Ong Kim Seng



Eminent watercolourist Ong Kim Seng (b. 10 June 1945, Singapore–)1 is the former president of the Singapore Watercolour Society (1991 to 2001), a Cultural Medallion winner (Visual Art) in 1990, and winner of six awards from the prestigious American Watercolour Society. He has held numerous solo and group exhibitions since his first solo exhibition, Himalayan Trek Art Exhibition, at the Asia Art Gallery in 1979.2 His works have been exhibited internationally in Europe, USA, Japan and ASEAN3 countries.4

Early life
An only child, Ong grew up in a kampung in Tiong Bahru under the care of his mother, Goh Choon Hoon.His father had passed away in 1952 when Ong was still young. To support the family, his mother worked as a washerwoman and a grass cutter.6 Ong enrolled in Radin Mas Primary School in 1954 and in Pasir Panjang Secondary School in 1959.


Ong left school in 1963 and subsequently worked as a bill collector in an advertising agency. He left the agency after four years and next worked as a policeman at the British Naval Base in Sembawang. He lost his job in 1971 when the British withdrew their troops from Singapore.Ong subsequently worked as a welder at Pulau Bukom; a line technician at the  electronics firm National Semiconductor; and an audio-visual/graphic technician at Colombo Plan Staff College for Technician Education.9 He became a full-time painter in 1985.10

Achievements
Ong is a self-taught artist.11 His mother had envisioned him as either a clerk or teacher due to his education. Ong, however, had shown an interest in art since he was young.12 He experimented with painting, beginning with charcoal and oil, and moved on to watercolour painting in earnest in the 1960s.13 He then became a regular participant in a painting group at the Singapore River led by Chia Wai Hoon, an artist, writer and lecturer.14


As a realist painter, Ong’s works focus on inanimate objects, architectural form, masonry, foliage and landscape.15 His style is “naturalist cum impressionistic”, which is “a combination of post-impressionist colour and the outlook of the American realist masters”.16 He has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in the past three decades, and has had his works published by local and international publishers.17 

Ong’s interests include travelling, trekking, jogging, swimming and cycling.18 He enjoys meeting people and discovering their ways of life.19 He has gone on travelling-and-painting expeditions in the past, “recording vanishing ways of life of exotic places” in his paintings.20 For instance, he has trekked the Himalayas over seven times.21 This resulted in award-winning paintings such as Gysante Market (a scene from a Central Tibet flea market) and Thimi, Nepal.22

Ong is the first and only Singaporean to have won six awards from the prestigious American Watercolour Society (AWS), of which he was conferred membership in 1990.23 He received the society’s Dolphin Fellowship in 2000 for having won more than five AWS awards.24 He was the first Asian artist outside the US to be admitted into the society.25 In addition, Ong was elected president of the Singapore Watercolour Society from 1991 to 2001, after which he continued as its honorary president.26

Ong’s works have graced the collections of a number of museums and art galleries as well as the residences of foreign dignitaries, such as Queen Elizabeth II of England and Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations. His works are also exhibited in foreign missions and embassies of the Republic of Singapore, and displayed at the Istana.27 Public and private patrons have commissioned paintings from him.28 For instance, in 1984, he was given the honour by The Straits Times to paint the National Day Parade. A year later, then President Ong Teng Cheong commissioned a painting for his new official residence, the Command House, at Kheam Hock Road.29 

Timeline
1990:
 Conferred membership by the American Watercolour Society (AWS), USA.

1991–2001: President, Singapore Watercolour Society.30
1992–94: Paintings, Sentosa from Mt Faber and Raffles Hotel, selected for Look JTB travel magazine cover page.31
1997: Chairman, Asian Watercolours ’97 Singapore / Vice-chairman, Singapore Art ’97.32
1998: Founding editor, Southeast Asia for International Artist.33
1998–2010: Arts Advisor, National Arts Council.34
2000: Dolphin Fellowship, American Watercolour Society. 
2001–: Honorary President, Singapore Watercolour Society, Singapore / Life Fellow, Centre of the Arts, National University of Singapore.35
27 Jun 2003: Launch of instructional book on watercolour painting.36
2004: Launch of first-day stamp cover by Singapore Post, featuring 10 of his watercolour paintings.37
21 Feb 2004: First Singaporean artist to appear on Talk Asia television programme, CNN International.38 
2007: National Day First Day Covers.39
2009: Donates two of his earliest oil paintings and six other watercolour paintings (all original artworks that have not been previously displayed) to the National Gallery Singapore.40

Awards
1974: 
First prize, Port of Singapore Authority Artists Encouragement Scheme Open Art Competition.41

