Watercolourist Seah Kang Chui was born in Singapore in 1945. Having lived in kampungs for the first three decades of his life, one of Seah’s favourite subject matters is local villages. Seah cultivated his passion for art by attending part-time classes at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, even when he was working full-time. In 1968, he obtained his art qualification at the Teachers’ Training College and dedicated his career to teaching art at government schools until his retirement.
Seletar River is a relatively simple work that can be mistaken for another leisure painting. In truth, the watercolour rendering brings a distinctive light and life to the subject. While Lorong Buangkok is home to the last surviving living kampong settlement in Singapore, beyond the snaking waterway, huddled between Yishun and the reservoir, one recalls the old Seletar fishing, now home to small, recreational watercraft and leisure fishermen. As a sketch, the scene captures an almost pure reflection of light from the water to the sky. The use of watercolour tones saturates the image with the burst of nature’s true greenery and its simplicity, unspoiled by big buildings or modern life as it were. Seah not only observes the life of the various places he paints, but he has also worked his palette so vividly through a spectrum that he uniquely calls his own. Any watercolourist is faced with the challenge of how to blend colours that dry so quickly and cannot be overpainted and undone. The pace of the image unfolds through a skilful touch, giving us both an honest feeling for the light and landscape, as well as a subtle impression of a memory about to be made.