Leo Hee Tong



Leo Hee Tong (b. 1 August 1940, Singapore–) is a second-generation Singapore artist. He has participated in many solo and group exhibitions, and has received many awards including four Dr Tan Tsze Chor Art Awards by the Singapore Art Society as well as nine Distinction Awards at the UOB Painting of the Year Exhibition. Working with either acrylic, oil or mixed media on canvas, Leo’s paintings often entail rich symbolism and meaning; among his more well-known motifs are pigeons and walls.1 

Early life
Leo attended the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) from 1957 to 1960. Although the pursuit of art was not strongly encouraged then, Leo had the support of his father who saw him through his studies. While studying at NAFA, Leo was mentored by the late pioneer artist, Cheong Soo Pieng. Cheong was an important influence during Leo’s formative years and on his early works. This is evident in his paintings Hiroshima and Winter, both made in 1975.
2 

In 1973, Leo was awarded a scholarship by the People’s Association to study fine art at the prestigious Ashiya Art College in Japan from 1973 to 1974. In Japan, he became acquainted with the works of Van Gogh and Picasso, and was drawn to Cubism, a style that is evident in his works today.3 In 1967, while working at the People’s Association, Leo organised art lessons and art clubs as part of community service. Since then, he has volunteered as an art teacher at various community centres.4

Stylistic conventions
With a career spanning over 50 years, Leo developed his signature semi-abstract style. His works are rich in texture, frequently employing neutral colours and expressive strokes.
5 

Leo’s pigeon series has been described as “his first successful breakthrough to establish his own identity as a creative artist”. Featured prominently in his work from the late 1970s to the early 80s, the pigeon, to Leo, is symbolic of peace and freedom.6

Another symbolic convention of Leo’s is the depiction of walls and doors. Weathered, crumbling walls are thought to represent human limitations, while doors offer the possibilities of movement and “transportability”.7 Works that exemplify these include Door of Memory (1992), Door of Life (1992), Window (1991) and Memory Lane (1990). Other popular motifs in his oeuvre are doves, beaches and fishing boats.8

Accomplishments
Leo has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions. His first solo exhibition was held in Japan in 1973 during his studies at Ashiya Art College. He has since exhibited widely in Singapore and abroad, including Taiwan, Monaco, France, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. He has won numerous awards, including nine Distinction Awards in the UOB Painting of the Year Exhibitions and four Dr Tan Tsze Chor Art Awards.
9

Selected solo exhibitions10
1973:
Kobe Suma City Council Building Ward Office Gallery, Suma, Japan

1992: Expressions of Time, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
2007: Revisited Expressions of Time, Metakaos Art Gallery, Singapore
2012: Flight of Fantasy, Dahlia Gallery, Singapore
2014: Five Decades of Leo Hee Tong, Art Fellas, Singapore

Selected group exhibitions11
1968:
Five Man Art Exhibition, National Library, Singapore

1969: Salon Malaysia Art Competition Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1969: Three Man Autumn Art Exhibition, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore
1970–81: National Day Art Exhibition, various locations, Ministry of Culture, Singapore
1972: Two Man Art Exhibition, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore
1976: Inaugural exhibition, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1977: The First Asian Art Exhibition, Hong Kong
1979: Modern Art Exhibition, Taichung Culture Center, Taiwan
1981: International Grand Prix of Contemporary Art, Congress Centre Auditorium, Monte Carlo, Monaco
1981: Exhibition of Asian Art, Regency Intercontinental Hotel, Manama, Bahrain
1982: Inaugural Exhibition of The Japan International Artists Society, Japan
1984: Singapore Art 1974–1983, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1988: Artistes Contemporains de Singapour, Grand Palais, Paris, France
1988: The First Exhibition of Federation of Asian Art Association, Taiwan
1989: New York Art Expo, Javits Conventional Centre, New York, United States
1990: 1st Bru-Sin Art Exhibition, Brunei
1990: 12 Contemporary Singapore Artists, University of East Asian, Macau
1991: Change: 20 Singapore Artists Art Exhibition, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1992: Artseen, National Art Gallery & Museum, Wellington, New Zealand
1993: 8th International Art Exhibition, Fukuoka City Museum of Art, Japan
1994: Modern Art Society 30th Anniversary Art Exhibition, Riverwalk Gallery Exhibition Hall, Singapore
1998: 4 Perspectives Exhibition, The National Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand
2000: Asian Art 2000: A Vision of Change, University of Brighton, United Kingdom
2002: Japan Modern Art Society Art Exchange Exhibition, Osaka, Japan
2005: Important Second Generation Artists Series, DLR Gallery, Singapore
2017: Transcend: 50 years of Singapore Modern Art, Visual Arts Centre, Singapore