1977: Medal Award presented by Ministry of Culture. 
1982: P. J. Ireland Award, Macquarie University, Australia.42
1983: Paul B. Remmy AWS Memorial Award, American Watercolour Society, USA, for Heart of Kathmandu
1988: Lucy B. Moore Memorial Award, American Watercolour Society, USA, for Backyard, Singapore
1989: Clara Stroud Memorial Award, American Watercolour Society, USA, for Thimi, Nepal
1990: Cultural Medallion Award.43
1991: Ponnadai (“Golden Shawl”) title, Singapore Kairalee Kala Nilayam (Singapore Kairalee Arts Centre).44
1992: Barse Miller Memorial Award, American Watercolour Society, for Gysante Market.45
9 Dec 1995: Pingat Apad, Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya.46
28 Apr 2000: Winsor & Newton Award, American Watercolour Society, for Old Corner, Nepal.76
4 Aug 2000: Excellence for Singapore Award, Singapore Totalisator Board.48
2001: Arts Supporter Award, National Arts Council / The Singapore Internationale Award, Singapore International Foundation / Ida Wells Memorial Award, American Watercolour Society.49
28 Sep 2003: Silver Award, National Watercolour Exhibition of the People’s Republic of China, Fuzhou, China.50 
2004: Public Service Star Award.51 
23 Apr 2010: Friend of Heritage Award, National Heritage Board.52 
11 Jun 2014: Master of ASEAN Watercolourist at the World Watermedia Exposition, Thailand.53

Publications
1979:
 Artist on Top of the World: Paintings from the Himalayan Trek.54

1981: Boat Quay (art reproduction).55 
1985: Ong Kim Seng.56
1988: Overland Tibet.57
1993: Caine’s Gallery presents Recent Works by Ong Kim Seng.58
2001: Charms of Ubin.59
2002: Timeless Jiangnan.60
2003: Mastering Light and Shade in Watercolour.61
2006: An Ong Kim Seng & Students Exhibition: Dedication to Watercolour.62
2010: Poems in Watercolor.63
2011: Musings of the Fullerton Heritage: A collection of Paintings.64
2012: Gardens of Inspiration: A Collection of Watercolor Paintings.65
2013: Passion for Landscapes: The Watercolour Art of Ong Kim Seng.66

Family67
Wife:
 Nam Ah Moy.

Children: Henry, Suan Ching and Suan Lin.



Author
Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1; Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

