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LIM TZE PENG
林子平

Mr Lim Tze Peng (b. 28 Sep 1921) needs no introduction. He is one of Singapore’s eminent artists, renowned for his Chinese ink painting and calligraphy. He has painted numerous scenes of Chinatown and the Singapore River as his way of preserving the memory of old Singapore. Many articles and video clips featuring him are in the websites and YouTube.

From the 1960s to early 1970s, Mr Lim was an active member of the informal art group known as Ten Men Art Group, which held regular road trips and exhibitions together. The group also included artists Yeh Chi Wei (叶之威), Choo Keng Kwang (朱庆光), Seah Kim Joo (余金裕) and Tan Choh Tee (陈楚智).

In 1977, upon the recommendation of his close friend and mentor artist Cheong Soo Pieng (钟四滨), Mr Lim submitted one of his Chinese ink paintings of Bali for the Commonwealth Art Exhibition in London. It won a Special Commendation prize, the only local work to win that prize in that exhibition.

Wisdom from a centenarian

To Be A Good Artist,
Be A Good Man First

– Lim Tze Peng

In 1981, Mr Lim became a full-time artist after retiring as the principal of Sin Min School. Despite not having formal training in art, his paintings of nostalgic old Singapore scenes that captured the Singapore River, Chinatown, Malay kampungs and other scenes of early Singapore were steep in details and won great praises. This was the result of his talent, passion and hard work in standing for hours under the hot sun on location for his works.

In his own words, he was trying to preserve as many of the scenes as possible. True to his vision, young Singapore embarked on a rapid and relentless phase of urban development in the 1980s and the old scenes were gone. Mr Lim’s paintings, composed between the 1970s and 1980s, continue to stand today as precious documents of a bygone era and reflect a distinct cultural character of early Singapore life.

The foundation of Mr Lim’s Chinese ink brush painting is in traditional and modern Chinese calligraphy. His style of calligraphy is the more cursive type. Mr Lim only started painting full-time in his 60s. After 20 years of painting, this relatively “young” artist decided to be innovative and achieve breakthroughs in his styles. He was already in his 80s.

百岁名言


要画好画, 先做好人

– 林子平

In around 2005, he pioneered his trademark style of abstract Chinese calligraphy, which he coined as ‘hutuzi’ (糊涂字; also known as ‘muddled writing’). This new style emphasizes on patterns generated by the elegant use of various styles and strength of the brush strokes. Into the 2010s, even as he advanced into his 90s, his creative juices never abated; he introduced strong and bright colours around the characters in his hutuzi, which broke the tradition of a largely monotone Chinese calligraphy. Then, Mr Lim’s great love and respect for trees inspired him to create a series of abstract paintings of tree trunks, as well as of the roots. They were unconventional in Chinese ink paintings.  

An alumnus of Chung Cheng High School (Main), Mr Lim generously donated more than a hundred of his best paintings to the school. The school decided to house them in a building on campus and named it Lim Tze Peng Art Gallery. It was officially opened during the school’s 75th Anniversary Dinner on 10 July 2014 by PM Lee Hsien Loong. Indeed, PM Lee praised Mr Lim during the 2021 National Day Rally speech for his spirit of lifelong pursuit of new ideas.

​For his invaluable contribution to Singapore’s arts and cultural heritage, Mr Lim was conferred the Cultural Medallion for visual arts in 2003 and the Meritorious Service medal in 2016 by the Singapore Government.

Lim Tze Peng’s paintings and calligraphy are among the most well-collected by private collectors in Singapore. His work is also in the collections of Singapore Art Museum, National Gallery Singapore and NUS Museum. Indeed, the Singapore government is soon going to open an art gallery at The Arts House to honor Cultural Medallion winning visual artists. Mr Lim’s paintings will be there.

Lim Tze Peng is truly a living HALL OF FAME artist in Singapore!

Accolades

1977

The only Singaporean artist to be awarded the Special Commendation prize at the Commonwealth Art Exhibition, London

2003

Awarded the Cultural Medallion for visual art by President, Singapore

2009

First Singaporean artist to be invited to hold exhibitions at the National Art Museum, Beijing and Liu Haisu Art Museum, Shanghai

2016

Awarded the Meritorious Service Award by President, Singapore, thus joining the ranks of 4 other pioneer artists Cheong Soo Pieng (awarded in 1962), Chen Wen Hsi (1992), Pan Shou (1994) and Liu Kang (1996)