林子平 Lim Tze Peng at 100
What do you think you will be doing at 100 years old?
Assuming that you are alive and in reasonably good health of course.
For Lim Tze Peng, Singapore’s oldest artist at 100 years old, he paints and practises calligraphy every day.
Such is the life of an artist, a passionate being dedicated to his craft. The word “retirement” does not exist in the dictionary of artists.
And when you visit his latest solo exhibition “Soul of Ink: Lim Tze Peng at 100”, you will be surprised at the works he created at his advanced age (the artworks were created in 2020 when he was 98 years old) – huge paintings that are full of energy and colour, that seem to mirror a young man’s spirits, rather than a centenarian.
The paintings are big, measuring more than 150cm by 180cm. If you stand in front of the painting, which is mounted on a large easel, the painting is way taller and bigger than you. Such big paintings are not common, and it is particularly unusual as it is a Chinese ink and colour on paper painting, not an oil painting on canvas.
In fact, there were some animated discussions amongst the visitors about how Lim painted such a huge painting; Where does he get such a big piece of paper? Does he have to use larger than usual brush? How does he paint – mounted on a wall or placed on the floor? He must have a big house!
Looking at such a gigantic painting can overwhelm you. Everything about the painting is keenly felt – the brushstrokes, the colour, the details, the composition, the subject matter. There is a lot to see, reflect and ponder.
For example, this painting, “Life in Kreta Ayer” at 200cm by 238cm in Chinese ink and colour on paper. The lines, in Chinese ink, are much thicker than usual, as the cobles on the ground are much bigger than a normal sized ink painting, allowing for interesting observations of the lines.
The colours appear in bigger blocks, enabling you to scrutinize the shading. The details that may be lost in a smaller painting is apparent here, such as the small person looking out of the opened window on the second floor.
It is like Alice in Wonderland, when you get awed by the small things that suddenly became big, freeing you to examine what you did not have the chance to explore before.
Looking at these pictures here on the screen, you will not be able to fathom how you will feel if you are looking at the huge painting face to face. That is the reason why you should, whenever possible, endeavor to see paintings live, not on a screen or a book or a print.
It is difficult to replicate the sense of size on the screen, and the size of a painting is sometimes the main reason why the painting stands out. Not to mention other compromises such as texture and colour.
And not forgetting the interesting snippets of conversation you can overhear from your fellow visitors looking at the same painting with you.
“Soul of Ink: Lim Tze Peng at 100 墨魂” art exhibition was held from 17 to 30 June 2021 at The Arts House in Singapore.