Often capturing what is beyond the surface, Singaporean artist Chua Mia Tee’s strength is his ability to precisely encapsulate the spirit of his subject matter onto the canvas. Born in Shantou, China, Chua moved to Singapore in 1937 and enrolled at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts to train in Western mediums and Chinese ink painting. Chua was under the tutelage of the founding principal of the academy, Lim Hak Tai, and was mentored by pioneer artists Cheong Soo Pieng and See Hiang To. Influenced by the ingenious spirit of his mentors, Chua also experimented with sculptural forms and is an exceptionally skilful portraitist.
Inspired by subjects of everyday life, Chua seeks to deliver historical and social discourses in his body of work, which defines his social realism style. Essential to his creative practice is Chua’s penchant for vivid details, and oil is the best medium that allows him to do so. In the work Street Scene – Taxi, Chua depicts the vanishing trade of rickshaws and roadside stalls. The rickshaw was a popular mode of transport in the 1920s. Here, it is juxtaposed with the air-conditioned yellow-top taxi. With the rise of hawker centres built in the 1970s, Chua also depicted the vanishing trade of roadside hawker stalls.