A brush with old age

Updated: Aug 05, 2019, 10:01 IST | Shunashir Sen

A 99-year-old Chinese artist will showcase his works in the city, five of them on public display for the very first time

A brush with old age
Lim Tze Peng paints abstract Chinese calligraphy

There is a man who lives in the Telok Kurau area in east Singapore. His name is Lim Tze Peng, and he's 99 years old. Till the early 1980s, he was a teacher in a government school before becoming the principal. But once he retired, Lim picked up the paintbrush. And he's been at it since then. The man has painted every single day of what are supposed to be his twilight years, as if it's a religious practice that can't be messed with. He starts in the afternoon and doesn't stop till his body tells him that enough is enough. "In fact," says Ting Tan — a consultant with Singapore's Ode to Art Gallery, which is partnering with Bhau Daji Lad Museum to showcase Lim's works in India for the very first time — "If he lived another 100 years, he'd still paint every day for the rest of his life."

Painting 1
Lim's painting of Singapore before it was modernised

But with time, the nature of Lim's paintings has gone through subsequent transformations that have now ventured into a wholly abstract area. Tan tells us that his initial paintings were of a Singapore that predates the ultra-modern city-state that it is today. She says, "He drew the Singapore River and Chinatown from memory. But after Independence [in 1963], the river area became quite sterile. The squatters and hawkers were relocated, for example. So, when people see Mr. Lim's paintings, they would get a glimpse of what Singapore was like before that time."

Painting 2
Lim's painting of Singapore before it was modernised

She adds that the nonagenarian shifted interest towards Chinese calligraphy next. This might have to do with the fact that Lim is a Mandarin speaker who was born and brought up in Singapore, and thus felt a deep connect with a motherland he's never really known. That might also be the reason why he's recently been painting a lot of trees with deep roots. The possible symbolism of reaching out to where you stem from can't be ignored.

Till September 15, 10 am to 6 pm
At Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Rani Baug, Byculla East.
Call 23731234

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