To my principal, Lim Yew Kuan 林友权

Sok Leng
3 minute read

Principal Lim Yew Kuan with his student Low Hai Hong in front of Low Hai Hong's oil painting of Malacca.

Dear Principal 校长,

That is what we always called you, even though we left Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) for more 50 years, even though you were no longer principal at NAFA since 1979.  

I saw your paintings for the first time in 1962, when you returned to NAFA after your studies in England.  I was 20 years old at that time, learning oil painting in my second year in NAFA. 

I was curious about you, the Singapore artist who studied overseas, so one day, I sneaked into your studio located in the NAFA premises. 

I was totally blown away when I saw your oil paintings that day.  I had never seen such technique, subject, colours.  I was so taken aback by what I saw that I never forgot the experience.  

I made you my role model that day and resolved to work hard and paint as well as you did. 

And since then, no matter how "senior" I became, I was always eager to know what you thought about my paintings, whenever I had the chance to show you my works, whether in a group exhibition or my solo exhibition.

It was my "report" card, and I was always relieved and happy when you "approved" my paintings.

Besides painting, kungfu was our common topic.  We liked to shove each other when we meet, to show each other the kungfu moves that we had been practising.  

This often invited stares from the visitors at the art exhibitions, but it was our special way of telling each other that everything is okay.

Lim Yew Kuan at Low Hai Hong's paintings of Indonesia solo exhibition in 2018.

The last time we met was on the night of 18 September 2018, at the opening of my solo art exhibition held at NAFA.  

You were quite frail but you insisted to walk unaccompanied around the huge exhibtion hall, slowly and carefully looking at every painting on the wall. 

I was very happy to see you that night and I was touched that you seemed to like my paintings in the exhibition, my last report card to you. 

Thank you Principal, for opening my eyes to the wonders and endless possibilities of oil painting, when I saw your paintings that fateful day.

Thank you Principal, for showing me your dedication and commitment to art, which I tried to emulate till the very end. 

I hope you had been proud of me. 

Respectfully, 

Your student,

Low Hai Hong 

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Principal Lim Yew Kuan 林友权 passed away on 2 May 2021 at 92 years old. 

Do you know Principal Lim too?  Tell us how you miss him. 

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