Chen Chong Swee, also known as Chen Khai, was born in 1910, Chenghai County, Guangdong, China. He graduated from the Xinhua Arts Academy in Shanghai and Union High School in Shantou, China, before settling in Singapore in 1934. Known as one of Singapore’s pioneer artists, Chen was also an influential art educator and writer passionate about the state of the arts in Singapore. He spent his early years in Singapore teaching at Tuan Mong High School and Chung Cheng High School before heading the Chinese Painting Department at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), where he remained for over 20 years. Proficient in various mediums, including watercolour, oil, and Chinese ink, Chen was best known for his realist works and application of Chinese ink painting techniques. Mixing Chinese and Western pictorial traditions, Chen was one of the first to capture the Southeast Asian landscape and people in the Chinese ink and brush landscape form
Chen illustrated a bird’s eye view overlooking a mountain top. In the background, rows of boats are at rest on the calm water. Small huts are situated by the shore suggesting the presence of economic and social activities at the foot of the mountain. Chen’s clever use of the negative space presents a crisp scene, reinforced by the artist’s light-handed touch and defined application of brush strokes and colour in the foreground.