Lee Hock Moh



Lee Hock Moh (b. 1947, Singapore–)1 is a Singaporean artist whose detailed and vibrant orchid paintings have won him accolades both locally and internationally. Trained in traditional Chinese ink and Western oil painting, Lee is considered a second-generation artist of the Nanyang Style2 and is the first local artist to specialise in painting orchids in the gongbi (fine line) style.3 In later years, Lee started painting landscapes. He developed his own unique style of representing mountains, rivers, stones and nature by integrating Western art techniques with traditional Chinese ink painting.4 His works are highly acclaimed and have been exhibited in Singapore and internationally in places like China, Hong Kong, Japan, USA and Russia. For his artistic contributions, Lee was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Visual Arts in 1981.5

Early life and career
Lee was a student at Holy Innocents High School. He quit school in 1967 to enroll in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to pursue his interest in the fine arts.6


Lee’s main focus then was Western painting, so he devoted only two lessons a week to Chinese painting. Nevertheless, he was especially interested in Chinese painting, and his skills were honed by two of Singapore’s pioneer artists, Chen Chong Swee and See Hiang To (Shi Xiang Tuo). See, observing the young Lee’s interest in Chinese painting, took the initiative and invited Lee and two of his friends to his house every week. While at See’s house, they would explore and study his collection of books, calligraphy and paintings of prominent China artists, such as Wu Changshi and Xu Beihong. See would also take them to view new shipments of paintings from China and special viewings of private collections owned by art collectors.7

Lee spent his early days as an artist copying the works of Chen Zifen, a well-known Chinese artist who specialised in baimiao (pure line depiction with brush). From this copying process, Lee picked up skills in drawing lines with the Chinese ink brush and colouring techniques.8

However, Lee found it difficult to inject life into his subjects as many of the flora and fauna depicted in Chen Zifen’s paintings, such as the peony, were native to China.

At this point, See suggested to his pupil to paint orchids instead as they were popular flowers in Singapore and Lee also grew orchids in his home. This advice proved to be a major watershed in his artistic career.9


In 1969, while he was still a student at NAFA, Lee’s painting of orchids was selected for an exhibition organised by the former Ministry of Culture. In 1970, two of his orchid paintings were selected for the National Day Art Exhibition and subsequently purchased by the Prime Minister’s Office. Lee was greatly encouraged by these achievements.10

Upon graduation in 1970, Lee joined the publishing department of the Chinese newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau but was subsequently transferred to the Art Section of the Editorial Department because of his foundation in fine arts.11 While working in the section, he was responsible for designing logos and producing illustrations for the newspaper. When Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh merged to become Lianhe Zaobao in 1983, Lee became the newspaper’s fine arts editor.12

Due to his full-time work as a newspaper editor, Lee could only manage two or three hours of painting each night. As a result, he could only finish a few paintings each year. These paintings were usually snapped up by art collectors when they were put up for sale at exhibitions.13

In 1981, Lee was awarded the Cultural Medallion in Visual Arts in recognition of his artistic talents.14 Following this award, several of his paintings were selected as gifts to be presented to visiting foreign dignitaries.15 Lee’s works also came to be known internationally through other channels. One of his paintings, Glowing, was chosen in 1984 to be the design for the Lunar New Year greeting card of the Singapore government. In the following year, the same painting was chosen as the design for a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) greeting card and stationary set.16

In 1998, Lee decided to retire early from Lianhe Zaobao in order to paint full time. Since then, he has devoted his time to painting and travelling.17 Inspired by his travels to Sichuan, Jiuzaigou Valley and the Yellow Mountains in China, Lee ventured into landscape painting.18

Lee is known to his peers as a very humble man of few words.19 Besides painting, he also has a great interest in Teochew opera.20 Lee is an active member of the Siaw-Tao Chinese Seal-Carving, Calligraphy and Painting Society, which he co-founded in 1971.21

Stylistic conventions
Lee is most noted for his orchid painting in the gongbi (fine line) style, which features fine brushwork, vibrant colours and meticulous detail.22 The subject of orchids suits Lee well because it is something that he can connect with readily. He enjoys gardening and grows orchids in his garden. As such, he spends a great deal of time studying and observing the plant. This has helped Lee to have a good grasp of his subject.23


In traditional Chinese paintings, orchids are used to represent the noble, upright scholar. Thus, orchids in traditional Chinese paintings often appear on single or multiple stems with few blooms in order to depict simple elegance. They are depicted in the carefree xieyi (expressive) style with little detail. In contrast, Lee’s paintings depict orchids with colourful, luxuriant blooms and great attention is given to minute details of the orchid’s anatomy.24

Lee often paints orchids with few leaves. This is because he has observed from his own cultivation of orchids that they are very resilient plants that still display splendid blooms despite having lost all their leaves.25 He has also painted other Southeast Asian plants and fruits as well as the occasional bird and domestic animal.26

Lee credits his teacher at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, See Hiang To (Shi Xiang Tuo),27 and two modern painters, namely Chen Zifen and Ren Bonian, as having had great influence on his artistic career.28

Lee’s landscape paintings are done in traditional ink style, using green and brown earth tones and an occasional bright colour to mark a flower or human.29 While his orchid paintings are vibrant in colour and meticulous in detail with emphasis on realism, his landscape paintings are subtly coloured and evocative. Lee’s unique style of integrating elements of Western painting with traditional Chinese ink painting in his landscape paintings has received much praise.30

Lee continues to paint flora and fauna on rice paper in the gongbi style as well as landscape paintings using an infusion of different painting techniques.31

Awards32
1975–1976, 1983:
Special Award, Ministry of Culture.

