Choy Weng Yang

by Nadia Ramli

Choy Weng Yang (b. 1936, Singapore) is an artist, curator, art writer and educator. As one of Singapore’s prominent second-generation artists, Choy’s works embody a distinctive style of abstract expressionism and exploration of colours. He was part of the pioneering team at the National Museum Art Gallery in the 1970s, first as Head of Exhibition and Design and later as Curator of Art.

Education

Choy studied painting at the Hornsey College of Art in London on a Ministry of Education scholarship and graduated in 1962 with a National Diploma of Art. In the following year, he enrolled in the University of London Institute of Education and received his post-graduate Art Teachers Certificate.1

Career
Upon Choy’s return to Singapore in 1963, he began his 10-year career as an art educator in the Arts and Crafts Department of the Teachers’ Training College.2 In 1973, he was awarded the UNESCO Fellowship in Creative Arts. Under the six-month fellowship, Choy toured various cities in the United States, surveying contemporary American art and researching on environmental art at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Visual Studies under Professor G. Kepes, a renowned pioneer of art and technology.3 During this period, he met various established artists, including avant-garde artists Jules Olitski, who was part of the art movement known as colour field painting in the 1960s, and Josef Albers, who is famous for his pioneering study of colour and abstract painting.4

Choy’s artistic career blossomed when he went on several cultural tours at the invitation of various governments. In 1979, he was invited by the Indian government to embark on a cultural tour of the country. In 1985, he toured France extensively at the invitation of the French government.5 His visit to the prominent French-Chinese abstract painter Zao Wou-Ki’s studio in Paris as well as numerous art museums in the south of France broadened his horizons. The extensive periods spent in London, Paris and the United States provided Choy with opportunities to immerse himself in thriving art communities, artistic practices and spaces.6

Choy was part of the pioneering team at the National Museum Art Gallery (NMAG), first as Head of Exhibition and Design (1976–77) and then as Curator of Art (1978–85).7 During his time with NMAG, he worked on numerous exhibitions, including the inaugural NMAG exhibition in 1976, NMAG International Artists’ Series, ASEAN Travelling Exhibition of Painting and Photography in the 1980s, and the inaugural Contemporary Asian Art Show (1980) organised by the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan.8


Artistic style
Choy’s interest in light and colour has been consistently developed in his art since 1963.9 Works such as “Horizontals I” (1977) and “Vibrance” (1980) explore the qualities in colour relationships in painting – for instance, how colours “take on a new vitality or a new meaning when the composition is altered”.10 His oeuvre has been described as having a distinct style of abstract expressionism, creating colourful abstractions through line work and layers.11 He continues contributing to Singapore’s art history through his painting practice, numerous writings on art, and as an independent curator.12

Selected solo exhibitions

2000:
Ambience, Theme and Variations, DP Space, Singapore.

2008: Vivid and Profound, Cape of Good Hope Gallery, Singapore.

Selected group exhibitions
13
1972:
Singapore Art – Adelaide Festival of Arts, Adelaide, Australia.
1985:
Singapore Artist – Salon des Artistes Francais, Paris, France.
1985:
ASEAN Traveling Exhibition of Painting and Photography, Southeast Asia.
1988:
Singapore Contemporary Artists, Hong Kong.
1992:
The Figure in Art, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Gallery, Singapore.
1994: Art of the Nude, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Gallery, Singapore.
1996:
Line PerceptionsRecent Drawings by 6 Artists, Singapore.
1998:
Windows – Recent Paintings by 3 Singapore Artists, Singapore.
2002:
The Contemporary Asian Art Fair, Singapore.
2004:
City Inspirations, Singapore.
2005:
ARTSingapore 2005 – The Contemporary Asian Art Fair, Singapore.

2006: ARTSingapore 2006 – The Contemporary Asian Art Fair, Singapore.
2007:
ARTSingapore 2007 – The Contemporary Asian Art Fair, Singapore; Unique 9, Singapore.

2009: Exploring the Boundary, Malaysia and Singapore.
2010: Choy Weng Yang and Jolly Koh: Master Works from 2 Modern Painters, Singapore.
2011: Exchange 2011: Singapore–China Art Show, Singapore.
2014: A Changed World: Singapore Art 1950s–1970s, Singapore; New Works – Choy Weng Yang, Tan Teo Kwang, Yeo Hoe Koon, Singapore.
2015: Legacy Progression: Singapore–China Art Exhibition, Beijing, China, and Singapore.
2017: Transcend: 50 Years of Singapore Modern Art, Singapore; Singapore Artists in the States: Wong Keen, Goh Beng Kwan, Zhuang Sheng Tao and Choy Weng Yang, Singapore.