2. Adhikari, R. (1978, October 6). Painting from the top of the world. The New Nation, p. 5; Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
3. Ong, K. S. (1988). Overland Tibet. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG); Leong, W. K. (2000, March 14). A rare Dolphin in SingaporeThe Straits Times, p. 2; Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN); Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
5. Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lim, R. (2003, June 29). Art saved him from politicsThe Straits Times, p. 4; Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3Lui, J. (2008, October 20). No paint, no gainThe Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lim, R. (2003, June 29). Art saved him from politicsThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Adhikari, R. (1978, October 6). Painting from the top of the worldThe New Nation, p. 5; Lim, R. (2003, June 29). Art saved him from politicsThe Straits Times, p. 4; Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Adhikari, R. (1978, October 6). Painting from the top of the worldThe New Nation, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
12. Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Wong, K. H. (2014, August 17). No paint no gainThe Straits Times, p. 37; Leong, W. K. (2014, January 7). Watercolourist goes back to oilsThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Sasitharan, T. (1992, March 20). Ong’s coupThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN); Ong, K. S. (1993). Caine’s Gallery presents recent works by Ong Kim Seng. Singapore: Caine’s Gallery, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG); Ong, K. S. (2001). Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
18. Adhikari, R. (1978, October 6). Painting from the top of the worldThe New Nation, p. 5; Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Adhikari, R. (1978, October 6). Painting from the top of the worldThe New Nation, p. 5; Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Lim, R. (2003, June 29). Art saved him from politicsThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tan, E. S. (1990, January 14). Ong Kim Seng made member of premier watercolour societyThe Straits Times, p. 1; Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Leong, W. K. (2000, March 14). A rare Dolphin in SingaporeThe Straits Times, p. 2; Tan, E. S. (1990, January 14). Ong Kim Seng made member of premier watercolour societyThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Leong, W. K. (2000, March 14). A rare Dolphin in SingaporeThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
27. Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG); Said, N. (2017, June 20). Works by Singapore artists featured in Istana. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
28. Shetty, D. (2009, July 9). Shop and stareThe Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1; Phan, M. Y. (1994, November 25). President commissions two paintings for new official residence. The Straits Times, p. 3; Leong, W. K. (1995, July 20). Choo’s donationsThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
31. Ong, K. S. (1993). Caine’s Gallery presents recent works by Ong Kim Seng. Singapore: Caine’s Gallery, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
32. Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People's Association, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
33. Ong Kim Seng. (2006). Biodata. Retrieved 2016, November 17 from Ong Kim Seng website: http://www.ongkimseng.com/about/biodata.htm
34. Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG); 8 new members appointed to National Arts Council. (2010, September 3). Channel News Asia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
35. Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People's Association, pp. 4–5. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
36. Lim, R. (2003, June 29). Art saved him from politicsThe Straits Times, p. 4; Chow, C. (2003, June 27). Lessons from a masterThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. National Heritage Board. (2016). A stamp featuring ‘Dance Studio, Bali, 1999’ by Ong Kim Seng. Retrieved 2016, November 16 from National Heritage Board website: https://roots.sg/Roots/learn/collections/listing/2005-00025-015
38. Singapore artist on CNN. (2004, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. National Day First Day Covers. (2007, August 7). Channel News Asia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
40. Wu, Q. J. [吴启基]. (2009, September 19). 《王金成捐献八件作品 绐国家美术馆 最好的水彩 最初的油面》[Ong Kim Seng donated eight artworks to National Gallery Singapore, including his best watercolour paintings and earliest oil paintings]. 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Lim, R. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore artists speak. Singapore: Raffles Edition, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 709.5957 SIN)
43. Kong, L. (1991, March 26). Seven silver piecesThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Ong, K. S. (1993). Caine’s Gallery presents recent works by Ong Kim Seng. Singapore: Caine’s Gallery, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
45. Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3Sasitharan, T. (1992, March 20). Ong’s coupThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Ong Kim Seng. (n.d). Awards and recognitions. Retrieved 2016, November 17 from Ong Kim Seng website: http://ongkimseng.com/site/about/#features
47. Leong, W. K. (2000, March 14). A rare Dolphin in SingaporeThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. Hee, J. (2000, August 5). Awards – six receive honours for excellenceThe Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
49. Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
50. Ong Kim Seng. (n.d). About. Retrieved 2016, November 17 from Ong Kim Seng website: http://ongkimseng.com/site/about/
51. Yen, M. J. (2009, September 5). The very picture of care and supportThe Business Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. Shetty, D. (2010, April 23). Sharing treasures of artThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. Local artists win international awards. (2014, June 24). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Ong, K. S. (1979). Artist on top of the world: Paintings from the Himalayan Trek. Singapore: Educational Publications Bureau. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.95957 ONG)
55. Ong, K. S. (1981). Boat Quay [art reproduction]. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.95957 ONG)
56. Ong Kim Seng. (1985). Singapore: K. S. Ong. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
57. Ong, K. S. (1988). Overland Tibet. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
58. Ong, K. S. (1993). Caine’s Gallery presents recent works by Ong Kim Seng. Singapore: Caine’s Gallery. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
59. Ong, K. S. (2001). Charms of Ubin. Singapore: Outward Bound Singapore c/o People’s Association. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
60. Ong, K. S. (2002). Timeless Jiangnan. Singapore: Kwek L. J.: Ong K. S. (Call no.: RSING 951 ONG)
61. Ong, K. S. (2005). Mastering light and shade in watercolour. Fuzhou: Fujian mei shu chu ban she. (Call no.: Chinese RSEA q751.422 OKS)
62. An Ong Kim Seng & students exhibition: Dedication to watercolour. (2006). Singapore: K. S. Ong. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
63. Ong, K. S. (2010). Poems in watercolor. Singapore: Galerie Belvedere. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 ONG)
64. Ong, K. S. (2011). Musings of the Fullerton heritage: A collection of paintings. Singapore: Fullerton Heritage. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 MUS)
65. Ong, K. S. (2012). Gardens of inspiration: A collection of watercolor paintings. Singapore: s.n. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 GAR)
66. Ma, P. (2013). Passion for landscapes: The watercolour art of Ong Kim Seng. Singapore: artcommune gallery Pte Ltd. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 MA)

67. Lui, J. (1993, December 12). Artist with more peaks to conquerThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Chan, F. (2001, March 19). Catching the colours of morning. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Leong, W. K. (2001, November 26). Ubin by night in waterThe Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Mixed palette. (2001, August 19). The Sun. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

Ong Kim Seng’s early works sold for S$120. (1997, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Suhaila Sulaiman. (2001, November 4). Ubin exchangeThe Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2017 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--Singapore--Biography
Ong, Kim Seng, 1945-
Arts>>Visual Arts>>Painting
Painting
Arts>>Painting
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Painters--Singapore--Biography
Watercolorists--Singapore--Biography
Award winners