If anything, throughout his life, he was ever the upstart – at school, at work, at play. Yet when it came to discovering, and realising his creative identity, it has taken all of 62 summers.
Born 1948 in post-war colonial Singapore, K Y Huang grew up in a period where life was laid back and relatively stress free. Those were days when school took up only half a day and left the remaining part of the day for play. Back then, most people lived in wooden sheds, shop houses and kampongs, while those better off lived in landed properties and trees were plenty and laden with fruits and canals doubled up as swimming pools for kids.
Even at a young age, Huang loved to sketch and paint but since art was not a monetarily ‘rewarding’ vocation, he had to tow the line as his peers. But his passion for art never died and so during his undergrad days, Huang helped man exhibitions for the grandmaster Lee Man Fong. From this renowned artist, he learned the finer points in composition, balance and form.
After graduation, Huang pursued a corporate career for about 25 years. He worked as a Management Consultant and later run car companies for several years. All the years spent in the corporate world enabled Huang to travel and purchase art on a regular basis. He thus became an avid art collector and soon sold his collections at auction houses, including big names like Christie’s.
Huang got to know many of Singapore’s pioneer artists (such as Seah Kim Joo, Thomas Yeo, Chen Wen Hsi and others) on a personal basis. Occasionally, he would attend evening art classes at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and People’s Association (PA).
In 2007, Huang retired from the corporate world, at the age of 59, and in pursuit of his first love, he started an art gallery with some friends. He travelled extensively around Southeast Asia acquiring artworks by promising artists. In managing them, he observed that many of these artists had formal art education and good techniques but seemed to lack the “feel, instinct and eye” to create winning compositions and concepts.
He mentored some of the artists and shared what he knew. The improvements in the artworks by artists using his concepts and approach were evident. Encouraged by these events, Huang felt confident enough to conduct a series of workshops for PA and also helped put together a successful competition and art exhibition at Chingay 2011. It was during one of these workshops that the thought of creating his own artworks came to Huang.
As with everything else he does, Huang pursued this quest with fervour, discipline and commitment. He started with painting and later turned to sculptures.
When asked what keeps him going, he says: “One cannot live life aimlessly. We should have something to excite us constantly and want to wake up to a new day. My passion for art motivates me to welcome each day with a smile and pour my creativity into my works.”
Huang spends up to eight hours a day sketching. When sufficiently satisfied with his sketches, he begins the process of bringing them to life through clay and resin. He believes that humility is the key to learning and with faith all things are possible.
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