Chua Mia Tee was born in 1931 in China. Chua was only six when he and his family migrated to Singapore in 1937 because of the Sino-Japanese war in China. At the age of 19, he began his art training under Chen Chong Swee at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
In his third year, the principal of NAFA, Lim Hak Tai, asked him if he could teach the afternoon class and Chua agreed to it. Upon graduation in 1952, he began to teach in the Academy.
Between 1957 and 1974, he was a commercial artist and made his mark with an exhibition at the Rising Art Gallery, which was also his first solo art exhibition. Chua was later best remembered for his painting of the National Day celebration at the Padang in 1984 where two thousand reprints of it were sold out in just two weeks.
Many years later Chua is still one of Singapore's most famous and skilled realistic artists. His approach to painting has remained the same as to him, “There is no development away from realism. I want to improve on what I’ve got, to improve my technique. I travel a lot to view other methods: oil is a very complicated medium.”
To Chua, Art must reflect real life. It need not necessarily be fully naturalistic but it must be firmly grounded in reality. However, he is swift to make a firm distinction between realism and naturalism, which is where “the artist paints everything without discrimination. But in realism, you work from important, meaningful details”.
His childhood experiences influenced him in his choice of theme and subjects. Chua was also inspired by social realism as his works all focus on the working class and places them in the spotlight. By taking the everyday and making it special, by portraying it in art, Chua has highlighted and created "heroes" out of the working class. It gives the budding country a sense of national pride and to promote patriotism. Similarly, it also gives the people a sense of national identity and...