Koh Mun Hong

Koh Mun Hong (许梦丰) (b. 1952, Singapore–) is a self-taught artist and poet, adept in Chinese ink painting, Chinese calligraphy and Chinese classical poetry. He has been exhibiting his works both in Singapore and overseas since the 1970s and is active in several art societies.1 In 2016, Koh received the Cultural Medallion for his contribution to local arts.2

Early life and influence
Koh’s love for art and nature began when he was five years old. To keep him occupied, his mother would give him some blank paper to draw on and books on nature.3 He was first introduced to ink and brush in 1966 by his secondary school Chinese teacher, Chen Xing.4 These experiences laid his foundation for self-learning.5

When Koh enrolled in Dunman Government Chinese Middle School in 1969, his art teacher in school, Liu Kang, introduced him to Chen Jen Hao, the school principal and a pioneer artist. Chen became one of Koh’s influences, showing him paintings and calligraphic works by past masters and advising him on his calligraphy and technique.6

In 1975, Koh met another pioneer artist, Pan Shou, through mutual contacts.7 Koh considers Pan his mentor and learned from Pan Shou by watching him write calligraphy and discussing poetry with him.8

Upon completing National Service, Koh worked as an administrative executive at a bank, while learning calligraphy through books in his free time. He considered but decided not to enrol in an art school, preferring to learn on his own as opposed to following a structured curriculum.9 Koh resigned from his job at the bank to become a full-time artist around 1990.10

Artistic career
Since 1973, Koh has participated in numerous group exhibitions held in Singapore and overseas, including the fund-raising exhibition for Sian Chay Medical Institution in 2018.11 He has also given public lectures or demonstrations on Chinese painting, calligraphy and classical Chinese poetry at different institutions.

Koh has held positions in many art and poetry societies in Singapore. He has served as the vice president of Siaw-Tao Chinese Seal-Carving, Calligraphy & Painting Society; Senior Councillor of Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore; and Honorary President of Xin Sheng Poets Society.12

In 1998, at the age of 46, Koh held his first solo exhibition with more than 80 paintings and calligraphic works.13 As painting in the gongbi (工笔, detailed painting) style is time-consuming, Koh usually completes four or five large paintings a year.14 He has held solo exhibitions almost once every decade, except for his third solo exhibition in 2016, which was held two years earlier than originally planned.15

It was reported in 2016 that Koh hopes to complete a painting of the Thaipusam procession. In 2020, he wrote a poem in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.16

Stylistic conventions
Koh specialises in the gongbi Chinese ink painting.17 He prefers painting flowers, birds, insects, fishes, humans and animals to landscapes, as he observes the former subjects daily and they come naturally to him when he is painting.18 He is also adept in freehand paintings that “sketch the idea” (写意, xieyi) and often combines both the skills of gongbi and xieyi in his works.19 Koh’s style is greatly influenced by historical Chinese paintings. He is fond of how paintings from the Song dynasty capture the essence of their subjects, how Chen Hongshou from the late Ming dynasty painted the lines in his works, and how Ren Bonian from the late Qing dynasty composed his paintings.20

Koh developed his style of calligraphy for the running script (行书), by studying the works of Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi from the Eastern Jin dynasty, Chu Suiliang from the Tang dynasty, Mi Fu from the Song dynasty, Zhao Mengfu from the Yuan dynasty and Shen Yinmo (1883–1971).21 His poetry is inspired by the poems of Li Shangyin from the Tang dynasty and Su Shi from the Song dynasty, as well as Pan Shou.22

1978: National Day Art Exhibition Merit Award23
1987: Tan Tsze Chor Art Award (Chinese Ink Painting)24
1993: Tan Tsze Chor Art Award25
2005: Art Achievement Award (Siaw-Tao Chinese Seal Carving Calligraphy & Painting Society)
2007: Siaw-Tao Annual Distinguished Art Award26
2016: Cultural Medallion27

