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 the practice of Chinese ink painting were pioneer artists, Chen Chong Swee and See Hiang To. Observing Lee’s interest, See took him under his wings 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 of which he is known for today. With his innovative spirit and through the guidance of his mentors, Lee continues to explore and combine the gongbi aesthetic with Western sensibilities in his flora and fauna as well as landscapes themed works.
The work Fort Canning depicts an area of the same name, which was believed to be the palatial site of former Majapahit kings and one which became the residence of colonial governors following Sir Stamford Raffles’ arrival in Singapore in 1819. Today, it is known as Bukit Larangan or Forbidden Hill. Lee’s impression of a morning at the historic Fort Canning entails a mountain hidden beneath a layer of mists, with lush greenery dotted with yellow and red flowers. At the base of its hills is a group of workers who are sweeping and clearing the leaves fallen from the trees. Moreover, historic colonial buildings stood along the route where small groups of people are basking in the scenery around them, slowly wandering their way up the hill.