Hainan-born Tan Tee Chie is a second-generation Singaporean artist known for the series of socio-political woodcut prints and paintings created in the 1950s. The late artist was trained in Western painting and Chinese ink at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), where he graduated in 1951. Mentored by Singapore’s pioneer artists, Tan became an art educator at the Academy for over 40 years. In the early 1960s, he moved from grand socio-political discourses to themes that reflect local subjects, a movement that is associated with the Chinese diaspora’s aspiration in defining their own distinct identity in Southeast Asia. Besides woodcut prints, Tan is adept in Chinese ink, seal carving and oil painting.
Marrying Chinese ink with a Western-style painting technique, the work Forest is an abstract composition of a natural landscape. The gestural brush strokes of black ink and deep greens dominate the visual plane–and they echo the movement of leaves in a forest. Beneath the swathe of dark tones is the vertical lines depicting tree trunks and washes of light brown, portraying daylight peeking through the gaps between trees. Red dots disperse across the canvas, which appears to frolic on the surface of the paper.