Chen Cheng Mei (also known as Tan Seah Boey) was born in 1927. She studied Western Painting at NAFA and graduated in 1954. Chen practised in a variety of mediums, including oil and ink painting, printmaking and Chinese calligraphy and was mentored by highly regarded artists Cheong Soo Pieng, Lim Hak Tai and See Hiang Toh. After graduation, she worked as a French translator for a bank and travelled to places such as Tahiti, Papua New Guinea and Mexico during her vacations. Even as an artist, Chen maintained a low profile and was regaled as one of the pioneers and a female member of the Ten-Men Art Group, an informal gathering of Singapore-based artists in the 1960s that actively travelled around Southeast Asia and the wider Asia continent in search of inspiration that would fuel their art practice. Long House is a work from this period.
This piece is heavily textured and almost abstract in its rendering. With a fondness for practical and direct drawing, Chen’s style often varies between clear, naïve like graphics and more rudimentary, expressionist forms. One of the most apparent subjects in this work is the surrounding grove of trees, which are depicted with rich, heavy textures that provide a sensory invitation to the ambience of tribal living: though basic in nature is still alive with powerful rituals and traditions.