Cheong, Soo Pieng (1917–1983) By Chuah, Kelvin
Cheong Soo Pieng was a Chinese-born artist who became well known for his contributions to Singapore’s modern art. In Nanyang, Cheong’s Chinese art training was integrated with the lush tropical landscape and the arresting allure of local communal practices. Cheong was part of a group of artists who visited Bali, Indonesia, in 1952 in search of the Nanyang Style, which involved Southeast Asian themes visualized with Western art techniques. The resulting imagery in the works created by the artists was exhibited back in Singapore the following year in the hugely lauded exhibition Four Artists to Bali. This provided the stimulus for these artists to develop further this particular genre of art. For Cheong, his artistic excursions were not confined to Singapore. He also traveled to Sarawak, Borneo, in 1959 and resided in Europe from 1961 to 1963, where he held solo and group shows, and where he also dabbled with abstraction in his works. Cheong is recognized for his development of distinctive figural types known as “elongated figures”: female bodies with elongated limbs. The figural types he developed in the 1950s were reassessed and reworked in the 1970s. These later works reflect a matured handling and refinement, reinforcing his personal stylization of the subject matter.