Nanyang Style is a regional art movement expressed solely in the form of visual art. The first attempts to define the Nanyang Style were made by art historians, Redza Piyadasa and T.K. Sabapathy, in 1979, during a retrospective study of Nanyang artists’ works. This study was done in tribute to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). The Nanyang style of painting was practised by migrant Chinese painters in Singapore in the 1950s.
The Chinese phrase 'nanyang' “南洋”, meaning south seas, stirred visions of tropical paradise. In the mid-20th century, a group of Chinese immigrants founded the Nanyang Style of art in Southeast Asia when they portrayed the rural scenes of Bali.
The pioneers of the Nanyang Style are Liu Kang, Chen Chong Swee, Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong Soo Pieng and Georgette Chen, the first four of whom had received training in traditional Chinese watercolor painting in China. Art historian Redza Piyadasa states that Nanyang artists must be affiliated to NAFA, or a teacher or student in the school. This includes artists who studied privately under NAFA teachers.
The primary medium of Nanyang Style is Chinese ink and colour, or oil on canvas. A simple use of colours and lines is similar to those of post-Impressionists, such as Vincent van Gogh. The art style reflects the universal culture of migrants, who in this case adapted to and accepted a new mix of Western, Chinese and indigenous beliefs and practices.
During the opening address of the Nanyang Art Over 40 years exhibition, Acting Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew commentated that the Nanyang Style is not too distinctive on its own, being very similar to Chinese art.[not in citation given]
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