Singaporean artist Tan Kee Sek was primarily trained in Western painting at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. His interests, however, lay in Chinese art from a young age. Tan had the opportunity to strengthen his skills in Chinese ink painting when he was mentored by pioneer artist See Hiang To. Tan was greatly influenced by See and went on to pursue Chinese painting, calligraphy, and seal carving after he graduated from NAFA in 1970. Tan was one of the founders of the Siaw Tao Chinese Seal-Carving, Calligraphy & Painting Society. For the past five decades, while Tan has explored and innovated in his practice, he concurrently nurtures the next generation of budding artists specialising in Chinese ink at the Academy.
Apart from his passion for Chinese art and culture, Tan is also inspired by nature and everyday life. Flowers and Birds is one of his early pieces. Here, the brushstrokes appear relatively more controlled and restrained than his later ink works in NAFA’s collection. His expressive rendering of lines and forms in this painting echoes the sensibilities of Chinese painting traditions.