Solo exhibitions
1998: Exhibition of calligraphy and paintings by Koh Mun Hong, Orchard Point, Singapore28
2008: Exhibition of calligraphy and paintings by Koh Mun Hong, Teochew Building, Singapore29
2016: A Romance of Flowers on Paper, Gallery NaWei, Fullerton Hotel, Singapore30

Selected group exhibitions
Since 1973: Annual exhibition of works by members of Siaw-Tao Chinese Seal-Carving Calligraphy & Painting Society31
1975–83: National Day Art Exhibition, Singapore32
1976: Calligraphy exhibition of local calligraphers, organised by Society of Chinese Artists, Singapore33
1978: National Day Art Exhibition, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore34
1978: Exhibition of art by local artists, Havelock Community Centre, Singapore35
1978: Exhibition of works by 21 artists, Singapore Conference Hall, Singapore36
1979: 10th anniversary exhibition of Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore37
1979: Exhibition of Chinese painting, seal carving and calligraphy, organised by Ministry of Culture, Singapore Conference Hall, Singapore38
1980–83: 1st–4th International Calligraphy Exhibition, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia39
1982: Singapore Contemporary Art, National Museum, Singapore40
1982: Exhibition of Japan-Singapore calligraphy exchange, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore41
1982: Exhibition of works by Singapore calligraphers, Japan42
1983: Third ASEAN prominent contemporary calligrapher exhibition, Sejong Centre, Korea
1983: International calligraphy exhibition, Shinjuku Centre Building, Japan43
1984: Singapore Art: A Decade 1974 – 1983, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore44
1984: Exhibition at Singapore-Korea calligraphy exchange, Singapore Conference Hall, Singapore45
1984: National Day Art Exhibition, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore46
1986: Calligraphy exhibition, Sentosa Art Centre, Singapore47
1986: China-Singapore calligraphy exchange exhibition, National Art Museum of China, China48
1993: Mo-Tao, Journey of Ink, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore
1997: Singapore Art 97, Singapore
1999: The Exhibition of 10 Artists from Singapore and New York49
2001: Chinese Art Exhibition of Teochews Worldwide, China
2003: Disclosure on the Love for Lotus
2008: Singapore and Malaysia Seal-Carving, Calligraphy and Painting Exchange Exhibition50
2010: 12th Annual National Teochew Artists Calligraphy & Painting Exhibition, Ngee Ann Cultural Centre, Singapore51
2015: 22th International Exhibition of Painting and Calligraphy, Beijing, China
2015: Busan International Calligraphy Biennale 2015, Busan, Korea52
2016: National Day Calligraphy & Painting Exhibition 2016, Ngee Ann Exhibition Hall, Singapore53
2017: Teochew pride art exhibition, Gallery Nawei, Singapore54

1998: 《许梦丰书画集》 (The art of Koh Mun Hong)
1998: 《梦轩笔荟》 (Collection of writings from the Dwelling of Dreams)
2008: 《梦轩艺荟:许梦丰书画诗文辑》 (Collection of art from the Dwelling of Dreams: Calligraphy, painting and writings by Koh Mun Hong)
2016: 《圆现初心: 许梦丰书画集》 (Fulfilling an early wish: Calligraphy and paintings by Koh Mun Hong)

