choy's diligence and passion towards the arts bore fruit when he was awarded the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Fellowship for Creative Arts to tour the United States (US) in 1973. He maximised this opportunity by spending a period in New York and touring several cities to explore contemporary American art. The fellowship included a research stint at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Centre for Advanced Visual Studies, where he did experimental designs under the supervision of the esteemed Professor Gyorgy Kepes. During his time in the US, he also met several artists such as Josef Albers and Jules Oliski in their studios.
Choy's artistic career advanced further in 1985 after he was invited by the French government to participate in a cultural tour of France. The tour was a refreshing cultural experience for him. Besides visiting established museums such as the Louvre and the Pompidou Art Centre, he visited a series of monumental museums in the south of France, including the Picasso Museum, the Matisse Museum, the Cezanne Collection and the Meight Museum. Being constantly surrounded by inspiring pieces of art gave him fascinating and fresh insights for his own creations. The opportunity to visit renowned artist Zao Won Ki in his studio in Paris was also a valuable experience.
Choy pays close attention to the emotive quality of colours. He does not use colour merely as a means to describe form. Rather, colour is used as the subject matter itself. His paintings often capture the sensuality of colours, seeking to engage the audience by conveying movement and emotion.
His paintings are actualisations of his colour experimentations. "Horizontals I," for example, is the outcome of a series of experiments to investigate the enigmatic qualities of colour. While painting, he was intrigued by how delicate colour relationships could be. He described his observations: "For instance, the whole context of the painting changes drastically when certain colours or tones are replaced or re-arranged. In the same way, colours in the painting will take on a new vitality or a new meaning when the composition is altered."
Choy's pieces are constantly inspired by nature. The series of works titled "Water Lilies" (1997/98), for example, consisted of engaging interpretations of the subject under different climates and times of day. This collection exemplified his ability to capture nature's beauty, particularly highlighting the elements of light and colour. Movement was conveyed through the direction of brushstrokes as well as through the intensity of colours used.
His relentless passion for experimenting with colours culminated in a solo exhibition in 2000 titled "Ambience." The three huge pieces displayed in the exhibition, "Adventure", "Spectrum" and "Transcendence", were lyrical explorations with abstract colour. "Transcendence" was a piece that utilised only one colour - Choy's radical attempt to redefine his artistic style. With "Transcendence," he tried to explore the potential of colours being stretched to their limits and in doing so, achieved a breakthrough in his painting.
ARTSingapore, Suntec City Singapore
Unique 9 Exhibition (group exhibition), Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery, Singapore
Ambience - Theme and Variations (solo) DP, Space Singapore
2005 - 2006
ARTSingapore, Suntec City Singapore
City Inspirations, Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery, Singapore
The Contemporary Asian Art Fair (group exhibition) organized by the Art Association Suntec City, Singapore
Art historian and consultant Constance Sheares reviewed Choy's artistic style in 1995 and wrote: "He has always been fascinated by colours and what they do to one another, not only when mixed but also when juxtaposed one against the other. His early work might be described as hard edged due to the straightness of the line where colour meets colour. But the edges are never mechanical or sharp, rather they are soft and silky. This is because the colours are tonally balanced to keep them on the same plane. Choy's finely-tuned sense of structure and scale is enhanced by his use of extremely complex colours. Each is made of many individual hues, then juxtaposed and contrasted. The paintings are based on the warm/ cool contrasts of these colour bars, bringing out in a neutral colour the complement of the neighbouring hue." [Author Adlina Maulod]