Singapore’s second-generation artist Lee Hock Moh cultivated a deep interest in traditional Chinese ink, though he was formally trained in Western painting at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts from 1968 to 1970. Lee’s mentors in Chinese ink painting were pioneer artists Chen Chong Swee and See Hiang To. Observing Lee’s interest, See took him under his wing and advised Lee to explore tropical subjects such as the orchid flower. Employing a realist gongbi style of Chinese painting, Lee eventually established a signature style for which he is known today. With his innovative spirit and guidance from his mentors, Lee continues to explore and combine the gongbi aesthetic with Western sensibilities in his flora, fauna, and landscapes-themed works.
In Afternoon Leisure, Lee renders the classical Chinese painting subject of birds and flowers with a local flair. The trio of Southeast Asian birds' nest atop a branch of tropical orchids and are painted in delicate brushstrokes and a vivid colour palette typical of the gongbi style. The meticulous details in depicting the subject exemplify Lee’s boundless understanding and observation of his subjects, especially the orchids, which he admires for their elegance and resilience.