Society of Chinese Artists



The Society of Chinese Artists (SOCA) was established in 1935. It is one of the earliest art associations in Singapore, alongside the Singapore Art Club (新加坡美术俱乐部, established in around 1882) and Commercial Art Institute (新加坡美术广告研究会, established in 1937).1 SOCA’s main objectives are to promote and cultivate art, and to nurture young artists. It holds art exhibitions by both local and overseas artists regularly.2 Among its members were notable pioneer artists such as Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong Soo Pieng, Liu Kang, as well as Cultural Medallion recipients including Wee Beng Chong, Ong Kim Seng, Tan Kian Por and Lim Tze Peng.3

Establishment and early years
On 15 April 1935, graduates from three art schools in China, namely Shanghai Fine Arts College, Sin Wah Fine Arts Academy and Shanghai University of Fine Arts, who were living in Singapore had a meeting to discuss the setting up of an art society, named “Salon Art Society”.4 The first attempt failed as just over 10 people signed up as members since membership was only open to the graduates of the three art schools. To expand the reach of the proposed society, membership was opened up to other artists and a second meeting was held on 17 November 1935. The society, renamed “Society of Chinese Artists”, attracted more than 40 members from Malaya, Indonesia and Hong Kong.5

On 20 January 1936, the Society of Chinese Artists (SOCA) was formally registered with the government and joined the exhibition organised by Ying Ying Art Society in Penang on 1 June 1936. It also organised its first art exhibition that opened on 25 June 1936 at the Young Women’s Christian Association. The well-received exhibition prompted SOCA to hold annual art exhibitions. However, the onset of World War II disrupted the sixth annual art exhibition in 1941. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, the Society’s chairman Tchang Ju Chi, vice-chairman Ho Kwang Yew, and several other members lost their lives in Operation Sook Ching, while the other members of SOCA were dispersed to different areas.6 This caused SOCA to cease all functions abruptly.7

After the war ended in 1945, the surviving members in Singapore started preparations to resume the Society’s activities. On 29 September 1946, SOCA held a general meeting and Liu Kang was elected its first post-war president. SOCA also rewrote its charter to adapt to new circumstances in the post-war era. On 20 December 1946, SOCA held its sixth annual art exhibition. There were two special sections in this art exhibition: one displayed the artworks of members who had lost their lives during the war, while the other presented famous artworks in history and in modern times.8

Exhibitions and other activities
As part of their efforts to promote and cultivate art, SOCA has been organising or co-organising annual art exhibitions and exhibitions of works by local and overseas artists.9 Since the setting up of the Society, exhibitions that featured the works of established artists such as Xu Beihong, Huang Binhong, Zhang Daqian, Liu Kang, Cheong Soo Pieng, Sun Yee, Lee Man Fong and others have been organised.10 Visits were also organised to view the collections of local art collectors Wong Man See, Tan Tsze Chor and Yeo Khee Lim.11 SOCA also organised overseas trips for its members, such as sketching trips to northern parts of the Malay Peninsula.12

In recent years, SOCA continues to organise overseas sketching trips and art exhibitions featuring local and overseas artists. For example, in 2011, 24 members joined a sketching trip to Bali arranged by SOCA. In 2014, SOCA co-organised an exhibition of works by Taiwanese artist, Calvin Teng, with The Black Earth Art Gallery. SOCA also held an exhibition of the members’ works in Zhongshan city, Guangzhou, China, under the invitation of the Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television, Press and Publication in Zhongshan city. In conjunction with the 80th anniversary of the society, an art catalogue was published, and an art exhibition showcasing the members’ works was held from 5 to 9 December 2015.13

SOCA had also periodically expressed its opinions on various aspects of the development of arts and arts education in Singapore. In January 1957, it published an open letter to urge the government to put more emphasis on arts education in Singapore, to educate future artists and art teachers, and to set up art museums and art schools.14 In 1958, SOCA provided the Art and Cultural Advisory Committee (文化艺术咨询委员会) with suggestions on how local arts standards could be improved. These included hosting international arts exhibitions locally, holding art exhibitions by local artists overseas, allocating funds to support work by local artists and organising overseas learning trips.15

