Featuring Leo Hee Tong
In a heartening meeting of the old guard and new guard of Singapore’s art scene, The Art Fellas, a young independent local gallery collaborated with second-generation Singaporean artist Leo Hee Tong to celebrate 50 years of his craft, playing host to an exhibition of 36 pieces of his work spanning the various phases of his trajectory as an artist.
Mr Leo walked us around his paintings, sharing the stories that lay at the heart of their creation. To him, no clear definitions of what is right and wrong exist. Lest we be tempted to over-analyse his decisions or read too much into what he puts on canvas, many of his choices, he clarifies, are based on what he think would look best. While he says at one point that “each piece [of his] has a meaning”, he also informs us that many of his aesthetic decisions “没有意思” – have no meaning.
From the perspective of a young person coming of age in a time and generation very much distinct from those of second-generation Singaporean artists like Leo, several symbols and tropes represented in this body of work were striking: the representation of the kampung, Bali, pigeons, and the view from his window.
The centrality of these tropes to his work, and doubtlessly his life is striking by virtue of the realisation that the use of these images is worth remarking on for many of us. Perhaps this is because these are no longer the vehicles we use for our expression, the same aesthetic objects on which we inscribe our thoughts. Through what symbols do we tell the stories of our time?
If Leo were born 20 years ago, and not 70, would he have painted towering HDB blocks rather than pigeons, iPads instead of Balinese landscapes? How is the view from our lenses different from the view from his window?
Five Decades of Leo Hee Tong is housed at The Art Fellas Gallery until 10th November. TAFG is located at 46 Kim Yan Road, #02-25, the Herencia and is open weekdays from 9-6, and on weekends from 12-6.