Singaporean artist Chua Ek Kay learnt Chinese calligraphy from his father at seven years old. He later became a student under Chinese ink painter Fan Chang Tien. Although trained in Chinese traditional art, Chua drew inspiration from modern art in Europe. His interest in pursuing art eventually led him to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Tasmania, followed by a Master of Arts at the University of Western Sydney in the 1990s.
The cherry blossom is a common motif in Chinese ink paintings. The flower, which blooms after a harsh winter, is often perceived as a symbol of new beginnings. At first glance, while Ode to Spring bears a remarkable likeness to Chinese ink paintings, Chua adopted a Western approach in bringing depth to this work. Here, echoing Western artistic traditions, black ink is bolded and accentuated in specific areas to create shadows, enhancing the vase’s three-dimensionality. Ode to spring exemplifies Chua’s unique method of combining his knowledge of Eastern and Western art.