Goh Yu Mei

1. Koh Mun Hong 许梦丰, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji”《圆现初心:许梦丰书画集》 [Fulfilling an early wish: Calligraphy and paintings by Koh Mun Hong] (Singapore: Koh Mun Hong, 2016), 87–89. (Call no. RSING Chinese 759.95957 KMH)
2. Helmi Yusof, Arts’ Highest Honour for Two Veterans,” Business Times, 4 October 2016, 29. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Ye Hong Yu 叶红玉, “Hua yuan hua yuan” 花缘画缘 [Affinity with flowers and paintings], Xinyue ri bao 新明日报, 23 September 1998, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Chow Yian Ping “Koh Mun Hong: True to Self,” National Arts Council, accessed 23 February 2022.
5. Ye, “Hua yuan hua yuan.”
6. Koh Mun Hong 许梦丰, (1998). 《梦轩笔荟》 [Collection of writings from the Dwelling of Dreams)
7. Huang Lijie, “Masters of the Arts,” Straits Times, 4 October 2016, 4/5 (From NewspaperSG); Wu Qi Jie 吴启基, “Xu Meng Feng ge zhan you qing tian di kuan” 许梦丰个展 有情天地宽 [Koh Mun Hong’s solo exhibition: Love broadens the world], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 23 September 1998, 43. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Huang, “Masters of the Arts.”
9. Huang, “Masters of the Arts.”
10. Ye, “Hua yuan hua yuan.”
11. Xing Gu Yi 邢谷一, “Shan ji yi she shuhua yizhan chouhuo jin shiba wan yuan” 善济医社书画义展 筹获近18万元 [Exhibition of calligraphy and painting has raised almost 180 thousand dollars for Sian Chay Medical Institution], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 14 October 2018, 8. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
12. Koh, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji,” 87–89.
13. Lin Li Ming林丽明, “Shi shu hua ming fan nan tian” 诗书画名播南天 [Known in the south for his poems, calligraphies and paintings], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 22 September 1998, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Huang Xiang Jing 黄向京, “Xinjiapo wenhua jiang liang dezhu chuangzuo yu yuren de jian” 新加坡文化奖两得主 创作与育人得兼 [Both Cultural Medallion recipients in 2016 are creators and educators], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 4 October 2016. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
15. Leong Weng Kam, “Flower Lover Carries Blooms in His Pocket,” Straits Times, 3 November 2016. 9. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Huang, “Xinjiapo wenhua jiang liang dezhu chuangzuo yu yuren de jian”; Huang Xiang Jing 黄向京, “Yishujia kangyi shiwei” 艺术家抗疫示威 [Artists’ support in fighting the pandemic], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 6 April 2020, 1. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
17. National Art Council, “Koh Mun Hong,” accessed 23 February 2022; Chow, “Koh Mun Hong.”
18. Wu, “Xu Meng Feng ge zhan you qing tian di kuan.”
19. Chow, “Koh Mun Hong.”
20. Lin, “Shi shu hua ming fan nan tian.”
21. Chow, “Koh Mun Hong.”
22. Lin, “Shi shu hua ming fan nan tian.”
23. “Guoqing meizhan huori jiemu” 国庆美展 后日揭幕 [National Day Art Exhibition will be launched the day after tomorrow], Sin Chew Jit Poh 星洲日报, 2 August 1978, 28. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “Si meishu gongzuo zhe ronghuo benjie Chen Zhi Chu meichu jiang” 四美术工作者荣获本届陈之初美术奖 [Four art practitioners received Tan Tsze Chor Art Award], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 8 May 1987, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “Xinjiapo meishu zong hui sheli zhoumo hualang” 新加坡美术总会设立周末画廊 [Federation of Art Societies set up weekend gallery], Lianhe Zaobao联合早报, 4 December 1993, 53. (From NewspaperSG)
26 Koh, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji”《圆现初心:许梦丰书画集》, 88.
27. Huang Lijie, “Calligrapher and Singer Receive Cultural Medallion,” Straits Times, 5 October 2016, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Ye, “Hua yuan hua yuan.”
29. Lin Gua Ye 林桂叶, “Xu Meng Feng shuhua xia zhou si zhanchu” 许梦丰书画下周四展出 [Koh Mun Hong’s calligraphy and paintings will be on display next Thursday], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 31 August 2008, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
30. Leong, “Flower Lover.”
31. Koh, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji,” 84.
32. Empress Place Museum, Singapore Artist Directory (Singapore: Empress Place Museum, 1993), 110. (Call no. RSING 709.59570922 SAD -[DIR])
33. “Dangdi shufa zhan ding jinri jiemu” 当地书法展订今日揭幕 [Calligraphy exhibition of local calligraphers scheduled to open today], Nanyang Siang Pau 南洋商报, 22 October 1976, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
