Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) Abstract Landscape

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Lot 3
Cheong Soo Pieng
Abstract Landscape

Sold for HK$ 515,000 (US$ 65,633) inc. premium
Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983)
Abstract Landscape
circa 1970s

signed; with a gallery label on the reverse
mixed media and gold leaf on board

42.2 by 52 cm.
16 4/8 by 20 4/8 in.


  • Provenance
    Norma Lu Gallery, Singapore
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in the 1970s
    Collection of Robert Birch, Australian High Commissioner to Singapore (December 1973-February 1977)


    綜合媒體 木板 金箔

    新加坡Norma Lu Gallery
    澳大利亞駐新加坡高級專員(1973年12月至1977年2月)Robert Birch私人收藏

    Cheong Soo Pieng was born in China and studied art at Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts and Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts. In early 1942, he held his first solo exhibition of watercolours before moving to Singapore in 1946. Here, Cheong's close relationship with Lim Hak Tai, the founding principal of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, was instrumental in providing him with the creative stepping stone needed to flourish in Southeast Asia and exhibit successfully in the United Kingdom and Europe.

    Between 1946 and the late 1950s, Cheong's depiction of the everyday life and rituals in his adopted country resulted in a unique style that later became inextricably associated with Singapore art. Together with other celebrated overseas Chinese such as Chen Wen Hsi, Liu Kang, Georgette Chen and Cheng Chong Swee, Cheong's innovative oeuvre added to his stature in the Nanyang School Movement.

    Never static, Cheong's artistic style developed throughout his career. Meticulous and hardworking, his art can be categorised under several different periods; the Formative Years, Nanyang Style, Progress toward Stylisation, Experimental Period, Artistic Maturation and the late years.1 What set Cheong apart from his peers was that though he focused on the mundane, he was an artist who refused to confine himself to working within any particular style or medium. Constantly drawing from his Chinese classical training, he always looked ahead to add and build on it.

    Further inspired by his stay and triumphant exhibitions in Europe (1961-1963) with international artists, Cheong brought back creative influences and began composing abstract pieces in ink, oil and mixed media. The materials used ranged from cloisonné, metal, enamel, gold leaf and a yet to be known paste-like materials used as a filler. His methods and material are still subject to research.2

    Conservator Mar Gomez states that Cheong Soo Pieng's innovative use of materials was driven by new ideas and concepts harnessed from the West. It reflected the artist's constant concern with using durable, superior materials following established Western painting practice. Cheong was also cautious in adapting these to cope with the challenges of the Singapore climate.3

    Cheong's creativity, genius and confidence in pushing the boundaries are evident in Lot 3, Abstract Landscape. The paintbrush is secondary to the other tools and the material used. The artist manipulated and moulded the picture surface, creating a tactile language with physical volume and depth bordering on the sculptural.

    Abstract Landscape is a composition full of symbolism. The classic Chinese perspective of three planes - near, middle and far - is immediately evident. The thick gold mid-section is carved and etched with cyphers and code analogous to an archaic calligraphic script. Closest and grounding the work is a rich band of dark red suggesting the fertility and fecundity of mother earth. The mid-section also serves as a counterpoint to the top segment, which is delicately laid with a thin layer of gold leaf suggesting a diaphanous golden sky punctuated with a sturdy sun.

    Studying the work closely and travelling through the gilt maze of ideographs, one discovers the artist's signature 亖賓 discretely etched and positioned on the left. There is also a hint of the date above his name 七十 referencing 1970.

    Lot 3 shows a distinct transition from Cheong's lyrical semi-abstract landscapes in watercolour of the early 1960s to the imaginary abstracted oil landscapes of the mid-1960s located by titles that often allude to colours or a subject. By integrating all the elements central to his life's work, Cheong reached a pinnacle in his artistic journey with this work. Later in his oeuvre, he returned to painting figural works, but he is at his best when he is most daring.

    After more than 30 years, Cheong Soo Pieng's legacy lives on as works remerge from all corners of the world. Lot 3 Abstract Landscape once belonged to Robert Birch, the Australian Ambassador to Singapore from 1973-1977. The artwork has travelled the world with Bob and Anne as they moved to various postings throughout their diplomatic careers.

    1. Ho Sou Ping, The Story of Cheong Soo Pieng (Singapore: Artcommune Gallery, 2015), 23.

    2. Ho Sou Ping, The Story of Cheong Soo Pieng (Singapore: Artcommune Gallery, 2015), 135.

    3. Mar Gomez Lobon, "A Life of Experimentation: An Insight into Cheong Soo Pieng's Painting Materials and Techniques," published online in 2010 on the occasion of the exhibition Cheong Soo Pieng: Bridging Worlds, 12.

    Photograph: Acting Permanent Secretary to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Chia Cheong Fook (seated left) and Australian High Commissioner in Singapore Robert N Birch (seated right) signing a cultural and scientific pact to broaden and strengthen ties. © National Archives of Singapore

Saleroom notices

  • The Norma Lu gallery Certificate of Originality on the reverse of the painting is a true/certified copy of the original. 本幅作品背面附原Norma Lu藝廊所開立之真品證明的認證副本。
Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) Abstract Landscape
Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) Abstract Landscape
Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) Abstract Landscape
Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) Abstract Landscape
Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983) Abstract Landscape
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