Anthony Poon (b. 21 April 1945, Singapore–d. 2 September 2006, Singapore), an abstract artist and sculptor, was a pioneering second-generation Singaporean artist. He is best known for his “Wave” series of paintings and wave-relief paintings which he developed. He was probably the most commissioned artist of his generation, with innumerable works found in both private and public collections.1
Early life and education
After graduating from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 1964, Poon joined Singapore Glass Manufacturer as an industrial artist. After three years, he left to further his studies in fine art in the United Kingdom. He studied first at the Byam Shaw School of Arts, London, from 1967 to 1970 and then at the Regional College of Art, Bradford, Yorkshire, from 1970 to 1971. As an art student, he was inspired by modern artists Ben Nicholson, Marc Chagall and his NAFA teacher, Cheong Soo Pieng.2 After completing his studies, Poon returned to Singapore in 1971. He was the manager of Alpha Gallery from 1973 to 1978 before becoming a full-time artist.3
Achievements in art
Poon was best known for his “Wave” series of paintings, which he started in the early 1970s.4 Over the years, his paintings progressed from geometric abstractions on flat canvasses to curvatures and three-dimensional relief paintings and sculptures.5 His pioneering abstract works and unique optical and formal compositions saw him become a leading figure of Singapore’s modern art scene.6
Poon had participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions over the course of his artistic career. He had also been commissioned by various organisations, and today his art pieces grace the halls and spaces of many organisations, both local and overseas.7 Furthermore, many of his art works had been donated to the Singapore Art Museum, where the public can appreciate his artistic creations and be inspired by these.8
Besides producing art works, Poon was also active in other activities relating to art, especially in the National Arts Council. He was involved in many panels, including the Art Specialist Panel of the Cultural Medallion and Young Artists Award.9
For his invaluable contributions to the arts in Singapore, Poon received many awards and prizes, including the prestigious Cultural Medallion in 1990.10
Poon died of lung cancer on 2 September 2006, surrounded by his close family members.11
1964: Paintings by Anthony Poon, National Library, Singapore.
1967: Mixed Media, National Library, Singapore.
1971: Shape Canvases, Alpha Gallery, Singapore.
1975: Waves Series, Alpha Gallery, Singapore.
1978: Waves Frequency Waves, Alpha Gallery, Singapore.
2009: Light and Movement Portrayed: The Art of Anthony Poon, National Art Gallery, Singapore.13
2016: From Maquettes to Sculptures: An Anthony Poon Estate Collection, The Private Museum;14 Transformation and Color: Anthony Poon, Pioneer of Singapore Abstraction, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore.15
1964: Southeast Asia Art, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.
1967: 8th National Art Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
1969: Commonwealth Young Artists, Royal Overseas League, London, UK.
1970: Young Contemporaries, Royal Academy Galleries, London, UK.
1972: Modern Art 72, Modern Art Society, National Library, Singapore.
1973: Elemental Abstraction, Alpha Gallery, Singapore.
1974: Art in Singapore Today, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.
1975: Contemporary Artists from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, Penang Museum, Malaysia.
1977: Large Paintings, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1978: Ten Contemporaries, Alpha Gallery, Singapore.
1979: 5th Festival of Asian Art, Hong Kong Museum Art Gallery, Hong Kong.
1980: Contemporary Singapore Paintings, Festival of Asian Arts, Hong Kong Museum Art Gallery.
1981: Contemporary Form, ASEAN Travelling Exhibition of Visual Art, ASEAN countries.
1982: Contemporary Singapore Art, Singapore Festival of Arts 1982, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1983: Singapore Art in the Seventies, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1984: Singapore Art, A Decade 1974–1984, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1985: 2nd Asian Art Show, Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan.
1986: Seoul, Contemporary Asian Art Show, 1986, National Museum of Modern Art, Seoul, South Korea.
1987: New Directions, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1988: Singapore Contemporary Artist, Hong Kong Art Centre, Hong Kong.
1989: New Art Expo, New York, USA.
1990: Urban Artists, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1991–93: Many in One: 25 years of Singapore Art, USA.
1994–95: Contemporary Singapore Art, Hong Kong and seven major cities in China.
1996: Contemporary Singapore Art, Soobin Gallery, Singapore.
1997: Singapore Art 97, Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, Singapore.
1998: Preview of Early Works, Telok Kurau Studios, Singapore.