SOCA has contributed greatly to the establishment of federations which promote art and culture in Singapore. It was one of the founding members of the Singapore Arts Council, a federation which was established in 1955 and which comprises arts societies that focus on various art forms.16 SOCA was also one of the four arts societies which initiated the establishment of the Federation of Arts Societies in the early 1990s, so as to pull different arts societies in Singapore together to promote art and culture.17

Timeline
1935: The Society of Chinese Artists (SOCA) is established.
1936: SOCA is formally registered and holds its first annual art exhibition.18
19421945: SOCA ceases its activities due to World War II.19
1946: SOCA resumes its activities and holds its first general meeting and annual art exhibition after the war.20
1970: The government offers to lease the fourth level of a block of public flats in Outram Park to SOCA. SOCA takes up the offer the following year and starts preparations to move into the unit.21
1986: Due to the increasing rent, SOCA moves out of its premises in Outram Park. It later moves into the San San Campus of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts at 107A Sophia Road.22
1990: SOCA initiates the establishment of the Federation of Arts Societies with three other local art societies.23 The Federation is registered on 24 January 1992.24 SOCA shifts again from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts at 107A Sophia Road to the Federation of Art Societies at Church Street.25



Author
Goh Yu Mei



References
1. Kwok, K. C. (1996). Channels & confluences: a history of Singapore art. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, p. 16. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 KWO); 姚梦桐 [Yao, M. T.]. (2017). 《流动迁移·在地经历 : 新加坡视觉艺术现象(1886–1945)》[Movement and migration, local experiences: The phenomenon of visual arts in Singapore (1886–1945)]. 新加坡: 南洋理工大学孔子学院, pp. 106–107. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 709.5957 YMT)
2. 《中华美术研究会四十周年纪念刊》[Society of Chinese Artists fortieth anniversary, 1975]. (1975). 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 SOC)
3.  《中华美术研究会三十周年纪念特刊》[The Society of Chinese Artists 30th anniversary souvenir magazine 1965]. (1965). 新加坡:中华美术研究会, pp. 87–88; 80周年会庆工委会编辑组 [Editorial group of the committee for 80th anniversary commemoration of SOCA]. (2015). 《缅怀、瞻望:中华美术研究会80周年画集》[Reminiscence & future grazing: In commemoration of the 80th anniversary the society of Chinese artists 2015]. 新加坡:中华美术研究会, pp. 157, 275, 315 & 331. Available via PublicationSG.
4. 80周年会庆工委会编辑组 [Editorial group of the committee for 80th anniversary commemoration of SOCA]. (2015). 《缅怀、瞻望:中华美术研究会80周年画集》[Reminiscence & future grazing: In commemoration of the 80th anniversary the society of Chinese artists 2015]. 新加坡:中华美术研究会, p. 16. Available via PublicationSG.
5. 《中华美术研究会三十周年纪念特刊》[The Society of Chinese Artists 30th anniversary souvenir magazine 1965]. (1965). 新加坡:中华美术研究会, p. 2. Available via PublicationSG.
6. 《中华美术研究会三十周年纪念特刊》 [The Society of Chinese Artists 30th anniversary souvenir magazine 1965]. (1965). 新加坡:中华美术研究会, p. 2. Available via PublicationSG.
7. Hsu, M., Lai, C. K. (Trans.). (1999). A Brief History of Malayan Art. Singapore: Millennium Books, p. 113. (Call no.: YRSING 709.595 HSU)
8. 《中华美术研究会三十周年纪念特刊》 [The Society of Chinese Artists 30th anniversary souvenir magazine 1965]. (1965). 新加坡:中华美术研究会, p. 2. Available via PublicationSG.
9. 《中华美术研究会四十周年纪念刊》 [Society of Chinese Artists fortieth anniversary, 1975]. (1975). 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, pp. 4–6. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 SOC); 徐悲鸿遗作六十二幅在维多利亚纪念堂展览 [62 artworks by the late artists Xu Beihong exhibited at Victoria Memorial Hall]. (1954, February 20). 南洋商报, p. 6; 陈长豪、刘培和、王金成联合画展 [Joint exhibition of Chan Chang How, Low Puay Hua and Ong Kim Seng]. (1975, June 25). 南洋商报, p. 15; 青年画家梁其栋潘再雄下月八日联合举行画展 [Youth artists Leo Hee Tong and Hua Chai Yong will be holding a joint exhibition on the eighth of next month]. (1971, March 14). 南洋商报, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. 80周年会庆工委会编辑组 [Editorial group of the committee for 80th anniversary commemoration of SOCA]. (2015). 《缅怀、瞻望:中华美术研究会80周年画集》 [Reminiscence & future grazing: In commemoration of the 80th anniversary the society of Chinese artists 2015]. 新加坡:中华美术研究会, pp. 17–32. Available via PublicationSG.
11. 《中华美术研究会四十周年纪念刊》[Society of Chinese Artists fortieth anniversary, 1975]. (1975). 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 SOC)
12. 中华美术研究会订年底 举行今年度画展 [The Society of Chinese Artists will be holding their annual art exhibition at the end of the year]. (1962, October 13.) 南洋商报, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. 80周年会庆工委会编辑组 [Editorial group of the committee for 80th anniversary commemoration of SOCA]. (2015). 《缅怀、瞻望:中华美术研究会80周年画集》[Reminiscence & future grazing: In commemoration of the 80th anniversary the society of Chinese artists 2015]. 新加坡:中华美术研究会, pp. 17–32. Available via PublicationSG.
14. 中华美术研究会 箴政府重视艺术教育 [The Society of Chinese Artists urges the government to value art education]. (1957, January 13). 南洋商报, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. 《中华美术研究会四十周年纪念刊》[Society of Chinese Artists fortieth anniversary, 1975]. (1975). 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 SOC)
16. Variety concert by art society. (1965, July 5). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 艺术理事会 首届职员选出 [First executive committee of the Singapore Arts Council elected]. (1955, July 22). 南洋商报, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts at NAFA. (2011). Visual Arts Group Federation of Art Societies Singapore. Accessed 2018, September 27 from Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts at NAFA website: http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/arts_group_introduction.aspx?id=12  ingap