Author
Nadia Ramli



References
1. Teo, H. M. (Interviewer). (2018, August 19). Oral history project: Choy Weng Yang. 1. Student days, early career as teacher and UNESCO fellowship [Transcript]. Retrieved 2019, December 23 from Oral History Project website: https://oralhistoryproject.sg/Choy-Weng-Yang-Top
2. The Esplanade Co Ltd. (2016, October 12). Visual arts: Choy Weng Yang. Retrieved 2019, December 26 from The Esplanade Co Ltd Offstage website: https://www.esplanade.com/offstage/arts/choy-weng-yang
3. Koh, S. C. (2000). Introduction. In W. Y. Choy, Ambience: theme and variations. Singapore: DP Space, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 CHO); Teo, H. M. (Interviewer). (2018, August 19). Oral history project: Choy Weng Yang. 1. Student days, early career as teacher and UNESCO fellowship [Transcript]. Retrieved 2019, December 23 from Oral History Project website: https://oralhistoryproject.sg/Choy-Weng-Yang-Top; Oon, V. (1974, February 4). Brushing up – all for the money. New Nation, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Koh, S. C. (2000). Introduction. In W. Y. Choy, Ambience: theme and variations. Singapore: DP Space, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 CHO); Teo, H. M. (2018, August 19). Oral history project: Choy Weng Yang. 1. Student days, early career as teacher and UNESCO fellowship [Transcript]. Retrieved 2019, December 23 from Oral History Project website: https://oralhistoryproject.sg/Choy-Weng-Yang-Top
5. Koh, S. C. (2000). Introduction. In Choy, W. Y. Ambience: theme and variations, unpaged. Singapore: DP. Space. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 CHO); The Esplanade Co Ltd. (2016, October 12). Visual arts: Choy Weng Yang. Retrieved 2019, December 26 from The Esplanade Co Ltd Offstage website: https://www.esplanade.com/offstage/arts/choy-weng-yang
6. Koh, S. C. (2014). Forward. In New works: Recent works in inks by Choy Weng Yang, Tan Teo Kwang and Yeo Hoe Koon. A painting exhibition by 3 renowned second-generation artists, 25 November – 2 December 2014. Singapore: FAT Gallery, p. 1. (Call no: RART 759.95957 NEW); Liu, I. (2017). Transcend: 50 years of Singapore modern art. Singapore: Iola Liu, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957074 TRA)
7. Teo, H. M. (Interviewer). Oral history project: Choy Weng Yang. Retrieved 2019, December 23 from Oral History Project website: https://oralhistoryproject.sg/Choy-Weng-Yang-Top
8. Teo, H. M. (Interviewer). (2018, August 19). Oral history project: Choy Weng Yang. 2. Role at National Museum Art Gallery (NMAG) [Transcript]. Retrieved from Oral History Project website: https://oralhistoryproject.sg/Choy-Weng-Yang-Top. Lo, T. Y., & Ooi, P. (1983, November 11). Curiouser and curiouser. Singapore Monitor, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chia, W. H. (Ed.), & Singapore Cultural Foundation. (1982). Singapore artists. Singapore: Singapore Cultural Foundation; Federal Publications, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SIN)
10. Choy W. Y. (1982). Statement by the artist. In W. H. Chia (Ed.) & Singapore Cultural Foundation. Singapore artists. Singapore: Singapore Cultural Foundation [and] Federal Publications, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 SIN); Huang, L. (2013, November 27). New look at Singapore art. The Straits Times. Retrieved from AsiaOne website: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/new-look-singapore-art  
11. Liu, I. (2017). Transcend: 50 years of Singapore modern art. Singapore: Iola Liu, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957074 TRA)
12. Koh, S. C. (2014). Forward. In New works: Recent works in inks by Choy Weng Yang, Tan Teo Kwang and Yeo Hoe Koon. A painting exhibition by 3 renowned second-generation artists, 25 November – 2 December 2014. Singapore: FAT Gallery, p. 16. (Call no: RART 759.95957 NEW); Teo, H. M. (Interviewer). (2018, August 19). Oral history project: Choy Weng Yang. Retrieved 2019, December 23 from Oral History Project website: https://oralhistoryproject.sg/Choy-Weng-Yang-Top
13. Choy, W. Y. (2008). Paintings by Choy Weng Yang. Singapore: Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 CHO). Shabbir Hussein Mustafa, Yap, J., & Yeo, W. W. (2016). Singapore’s visual artists. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 102. (Call no.: RSING 709.225957 SHA); Liu, I. (2017). Transcend: 50 years of Singapore modern art. Singapore: Iola Liu, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957074 TRA); Mock, A. (2017, May 16). Singapore artists who took a bite of the Big Apple. The Straits Times. Retrieved from The Straits Times website: https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/arts/singapore-artists-who-took-a-bite-of-the-big-apple; Sabapathy, T. K. (1992, Match 18). Nude masters. The Straits Times, p. 6; Sabapathy, T.K. (1994, March 17). Among the studies, some engaging pictures. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Further resources
Art of pleasing the eye. (1980, September 5). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Chan, E. C. (1983, July 1). Asean arts have come of age, say curators. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Conducted tours at museum. (1976, September 10). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Huang, L. (2014, February 5). Old-timers’ works trace history of art. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.

Nanda, A. (2010, July 1). Double team. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 18 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.

Subject
Artists
Choy, Weng Yang, 1936-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists
Artists--Singapore