34. “Guoqing meizhan huori jiemu.”
35. “Dazhong meishu zhan ba ri jia he le lianluosuo juxing” 大众美术展 八日假合乐联络所举行 [Art for the public exhibition will be held at community centre on the eighth], Sin Chew Jit Poh 星洲日报, September 4 1978, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
36. “Wenhua bu jia dahui tang juxing nian yiren huazhan” 文化部假大会堂举行廿一人画展 [Ministry of Culture organises an exhibition of works by 21 artists at Singapore Conference Hall], Nanyang Siang Pau 南洋商报, 27 September 1978, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
37. “Zhonghua shu xue yanjiu hui xia yue juxing shi zhounian jinian shuzhan” 中华书学研究会下月举行 十周年纪念书展 [Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore will organise its 10th anniversary exhibition next month], Nanyang Siang Pau 南洋商报, 15 May 1979, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
38. “Shu hua yin meizhan” 书·画·印美展 [Exhibition of calligraphy, painting and seal], Nanyang Siang Pau 南洋商报, 13 October 1979, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
39. Empress Place Museum, Singapore Artist Directory, 110.
40. “Wei yingjie jin nian du yishu jie guojia bowuyuan chengxian san ge meizhan tongshi juxing” 为迎接今年度艺术节 国家博物院呈献三个美展同时举行 [In conjunction with Singapore Festival of Arts, National Museum presents three art exhibitions], Nanyang Siang Pau 南洋商报, 10 December 1982, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
41. “Ri xin shufa jiaoliu zhan bashier nian xinjiapo shufa zhan er ri qi bowuyuan hualang juxing” 日新书法交流展 82年新加坡书法展 2日起博物院画廊举行 [Exhibition of Japan-Singapore calligraphy exchange - Singapore calligraphy exhibition will be launched at the National Museum Art Gallery on the 2nd], Sin Chew Jit Poh 星洲日报, 31 August 1982, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
42. “Woguo nian er shufa jia zuopin canjia chunqiu shuyuan shufa zhan” 我国廿二书法家作品参加春秋书院书法展 [Works of 22 calligraphers from Singapore will be exhibited in Japan], Nanyang Siang Pau 南洋商报, 10 December 1982, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
43. “Zhonghua shu xie shufa jiazuo jiwang hanri liang guo zhanlan” 中华书协书法佳作 寄往韩日两国展览 [Excellent works from members of Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore are sent to Korea and Japan for exhibition], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 22 October 1983, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
44. Koh, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji,” 86.
45. “Xin han shufa jiaoliu zhan” 新韩书法交流展 [Exhibition of Singapore-Korea calligraphy exchange], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 19 July 1984, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
46. “Di shiwu jie guoqing meizhan mingri qi zhan chu liang zhou” 第15届国庆美展 明日起展出两周 [Fifteenth national day art exhibition will be opened for 2 weeks from tomorrow], Shin Min Daily News 新明日报, 16 August 1984, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
47. “San ren shufa zhan” 三人书法展 [Three-men calligraphy exhibition], Lianhe Zaobao联合早报, 14 March 1986, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
48. “Di er jie xin zhong shufa jiaoliu zhan” 第二届新中书法交流展 [Second Singapore-China calligraphy exchange exhibition], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 6 June 1986, 42. (From NewspaperSG)
49. Koh, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji,” 86.
50. Koh, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji,” 87.
51. “What’s Up This Week... and the Weeks Ahead,” Straits Times, 19 November 2010, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
52. Koh, “Yuan xian chu xin: Xu Meng Feng shuhua ji,” 89.
53. “Arts,” Straits Times, 19 August 2016, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
54. Huang Xiang Jing 黄向京, “Wu chao ji ming huajia shouci lianzhan qing zhu bimo xie xingling” 五潮籍名画家首次联展 情注笔墨写性灵 [The first joint exhibition by five Teochew artists. They injected life to their works with their passion on brush and ink], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 30 May 2017, 8. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

The information in this article is valid as at September 2021 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.

Arts personalities
Koh, Mun Hong, 1952-
Painters (Art)
Calligraphy, Chinese--Singapore
Painting, Chinese--Singapore
Singaporean poetry (Chinese)

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