Author
Nadia Ramli



References
1. Leo, H. T. (2007). Expression of time: Revisited. Singapore: Metakaos Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RART 759.95957 LEO); Liu, I. (2017). Transcend: 50 years of Singapore modern art.  Singapore: Iola Liu, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957074 TRA)
2. Sabapathy, T. K. (1992, May 28). An artist’s progress. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Leo, H. T. and National Museum Art Gallery (Singapore). (1992). Expressions of time. Singapore: National Museum Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 LEO)
3. Liu, I. (2017). Transcend: 50 years of Singapore modern art.  Singapore: Iola Liu, pp. 7, 36. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957074 TRA); Leo, H. T. & National Museum Art Gallery (Singapore). (1992). Expressions of time. Singapore: National Museum Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 LEO)
4. Teo, H. W. (1983, September 8). A winning streak for art teacher. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Liu, I. (2017). Transcend: 50 years of Singapore modern art.  Singapore: Iola Liu, pp. 7, 36. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957074 TRA)
6. Chia, W. H. (1992). Of doors, windows and walls. Leo Hee Tong’s new paintings. In Expressions of time. Singapore: National Museum Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 LEO)
7. Sabapathy, T. K. (1992, May 28). An artist’s progress. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chia, W. H. (1992). Of doors, windows and walls. Leo Hee Tong’s new paintings. In Expressions of time. Singapore: National Museum Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 LEO)
8. Teo, H. W. (2007). Giving old subjects a new life. In Expression of time: Revisited. Singapore: Metakaos Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RART 759.95957 LEO)
9. Leo, H. T. (2007). Expression of time: Revisited. Singapore: Metakaos Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RART 759.95957 LEO); Shabbir Hussein Mustafa, Yap, J., & Yeo, W.W. (2016). Singapore’s visual artists. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 256. (Call no.: RSING 709.225957 SHA)
10. Shabbir Hussein Mustafa, Yap, J., & Yeo, W.W. (2016). Singapore’s visual artists. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 256. (Call no.: RSING 709.225957 SHA)
11. Leo, H. T. (2007). Expression of time: Revisited. Singapore: Metakaos Art Gallery, n.p. (Call no.: RART 759.95957 LEO); Shabbir Hussein Mustafa, Yap, J., & Yeo, W.W. (2016). Singapore’s visual artists. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 256. (Call no.: RSING 709.225957 SHA); Liu, I. (2017). Transcend: 50 years of Singapore modern art.  Singapore: Iola Liu, n.p. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957074 TRA)


Further resources
Leo, H. T. and Hua, C. Y. (1971). Exhibition by Leo Hee-Tong, Hua Chai-YongSingapore: Singapore Art Society. 

Call no.: RCLOS Chinese 759.95957 ART

Lo, T. Y. (1983, July 1). Contradictions. Desolation is moving on a canvasSingapore Monitor, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Loi, R. (2014, October 31). A thing for pigeons over 50 yearsThe Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tan, E. (1989, November, 24). Artists who keep art alive at CCsThe New Paper, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 17 April 2019 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
Chinese artists
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists
Liang, Qidong, 1940-
Painters (Art)
Painters--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Visual Arts>>Painting