Tay Chee Toh (1941 - )
The painter-sculptor-printmaker Tay Chee Toh prefers to let his work speak for itself in a patterned language that articulates Southeast Asia's regional styles and crafts tradition. Born in 1941, Johor, Malaysia, he was often fascinated by the decorative objects and paintings created by local artisans. In 1958, he arrived in Singapore to study under the tutelage of pioneer artists and teachers at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, who would have lasting influences on his artistic practice through the years. When Tay participated in his first group show titled 4 Man Joint Exhibition in 1960, the collective brilliance of the works was brought to the fore by the art critic Marco Hsu in his 1963 Chinese publication, A Brief History of Malayan Art [马来亚艺术简史]. Tay and six other artists were instrumental in establishing the Modern Art Society in 1964.
Tay travelled to Sarawak in Malaysia to stay with the Dayak community in search of a new modernist style that narrates regional folk cultures. He began incorporating motifs inspired by Dayak costume designs, resulting in a series of stylistic drawings and his trademark batik style. From the late 1970s through the 1980s, he veered towards abstraction, producing modernised compositions that weave organic forms and intricate renderings with subdued tones for unusual interpretation. In 1985, Tay was conferred the Cultural Medallion, won first prize at the UOB Painting of the Year competition and was soon commissioned by the Land Transport Authority to create a hanging mobile for the Orchard Mass Rapid Transport station. In 1993, he won first prize at the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore Building Sculpture competition.