Director’s cut of the story of Yeh Chi Wei

Last Saturday, which was pretty much the fourth of September had me going to the Singapore Arts Museum in the evening. This is the same day of what you’ll see in the next episode of SDS, heh heh. I was invited to this special session by@brainopera about Yeh Chi Wei which was going to be talk/tour by his granddaughter, Jacey Yeh! The tour is technically called “The (other) story of Yeh Chi Wei” but to me it’s like a director’s cut version of his story!

LE GASP indeed!

By the way, the exhibition is on until 12 September. ALSO, I read that she’ll be doing a tour on the 11th at around 5pm. Contact the museum prior to that or something. EDIT: Email Ms. Masitah Ismail (Education Officer) at for the tour!

This is the Ten Men Group that he had formed. Oh yes, who is he? Here’s a little copy paste from the museum’s webby.

Yeh Chi Wei was a mover and shaker of Singapore’s early art scene. Members of the artistic community would know how this quiet artist worked laboriously and played significant roles in shaping visual art during the 1960s and 70s. Yeh created some of the most distinctive oil paintings, and defined a unique Southeast Asian style.

Etc, etc. There’s books on him if you want to know more but this post is going to be about what I learned from his granddaughter instead. That’s so totally not in the books!

The tour started at the level 2 galleries in which Jacey introduced herself to us and then briefly told us about who her grandfather was. At the entrance of the gallery, you’ll see the artifacts he had collected as he went around Asia with his group as they made art. What’s interesting is that she had lived with these artifacts and the paintings of her grandfather to tell us of the extra bits of stories behind them.

At the start, we were told to look at the sword in one of his travels and THUS, we started on the “other” story.

The first painting as you head in his side of the gallery (there’s a few sections, one section has pieces from his Ten Men Group) is this one. What’s interesting to note is that the painting had been repainted a few times and DUH DUH DUH, the sword was added. You can see it at the bottom right of it.

It’s a very “Oooooooh my!” start of the tour since the paintings aren’t just like that. I don’t think the reference books and such had this down in it.

As we went by the paintings, she stopped at key paintings elaborating more about them. The history and what went on “behind” the paintings. At some points I wanted to go “OH SNAP!” at the stories of what happened but no, I didn’t do that of course since I was on a tour with proper arty people.

The crowd was definitely intrigued with the story nonetheless. For one thing, he actually frowned upon one of his sons that took up art since it wasn’t profitable. Or at least, it was really difficult to be an artist then (and now!).

This painting of the Angkor Wat is actually unfinished. It was taken away from one of his sons for some reason and even though he told him that he’d finish the painting for him, the son ran away with it. The extent of the damage of the paintings in the gallery, especially the ones that have been applied with a palate knife, are plenty. You can see cracks up close but somehow, this does not detract from the piece itself.

For me it just added to it since it added to the character of it. You might notice the damage that the conservators tried to fix but couldn’t because they’re too fragile. Try not to be tempted to get too close to it and fall on it cause it’ll be freaky if you did. The damage is due to non proper storage of it.

It’s like, what if you do have an artist or craftsman in the family. You see all these things often and think it normal but to others, they’re precious. And then you’re unable to store it properly because you might think it’s just an every day thing or had no opportunity to do so since things like these need special storage areas to do so.

By the time we arrived at the last piece of the tour, we learned of not just the history of him but of his family, his travels and of what happened in that era when he painted them.

Now as we learned in a textbook manner of how he did his artwork, we knew what might have influenced him back then. Of his struggles when he did them. It’s not a very Disney happy story but it certainly was engaging.

And then we could wander around the exhibition of our own or talk to Jacey and ask her questions!

Oh yes, like plenty of museum exhibits I’ve gone to, this had an interactive area for kids too! It’s a bit small compared to the other museums but then this isn’t a large exhibit like the Asian Civilization Museum or the main National Museum.

I received an informative book for teachers/guides/students if they came to the exhibition for an excursion!

In any case, AUGH? WHICH IS THE ROOSTER? Also, spot anything about the left page? Mwuhahah. I hope whoever did the book didn’t get grief over that.

Catch guided tours for art exhibitions if you can! You learn more than just going to them for a looksee! You can never know what you’ll learn about it. Also, remember! This one ends on the 12th and if you want to go for a tour by Jacey, it’ll be on the 11th! Email Ms. Masitah Ismail (Education Officer) for more info about the tour at

Published by


Well, this is seriously Sarah and that's all you need to know for now.

One thought on “Director’s cut of the story of Yeh Chi Wei”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.