Chng Seok Tin
One of Singapore’s most versatile artists and advocate for disabled artists
Chng Seok Tin is recognised as one of Singapore’s most versatile artists. Her work spans multiple media and includes printmaking, drawing, painting, collage, mixed media, textiles, photography, ceramic, sculpture in various materials including clay, wood and bronze, and installation. The predominant theme of her art is the resilience of the human spirit and the human condition.
As a student at Chung Cheng High School, Seok Tin developed an interest in the arts. She joined the Art Society and became the first theatrical make-up artist for the school’s Drama Society. She did not, however, pursue her interest in the arts immediately.
Seok Tin trained to be a teacher and became a Chinese language teacher at Tanjong Katong Girls School. In 1970, while she was still a school teacher, she embarked on what was to be a 15-year immersion in art education that took her to the United Kingdom and the United States.
She first got a diploma in Western painting from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). Then, in 1975, she went to St. Martin’s School of Art in London for its Foundation Studies in Fine Art, followed by a Bachelors (with first class honours) in Fine Art from the Hull College of Higher Education. Seok Tin then went to the US where she focused on printmaking, studying at New Mexico State University and University of Iowa.
On her return to Singapore in 1986, she started teaching at NAFA, and later at Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts and Nanyang Technological University.
In 1988, Seok Tin experienced a setback. Surgery to remove a brain abscess led to her becoming almost totally blind. It took her a year to come to terms with the tragedy. She shared in a statement, “after a year of solitude, anger, despair, and frustration, I slowly pulled myself together and started on my new passage. I learned how to face reality and how to cope with uncertainty in life”.
When she re-emerged, she took to creating more sculptural and mixed media works. She started to advocate for artists with disabilities, and went back to teaching at Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts.
In 2005, she became the first Singaporean artist to hold an exhibition at the United Nations in New York. That was also the year when Seok Tin was awarded the Cultural Medallion for her contributions to visual arts in Singapore. Since 1977, Seok Tin has held 27 solo exhibitions and participated in more than 100 group exhibitions in Singapore and abroad.
Seok Tin also writes, and has published 12 collections of short stories, commentaries, travel writings and art reviews. In 2007 the Singapore Literature Society presented her with the Singapore Chinese Literary Award.
Seok Tin was Her World magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 2001.
"As an artist, you cannot just hide in your own tower. You should be concerned about society, about human beings, about the environment. Nowadays we talk a lot about how to save the world. We should be talking about how to save the human being."