1980: Special Award, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Alumni Association.
1981: Cultural Medallion Award for Visual Arts.
1998: Chinese Ink-First prize Dr Tan Tsze Chor Art Award Competition, in conjunction with the Singapore Art Society.
2005: Achievement Award, Siaw-Tao Chinese Seal-Carving Calligraphy and Painting Society.
2006: Outstanding artiste Award, Annual National Teochew artists Art and Chinese Calligraphy Exhibition.

Exhibitions33
1997–2009: Siaw-Tao Arts Annual Exhibition and The Society of Chinese Artists Annual Exhibition.

1972: ASEAN Art Exhibition, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.
1975: Contemporary Arts Exhibition, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong.
1978: Two-Man Art Exhibition, UIC Building, Singapore.
1979–2009: The Singapore Arts Society, Annual Exhibition.
1980: Asia Art Festival Exhibition, Hong Kong Hall, Hong Kong.
1981: The First Exhibition of Asian Arts, Hyatt Hotel, Bahrain.
1983: Two Man Art Exhibition, UN Hotel & Asia Art Society, New York, USA.
1986: Painting Exhibition Singapore Festival of Arts, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1989: Twenty Singapore Artists Exhibition UN Hotel & Asia Society, New York, USA.
1989: Art Exhibition at the Singapore Bird Park.
1992: Twin Pearls of the Orient Singapore Festival Art Festival Art Exhibition, Singapore.
1993: Siaw-Tao Art Exhibition, Shanghai Artist Art Gallery, Shanghai, China.
1993: 90th Anniversary Art Exhibition, Xi Ling Art Centre, Zhejiang, China.
1994: Window on Singapore Art, seven cities in China and Hong Kong.
1995: Art Exhibition in the Academy of Painting Shantou, China.
1998: Current of the Straits Art Exhibition, Singapore.
1998: NAFA 60th Anniversary Art Exhibition by NAFA Alumni Association, Singapore.
1998–2009: Annual National Teochew Artist Art & Chinese Calligraphy Exhibition, Singapore.
1999: From Chengdu to Dunhuang Art Exhibition, Nokia Singapore Art.
1999: Pameran Seni Lukis Alumni NAFA Malaysia Dan Singapore 99.
2000: First Solo Art Exhibition, Singapore.
2000: Singapore, New York Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition, Singapore.
2001: Nokia Singapore Art (NSA), Singapore Art Museum (SAM).
2001: Nine Men Joint Art Exhibition, Singapore.
2002–2009: The International Bokuga Association Tokyo, Japan.
2003: The Society of Chinese Artists ‘Nanyang style’ Art Exhibition, Singapore.
2003: “Lotus Flower” by Five Local Artists, Min Heart Art Gallery, Singapore.
2003: NAFA 65th Anniversary Art Exhibition, NAFA Alumni Association, Singapore.
2005: “Soaring to New Frontiers” Art Exhibition in conjunction with the official opening of NAFA New campus and inauguration of Cub NAFA, Singapore.
2007: International Teochew Art and Calligraphy Exhibition, Australia.
2007: NAFA Alumni Art Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
2008: Fourth exhibition of New Expression of Asian Art, Henan, China.
2008: NAFA 70th Anniversary Exhibition by NAFA Alumni Association, Singapore.
2009: The International Bokuga Association Hangzhou, China and Tokyo, Japan.
2010: Second Solo Art Exhibition, Singapore.



Author
Chor Poh Chin




References
1.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: Collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 19. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
2.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
3.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: Collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 213. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
4.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
5.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
6.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
7.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: Collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 19. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
8.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: Collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 20. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
9.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: Collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, pp. 20–21. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
10.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 20. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
11.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 20. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
12.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 19. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
13.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 21. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
14.
夏思梦 [Xia, S. M.]. (1981, September 7). 本年度文化奖章得奖人胡姬画家李福茂 [Ben nian du wen hua jiang zhang de jiang ren hu ji hua jia Li Fumao]. 南洋商报  [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 212. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
16.
Goh, S. N. (1985, December 8). Art of charity for the children of the world. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 19. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
18.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
19.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 212. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
20.
夏思梦 [Xia, S. M.]. (1981, September 7). 本年度文化奖章得奖人胡姬画家李福茂 [Ben nian du wen hua jiang zhang de jiang ren hu ji hua jia Li Fumao].南洋商报  [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
22.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
23.
夏思梦 [Xia, S. M.]. (1981, September 7). 本年度文化奖章得奖人胡姬画家李福茂 [Ben nian du wen hua jiang zhang de jiang ren hu ji hua jia Li Fumao] .南洋商报  [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 214. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
25.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 21. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
26. Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
27.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
28.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 24. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
29.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 176 (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
30.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
31.
Tribute.sg. (2012). Lee Hock Moh. Retrieved from http://www.tribute.sg/artistprofile.php?displayname=Lee+Hock+Moh
32.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 203. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)
33.
李福茂 [Li, F. M.]. (2010). 花影游踪: 李福茂画集 [Hua ying you zong: Li Fumao hua ji = Fleurs et voyage: collections of Lee Hock Moh]. 新加坡: 李福茂, p. 203. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 759.95957 LFM)



The information in this article is valid as at 6 February 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Personalities
Arts