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24 November 2021 – Chua Mia Tee : Directing the Real at the National Gallery Singapore

Chua Mia Tee’s first museum show since 1992 opens to the public at the National Gallery Singapore this Friday on 26 November !

He’s a name that needs no introduction in a Singapore context, having painted everything from “National Language Class” and the “Epic Poem of Malaya” (the definitive paintings of the local collection in the gallery), to the portrait of President Yusof Ishak which sits on the dollar bills in all our wallets.

Given that he’s already so well known, what can this exhibition – “Directing the Real” – show us?

As it turns out, a whole lot!

Look out for some of our personal favourites:

Detailed depictions of Chinatown and a dumpling seller that look uncannily like photographs:

Chua’s post-apocalyptic vision of Benjamin Sheares bridge as it was being built in 1981:


Lee Kuan Yew’s return from the 1950s Merdeka talks in London (Lim Chin Siong is in there too, see if you can spot him):

The staggeringly theatrical depiction of Jurong Shipyard workers in a canteen :

His busts of Zubir Said (right) and his beloved wife Lee Boon Ngan (left) (amazingly, he was a self taught sculptor!):

We also really liked this curatorial takeaway when looking at the works : “Realism is not just about objective representation – the artist brings to the scene his own interpretation of what he sees. (The composition) is always intentional.”

This is a love letter to Singapore in the best kind of way – one that’s authentic, nuanced and full of heartfelt emotion. It runs till 20 Nov 2022. Details here .