Monica Chua 蔡艾华 - Singapore, 1989

Sok Leng Sok Leng
2 minute read

Singapore artist Monica Chua with her self portrait

Monica Chua 蔡艾华 graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1982.  The Singapore artist went to China to further her studies in Chinese ink painting and graduated from the Central Institute of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1988. 

After coming back to Singapore from Beijing, she started going around Singapore to paint in Chinese ink painting, as she did when she was in Beijing.

As she slowly painted the nooks and creaks in Singapore, she started to appreciate the beauty of her home country, with its unique people, buildings and and atmosphere.  There was nothing like home.  Truly. 

Singapore artist Monica Chua's Chinese ink painting of Singapore in 1989.

What was the Singapore she saw and painted in 1989?

Shophouses with old style TV antennas. 

A vanishing scene of construction activities in Clarke Quay, removing a place in Singapore's history permanently.  

Houses with baskets hanging on the upper floors, meant to be lowered when the delivery man comes with the orders. 

A durian stall by the road side where customers sit on small stools and eat with durians placed on the ground. 

Roads with 1980s street lamps.

Many of these scenes in her paintings, common place in Singapore in 1989, are no longer in existence in Singapore in 2021, more than 30 years later. 

Nanyang artist Monica Chua's Chinese ink painting of an old shophouse in Singapore in 1989.

Looking back at these "old" paintings of hers, she cannot remember the exact locations for most of them.  But she can remember the circumstances surrounding them. 

In 1989, she was in her 30s and was about to embark on a new phase in her personal life.  Painting gave her quiet comfort and strength, and going around Singapore painting plein-air was absorbing and therapeutic.  

What were you doing in 1989?  Did something major happen or was it just another year?  Or perhaps that was the year you were born?

Take a walk down memory lane with these paintings by Monica Chua. 

Watch Monica Chua 蔡艾华 share more stories of painting Singapore in 1989 in this video.

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