Colour Calligraphy, 2009
About the artist: Lim Tze Peng became a full-time artist after retiring as the principal of Sin Min School in 1981. Though largely self-taught, he has enjoyed critical and commercial success over the years with a nostalgic ink series of Old Singapore scenes that capture the bustling alleys and multicultural landscapes of early Singapore. Featured in the series are Malay Kampungs, Chinatown, Singapore River and other everyday scenes that were to disappear as the young country embarked on a swift and relentless phase of urban modernisation in the 1980s. These paintings—composed between the 1970s and 1980s—continue to stand today as precious documents of a bygone era and reflect a distinct cultural character of early Singapore life. Tze Peng is also known for his traditional and modern calligraphic work. He achieved another stylistic breakthrough around 2005 when he unveiled a new signature style of Chinese calligraphy, which he self-termed as ‘hutuzi’ (糊涂字; also known as ‘muddled writing’). This new style emphasises on the expressiveness and elegance of brushstrokes, rather than the semantic meaning derived from the writing. He has further pushed the envelope in recent years by incorporating the use of strong, bright colours in his hutuzi, which overthrows the centuries-old tradition of Chinese calligraphy. For his invaluable contribution to Singapore’s arts and cultural heritage, Tze Peng was conferred the Cultural Medallion in 2003 and the Meritorious Service medal in 2016 by the Singapore Government. Tze Peng’s paintings and calligraphy are among the most well-collected by private collectors in Singapore.