An Artistic Giant

Students from St Margaret's Secondary reciting Swie Hian's poem "A Tribute to Gandhi" in Mandarin.

Recently, we had the privilege of being invited to the launch of the 9-volume Selected Works of Tan Swie Hian and Recital of Tan Swie Hian's Poetry and Songs by the man himself. Happening at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, the event was graced by Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for Health and an ardent fan of Chinese art himself.

Put together by Candid Creation Publishing and the National Library Board, the event was certainly well orchestrated. The room was packed with close to 200 friends, students, and supporters of Swie Hian - one of Singapore's foremost multi-disciplinary artist. He was literally mobbed by the hordes of fans, especially students, who clamoured for his autograph! The event was well covered by the press too.

Who is Tan Swie Hian you may ask? Like master potter Iskandar Jalil, he is one of the giants in our local artistic scene and probably the most acclaimed living artist. Few would forget his stunning performance at the Venice Biennale in 2003, where he swooped and swerved wielding a large brush on a huge canvas doing an inspirational Chinese calligraphy piece at San Marco Square.

Swie Hian was recently crowned with the highest accolade for heritage philanthropy at NHB's recent inaugural Patron of Heritage Awards. He certainly deserves all the awards that he was crowned with over the years, including the World Economic Forum's Crystal Award in 2003. They put our tiny red dot on the global artistic map - quite a feat considering how many think that we are a cultural desert.

What's amazing is how he manages to be talented in diverse artistic fields in the visual, literary and performing circles. He is also a highly prolific reader with a huge collection of books which he donated to the National Library.
Swie Hian's collection of 6,500 donated books, manuscripts and other items at the National Library

In the words of Candid Creation Publishing's Chief Editor Phoon Kwee Hian, "....The sheer breadth and depth of this literary world is possible because of his extraordinary power of imagination, stunning expressions, acute sense of discovery, rich experiences in life and his profound wisdom." Having seen his works and heard his poetry, I certainly couldn't agree more.

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