1999: Brave New World, Soobin Gallery, Singapore.
2000: Excerpt 2000, Soobin Gallery, Singapore.
2001: Telok Kurau Studios 2001, Telok Kurau Gallery, Singapore.
2002: China International City Sculpture Exhibition & Symposium (Beijing 2002), Beijing International Sculpture Park, Beijing, China.
2003: Telok Kurau Studios 2002, Telok Kurau Gallery, Singapore.
2004: Crossroads: The Making of New Identities, NUS Museum, Singapore.
2005: Art of the Second Generation: Beyond Fact and Fiction, NAFA Gallery, Singapore.
2006: Important Second-Generation Artists Series, DLR Gallery, Singapore.16
Selected commissioned works17
1997: Crimson Eagle, Singapore Land / Space-Time Link, UE Engineers.
1999: Aspirations, Ministry of Information and the Arts, Singapore / Joyluck, Singapore Turf Club.
2002: Success, Ministry of Culture, People’s Republic of China.
2004: Affinity, Housing and Development Board.
2006: Sense Surround, St Regis.
1999–2002: Member, Art Specialist Panel, Cultural Medallion & Young Artists Award, National Arts Council.
2002: Vice-chairman, Art Specialist Panel, Cultural Medallion & Young Artists Award, National Arts Council.
2002–05: Member, Panel of Arts Advisors, National Arts Council.
2002–06: Member, Singapore Note and Coin Advisory Committee, Board of Commissioners of Currency.
2003: Chairman, NAC-Telok Kurau Studios Management Committee.
2003–06: Member, Annual Grant Assessment Panel for Visual Arts, National Arts Council.18
1. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed: The Art of Anthony Poon,” press release, 5 September 2009 (National Archives of Singapore document no. 20090912002); “Anthony Poon,” The Esplanade, accessed 3 March 2020.
2. Bridget Tracy Tan and Sarah Ng, Lives of the Artists: A Singapore Story: The Cultural Medallion and Visual Arts 1979 – 2015 (Singapore: Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, 2015), 364 (Call no. RSING 709.5957 TAN); T. K. Sabapathy and Selina Halim, Light & Movement Portrayed: The Art of Anthony Poon (Singapore: National Art Gallery, 2009), 17–19. (Call no. RSING 709.5957 LIG)
3. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed.”
4. Stephanie Yap, “Pioneer Abstract Artist Dies from Lung Cancer,” Straits Times, 3 September 2006, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “An Explorer Riding His Waves,” Business Times, 4 December 1999, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Huang Lijie, “Rarely Seen Anthony Poon Works Go on Show at Gallery,” Straits Times, 7 June 2016 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); Tan and Ng, Lives of the Artists, 158, 160, 168.
7. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed.”
8. Stephanie Yap, “Artist’s Family Donates Works to Museum,” Straits Times, 26 January 2007, 87. (From NewspaperSG)
9. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed.”
10. “About Cultural Medallion,” National Arts Council, accessed 3 March 2020.
11. Yap, “Pioneer Abstract Artist Dies.”
12. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed.”
13. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed”; Sabapathy and Halim, Art of Anthony Poon.
14. Huang Lijie, “Arts Correspondent Recommends,” Straits Times, 4 March 2016, 9 (From NewspaperSG); Anthony Poon, From Maquettes to Sculptures: An Anthony Poon Estate Collection (Singapore: The Private Museum Ltd, 2016). (Call no. RSING 709.5957 POO)
15. “Transformation and Color: Anthony Poon, Pioneer of Singapore Abstraction,” Sundaram Tagore Gallery, accessed 3 March 2020.
16. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed”; Richard Lim, ed., Singapore Artists Speak (Singapore: C. H. Yeo, 1990), 90–93. (Call no. RSING 709.95957 SIN)
17. Wang Zineng, Anthony Poon, Cultural Medallion Recipient 1990, Visual arts: Interview, video recording, 2009 (From NORA); Joanna Lee, Anthony Poon: Sculptures, Painted-Reliefs, Paintings (Singapore: AP Fine Art, 2002), n.p. (Call no. RSING 709.2 ANT)
18. National Heritage Board, “Light and Movement Portrayed.”
The information in this article is valid as at March 2020 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.
Poon, Anthony, 1945-2006
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Art)