Mr Tan Kian Por is one of Singapore's most accomplished ink artists. I use the word 'artist' and not 'painter' because his practice has gone beyond the pictorial. Following in the great tradition of literati-art, Kian Por is proficient in the "three perfections" of painting, calligraphy and seal carving. His artworks are often strikingly composed, ingeniously integrating calligraphy and seals to enhance both the substance and ambience of each painting.
Born in 1949 in Chaozhou, China, Kian Por moved to Singapore in 1962. That was a period when Singapore was moving from a British colony towards eventual independence in 1965. During that tumultuous era, Kian Por had the opportunity to study Chinese painting and calligraphy in secondary school under his Chinese teacher Huang Jai Ling 黄载灵, who was a noted calligrapher. With his introduction, Kian Por later enrolled at the only tertiary art school in Singapore then, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts 南洋美术专科学校. At the academy, Kian Por majored in Western painting, but also furthered his studies of Chinese painting under two teachers See Hiang To 施香沱 and Chen Chong Swee 陈宗瑞.
From these early mentors, Kian Por learnt about the integration of calligraphy and seal carving in painting, as well as the need for art to connect with the people of its times. To do the latter, an artist had to be truly observant, and draw upon his life experiences and encounters. Hence, Kian Por has been closely associated with the founding of the Siaw-Tao Chinese Seal Carving, Calligraphy and Painting Society 啸涛篆刻书画会.
Since its establishment in 1971, the society has resolutely pursued the ideals of the “three perfections” amongst its members, and can be considered as one of Singapore’s most active and well-established art societies today. Kian Por has also demonstrated an openness to the contemporary world. Whilst believing in the importance of tradition, he also maintained that art could not remain static, and had to be infused with contemporary life. Hence, in recent years, he has ventured most productively into photography and the use of computer technology to create electronic seal-carving. For his artistic excellence and contributions to the visual arts, Kian Por was presented with the Cultural Medallion Award in 2001, the highest national honour given to local artists. And now, in 2015, Kian Por’s achievements have been further recognised in China, by the invitation to hold a solo show at the renowned Beijing Fine Arts Academy 中国北京画院. On this happy occasion, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Kian Por and my best wishes for a successful opening in Beijing.
Low Sze Wee
Director (Curatorial and Collections)
The National Gallery Singapore