SINGAPOREAN painter Simon Wee is well known for his minimalist strokes using the “pai bi” or flat brush, and the colours white, black and gold for his artworks.

Ex-French Ambassador to Singapore Olivier Caron is an admirer of his works and once remarked that Wee’s style reminded him of internationally renowned French artist Pierre Soulages.


Love for art

Mr Wee, 68, has been painting since he was a child.

Despite coming from a family of nine, his parents saw his talent and inclination towards art and encouraged him to pursue his passion.

He was a pupil of Master painter Dr Chen Wen Hsi, one of Singapore’s pioneer artists, known for his avant-garde Chinese paintings.

“I can still vividly remember the days when I, an impressionable 10-year-old, sat in Dr Chen’s kitchen learning about the basics of form, proportion and balance,” recalls the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts alumni.

He became proficient in both traditional Chinese ink and Western oil painting and over the years, experimented with a variety of styles and mediums.

In his quest for self-discovery and to improve his intuition towards things around him, he also learnt “Qigong” – the practice of aligning one’s body, breath and mind.

It was purely by chance that he discovered his signature style 13 years ago — one that merged traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting with modern abstract expression.

One evening, he decided to use his Chinese ink and brush to doodle unconventionally. “I sat in my studio, looked at a blank piece of rice paper and told myself to try something new,” he says.

His son-in-law, who typically did not comment on his paintings, entered his room and expressed interest in his “new piece of art”.

It struck him then that he might have created a unique style that had a wider, more contemporary appeal.


Style and technique

His signature style stems from the fundamentals of Chinese brush painting — an ancient art where basic strokes can be learnt in moments but typically require years to master.

The strokes he creates are simplistic yet profound. To him, the movement of each stroke captures the essence of life and every art piece he creates is unique because every moment in life is different.

He says his paintings are “an expression of his appreciation of life”.

“Art reflects the energy of the artist,” says Mr Wee, who paints with classical or jazz music playing in the background.

That is why for him, he chooses to paint with “love, strength and happiness” — he wants people who view his art pieces to be moved by their positivity.

He typically uses Chinese ink on rice paper but has also painted using acrylic on canvas, which is extremely difficult to execute because of his fluid brushstrokes.

As to why he largely uses the colour black, he explains: “I have always been mesmerised by the interplay of light and form — the colour ‘black’ in particular, is a colour with unexplainable depth.”

One of his favourite pieces, “Ultimate”, is simply a faint stroke of black on black. He feels it is the subtlety that speaks volumes.

In 2009, he put together his first solo exhibition in Paris called “Oh so quiet”.

Since then, his works have been exhibited in cities such as Shanghai, Dubai, Bangkok, Seoul and Tokyo.

He is currently preparing for a solo show in New York next year.

Most of his private collectors are from the United Kingdom and America.

His works can also be found in the National Gallery Singapore and DBS Bank’s Singapore head office.

As an artist, he constantly improves himself by creating new textures and also by exploring other mediums such as sculptures.

Mr Wee’s artworks are strongly evocative of a Zen-like imagery. His rhythmic gestural brushstrokes serve both as a reflection on self as well as of the beauty of the natural world.



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