18. 《中华美术研究会三十周年纪念特刊》 [The Society of Chinese Artists 30th anniversary souvenir magazine 1965]. (1965). 新加坡:中华美术研究会, p. 2. (Call no.: PublicationSG)
19. Hsu, M., Lai, C. K. (Trans.). (1999). A Brief History of Malayan Art. Singapore: Millennium Books, p. 113. (Call no.: YRSING 709.595 HSU)
20. 《中华美术研究会三十周年纪念特刊》[The Society of Chinese Artists 30th anniversary souvenir magazine 1965]. (1965). 新加坡:中华美术研究会, p. 2. (Call no.: PublicationSG)
21. 《中华美术研究会四十周年纪念刊》[Society of Chinese Artists fortieth anniversary, 1975]. (1975). 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 SOC)
22. 姚天佑主编 [Yao, T. Y. (Ed).]. (1990). 《中华美术研究会书画集庆祝成立50周年纪念》[Art 90 in Commemoration of the 55th anniversary the society of Chinese artists]. 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 ART); Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. (2018). Our History. Accessed on 2018, September 27 from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts’ website: https://www.nafa.edu.sg/about-nafa/corporate-information/history#yearSeven
23. 姚天佑主编 [Yao, T. Y. (Ed).]. (1990). 《中华美术研究会书画集庆祝成立50周年纪念》[Art 90 in Commemoration of the 55th anniversary the society of Chinese artists]. 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 ART)
24. Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts at NAFA. (2011). Visual Arts Group Federation of Art Societies Singapore. Accessed 2018, September 27 from Tanoto Foundation Centre for Southeast Asian Arts at NAFA website: http://tfcsea.nafa.edu.sg/arts_group_introduction.aspx?id=12
25. 符玫珊等编 [Fu, M. S. al. et. (Eds.)]. (1995). 《中华美术研究会六十周年书画集》[Art 60: in commemoration of the 60th anniversary the Society of Chinese Artists]. 新加坡: 中华美术研究会, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING Chinese 759.95957 ART); 美术总会筹委会星期日举行联欢 [The organising committee of Federation of Art Societies will be hosting a gathering on Sunday] (1991, February 12). 联合晚报, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 1 October 2018 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
Arts organisations
Art--Singapore--Societies, etc.
Organisations>>Associations>>Arts Groups
Chinese artists