Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering Ng Eng Teng

(This was previously posted on in the year 2008. Here's a repost.)

Above: Ng Eng Teng, Wealth, 1974.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.

Some local readers who are my contemporaries or who are older may remember seeing this very sculpture Wealth, together with another sculpture Contentment, at the previous Plaza Singapura building in the 1980s. In those days, Plaza Singapura was one of the fairly popular shopping malls to shop in and to visit. It was rather hard to miss these two sculptures given their fairly imposing size. At the very least, when I was speaking to one of my contemporaries about these two sculptures, she could remember seeing these two sculptures when she was young.

These two iconic sculptures are now located just outside the University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge campus. Frankly speaking, I prefer the current location of Wealth and Contentment compared to the original location at the previous Plaza Singapura building. Somehow, the sculptures looked less scary and more approachable when placed outdoors.

Most of the local friends whom I have spoken to have actually seen at least one of Ng Eng Teng's sculptures at some point in their lives. Who was Ng Eng Teng?

Ng Eng Teng (1934 - 2001) was a local artist who was probably best known for his sculptural works. I later learnt that his training was in painting and pottery. In recognition of his excellent artistic achievements, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1981.

I remember that during the Art History lessons in my Secondary School years, I learnt that the pioneer artist, Georgette Chen, had some influence on Ng Eng Teng. At the very least, it was through her encouragement that Ng Eng Teng headed to England to pursue the study of ceramics. Perhaps his study of ceramics could have helped him to build the necessary foundation to create many three-dimensional masterpieces throughout his career as an artist. He was one of the very few sculptors that I have studied during Art History lessons. As such, whenever anyone asks me to name a local sculptor, Ng Eng Teng would be one of the first names that would come to my mind.

Other than Wealth and Contentment, Ng Eng Teng had created the following sculptural works that most people in Singapore would have probably come across at some point in their lives:

Ng Eng Teng, Mother and Child.
Location: Orchard Rd outside Far East Shopping Centre.
Photo taken by Jeremy in 2007.

Ng Eng Teng, The Climb, 1987, ciment fondu.
Location: HDB Hub, Toa Payoh.

Ng Eng Teng, Spirit of Man, 1984.
Location: Changi International Airport, Terminal One.

Ng Eng Teng, The Explorer, Dec 1999, ciment fondu, stainless steel, gold leaf.
Location: Singapore Art Museum.

For those of you who are interested to learn more about Ng Eng Teng, there are a couple of publications that would provide indepth information on this artist. Here is a link to a list of these publications:

I have a liking for a number of Ng Eng Teng's works. Somehow, his works felt as if they could speak to the viewers, and communicate various emotions. I fondly remember that I used to frequent the Ng Eng Teng's museum almost everyday when it was located at the National University of Singapore's Central Library.

Driven by a search for nostalgia and a general interest in his art, I could not help but visit the NUS Museum for a couple of times over the past few months so as to check out the latest exhibition, Sculpturing Life, featuring some of Ng Eng Teng's works.

Foreground: Ng Eng Teng, Tension 1972, ciment fondu.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.

I very much like the fact that in this exhibition, there are archival materials on Ng Eng Teng on display. I strongly recommend this exhibition to art students and anyone who is keen to research on the art of Ng Eng Teng. This exhibition puts on display a number of copies of the sketches that Ng Eng Teng had done prior to working on his actual works. Through looking at these sketches, one could better appreciate the thinking processes that Ng Eng Teng had went through before deriving at the final form of his works. Interestingly, I learnt from this exhibition that the Contentment was inspired by a yoga pose.

The maquettes of Contentment and Wealth.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.

Ng Eng Teng, Contentment.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.

Other than the sketches, there are also copies of old newspaper articles on the sculpture scene in Singapore, and on Ng Eng Teng himself. There is even a multimedia corner whereby visitors could take time to watch a few documentaries on Ng Eng Teng. The duration of these documentaries vary from 20 minutes to about an hour. It is worth putting aside at least two hours to view these documentaries.

Copies of newspaper articles and Ng Eng Teng's sketches.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.

I am pleased to share that I have managed to watch almost all the documentaries on display. These documentaries contain footages of interviews with Ng Eng Teng himself, and offer viewers a window to better understand the artist, Ng Eng Teng. When I was watching certain segments of the documentaries, I had felt as if Ng Eng Teng himself was speaking to me. After watching the documentaries, I felt a deepened sense of respect towards Ng Eng Teng for his strong dedication towards his art, his humility, his sense of compassion towards humanity and his resilience.

Documentaries on Ng Eng Teng that are worth watching.
Courtesy of National University of Singapore Museum Collection.

This is an exhibition worth a visit. There is so much to learn at the exhibition that I have visited it at least four times this year. I was lucky that when I visited the exhibition on 2 Aug 2008, there was a guided tour to this exhibition. Attending the guided tour has helped me gain a deeper appreciation to the artworks on display. Many thanks to the dedicated museum guide who had given me the insightful tour.

Sculpturing Life - Ng Eng Teng Collection is held at NUS Museum, from 11 January – 31 December 2008.

The NUS Museum is located at the University Cultural Centre Annex, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent, National University of Singapore, Singapore 119279. It's closed on Mondays and Public Holidays. For more information on the museum's opening hours and on the guided tours, please visit:

My heartfelt appreciation to NUS Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts for granting me the permission to take non-flash photography of this exhibition.

Many thanks to Siva for introducing me to staff of NUS Museum.

Thank you to the staff of NUS Museum, NUS Centre for the Arts for arranging for the insightful guided tour to the exhibition and for making my visits to the museum enjoyable and educational.

Sabapathy, T.L. (1998). Ng Eng Teng, art and thoughts. Singapore: NUS Museums, National University of Singapore.

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