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A Short Note on Dr Ng Eng Teng by Lim Tai Wei

NG Eng Teng  (1934 - 2001) I was particularly impressed by Dr Ng Eng Teng's mother and child series of sculptures. The extremely expressive and emotive forms of this series of work is enhanced by Dr Ng's mastery of using selective appearing and missing portions of the figures?limbs to draw viewers?attention to parts of the sculpture. I asked him how he could exhibit such subdued mastery of sculpture forms. He told me that the secret lied in practicing the human forms over and over again. In his view, the human form is the basic form from which all other forms and shapes emanate from. Mastery over the human form through tirelessly sketching or painting human figures is an effective methodology in navigating through other forms and shapes.

Mother and Child, Ng Eng Teng, 1980, ciment-fondu, commission: Far East Organization, location: Orchard Rd outside Far East Shopping Centre, Singapore With his mastery of human forms, he created a torso series which he told me he was proud of. In his view, the torso may be from a human body but it is so mysterious that he could find similar shapes from other objects that can easily take the place of torso interpretations. For example, some of his torso works can easily double up as a person's face with middle parting in the hair or even a cobra's head. He finds the human torso to be so amorphous and mysterious that he was willing to experiment with it and associated it with other objects.

Besides the torso, he was fascinated with the human form in general. He liked sketching the human forms. He drew of series of graphic naked human forms with colour pencils. In his view, though some may consider these drawings using colour pencils to be rather amateurish, he felt as long as the colour pencils tease out the human form that he desired, he did not mind what medium was used.

Freedom Child, 1978, Ciment-fondu, 42 x 70 x 84 cm Ng Eng Teng's sculptures works also belies a fusion of East and West. His east-west fusion works include the fusion of East Asian arts, using Chinese Shiwan techniques to create ox-blood red western-style sculptures or using traditional Malay kendi shapes for contemporary pottery works. All these forms that transcend traditions are admired by all. This site will continue to post reviews of such works in the next few columns in the coming weeks.

It was unfortunate that Dr Ng passed away recently. So much could have been tapped from his reservoir of wisdom and experience in Singapore's young art history.


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