Lim Sew Yong was born in 1943 in Malaysia and moved to Singapore at five. In 1968, the artist studied art at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and graduated from Nanyang University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1972. She paints in watercolour and acrylic and has experimented with batik painting as well. The subjects in her work include carp, fish, opera figures and small-scale community depictions such as kampongs and animals. Her style often conveys something of a personal, emotive character.
This undated work of opera figures featuring male personas is likely to have come from the late 1980s or early 1990s when Lim produced handy-sized artworks on paper using watercolour. Her focus on depictions of opera as a subject matter was twofold: to capture the dramatic characteristics of the players and roles through such unique conveyance and to inspire interest in this traditional art form. Executed in watercolour on paper, Lim’s pigmentation of the surface form offers a unique texture, much like pastel. One of the figures holds a traditional fan, typically used by male scholars. He leans over, appearing to share some news with the other in secret.