Wee Beng Chong is one of Singapore’s most versatile artists, producing exceptional works in various mediums, such as calligraphy, seal carving, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media works, oil and Chinese ink painting. His formal art education began in 1955 when he enrolled in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and was introduced to different genres of art. Besides building a solid foundation in Western art, the artist also picked up seal carving and Chinese ink painting under the tutelage of See Hiang To. Later in 1964, Wee studied sculpture at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, adding sculpture-making to his impressive list of art skills. As a key figure in promoting the development of visual arts in Singapore from the 1960s–1980s, Wee was accorded the Cultural Medallion in 1979.
Wee is known for incorporating modern ideologies into traditional Chinese art. With a wet brush charged with ink, the artist creates expressive brushstrokes that appear to vibrate on the vertical scroll. Surrounding this form, the artist employs gentler lines as the ink fades. This gradual transition gives the work a sense of rhythm and contrast, as well as demonstrates the artist’s interest in enhancing its gestural qualities. He also plays with the coloured and negative space to add depth to his artwork while accentuating the centrepiece, an innovative approach to Chinese art.
The inscriptions on Willpower state the following:
Seal near mid-right: To brace oneself 硬着头皮
Seal at the bottom right: Ten years to sharpen a sword 十年磨一剑
Idiom: Through willpower and effort, humans can overcome natural forces