Born in Singapore, 1946.
Cultural Medallion recipient, 2014.
Works in wood, stone and bronze.
About the artist
In 2014, Chong Fahcheong was awarded Singapore’s highest accolade for artistic pursuit – the Cultural Medallion. It was recognition of the artist’s dedication to his art, a lifetime’s work that has resulted in many of his sculptures dotting different parts of the island.
Over the more than 40 years of his career, Fahcheong has continually pushed his artistic boundaries and honed his art.
His style is varied, ranging from the abstract to the figurative, and he works with a wide range of media, carving wood and stone, and casting in metal and bronze. Whatever his chosen medium of the moment, he uses it to its fullest potential. His sculptures often make a commentary on society and social issues. Many are comments upon the pursuit of position, money and power. But he also has a strong whimsical side and many of his works portray a sense of humour that can be appreciated by adult and child alike. He loves exploring his Singaporean heritage, celebrating those carefree childhood days through charming bronze sculptures of children at play.
Although he left a teaching career to pursue his art, education and sculpture have remained inseparable for Fahcheong – he is continually learning and exploring his art. Developing it is his lifelong passion. He shares his knowledge and skill through workshops and finds that this is an important corollary to his life as a sculptor. As a senior artist, Fahcheong believes it is important to be a mentor to younger and newer artists.
Fahcheong is recognised as one of Singapore’s pioneer sculptors. He was one of the featured artists in a significant national sculpture exhibition called Sculpture in Singapore, held at the National Museum in 1991. The National Gallery of Singapore has a strong collection of his works.
Fahcheong was honoured to be chosen by the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts to design and produce a unique gift for the world leaders who attended the 2009 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Singapore. Each national representative received a bronze sculpture as a gift from the Singapore government. The design idea is based on an infinity ring, which has surfaces that have been worked upon with motifs illustrating the cooperation of the APEC countries.
He has contributed many memorable sculptures to the Singapore artscape. These are mainly stone and bronze sculptures in monumental sizes. They can be found in highly visible parts of Singapore, from the Housing Board’s Toa Payoh Central and the Singapore Botanic Gardens to the quieter spaces of the National University of Singapore and private housing condominiums.
But perhaps the most visible, internationally well-loved and frequently photographed of Fahcheong’s public sculptures in Singapore is the “First Generation”, a bronze work of five young boys in the buff jumping into the Singapore River. This iconic piece harks back to a time when the sculptor was a boy and he watched children playing in the river.
In 2011, he held a solo exhibition of his smaller sculptures. This show, Passages, was held at his studio-cum-workshop in Emily Hill, Singapore. It highlighted the fact that the artist is adept at creating works in many other materials besides bronze, wood, stone and jade. Passages was a precursor to a much larger exhibition called Textures, Tones & Timbres held in 2013 at the National University of Singapore Museum. In a sense, this show was a “coming home” to his alma mater.
In 2014, this lifetime of dedication to the practice of sculpture was rewarded when Fahcheong received the Cultural Medallion. This award is presented to Singaporeans whose artistic excellence and contribution and commitment to the arts have enriched and helped shape Singapore’s cultural landscape.
Fahcheong divides his time between his home in Singapore, and Canada, where his family lives.
When Fahcheong finished school in Singapore, the young 14-year-old left home for Penang, Malaysia, where he joined a religious teaching order, the De La Salle Brothers, and studied to become a teacher. After several years there, he left the brothers and returned to Singapore not knowing what he would do next. He decided to continue his studies at the University of Singapore, graduating with a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree in 1971. This was followed by a Diploma in Curriculum Studies in Art and Design from the City of Birmingham Polytechnic, United Kingdom. It soon dawned on Fahcheong that he was best suited for a life dedicated to art.
Fahcheong combined his love for art with a teaching career but finally left teaching in 1978 to become a professional artist. He eschewed a formal art education in favour of developing his artistic skills through the rigorous process of constant practice, experimentation and experience. He did this with the mentorship of well-known sculptor, Bro. Joseph McNally.
It was Bro. McNally who suggested that Fahcheong try carving wood, advice that the young artist enthusiastically adopted, creating sculptures from tropical woods such as teak, mahogany, chengal, jambu, and rambutan. He associated with and learned from other Singapore sculptors like Ng Eng Teng and Han Sai Por. Together they travelled to Italy to explore the pure white Italian marbles of Carrara and Pietrasanta. From here, it was a natural progression to putting hammer and chisel to granite, jade and other stones. Fahcheong travelled wherever he found the opportunity to develop his art. He has worked with marble from the limestone hills of Ipoh, Malaysia, and carved stone in Vietnam. Besides carving, Fahcheong worked in stainless steel and bronze. He uses the lost wax method of casting, creating his unique sculptures in foundries in Western Australia, Thailand, and Canada. Often, he brings together his knowledge of working with different kinds of material, blending these elements into sculptures that are harmonious combinations of wood, stone and bronze.
When Bro. McNally founded the SIA-LaSalle College of Art and Design (formerly LASALLE) in 1984, Fahcheong was one of its founding art lecturers. When he moved to British Columbia, Canada, in 1989, he became a visiting lecturer at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. In 1996, he joined the Art Institute at Capilano College, North Vancouver, Canada, to do a one-year post-graduate certificate programme, firm in the belief that in the practise of his art, learning never stops.
To this end, Fahcheong has taken part in many sculpture workshops and symposiums. In 2002, he was a participant in the Okanagan-Thompson International Sculpture Symposium held in the Okanagan region of British Columbia, Canada. As a result of this symposium, “Romp”, a bronze sculpture of three children playing on large boulders, now stands on the shores of Okanagan Lake in the town of Penticton. The nearby West Kelowna, BC, community is home to “Girl in the Cloud”, a marble sculpture completed in 2003. In 2005, he attended the Second International Sculpture Symposium in An Giang Province, Vietnam. An Giang Province now has possession of “ha-ha.com”, another marble sculpture that explores the place of fortune, wealth, and belief in our lives.