The most striking feature of a Lai Jui Fang painting is his
amazing attention to detail to achieve a high degree of realism.
Lai Kui-Fang (Shao Feng), a man of Dao Pu Origin in China, a citizen of
Singapore and also a French resident entitled to special privileges.
In 1963, Lai Kui-Fang won a government scholarship to further his studies at the World renowned "Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts" in Paris. He specialised in figure drawing for 7 years and has achieved an excellent result. In view of the result, Lai Kui-Fang was recommended by Prof. Chapelain-MIDY for 5 consecutive scholarships. In 1969, he obtained the "Diplome Superieur des Arts-Plastiques" (equivalent to the Master's Degree of the National University of Singapore). In the same year, he proceeded to learn sculpture under the tutelage of Prof. Etienne Martin. Meanwhile, he also learnt bronze casting, stone sculpture, fresco painting, mosaic, stained-glass till 1972.
During his study in Europe, Lai Kui-Fang was furthermore awarded an Italian government scholarship, a bursary from "Visitator Apostolicus de sud I'Est Asiatique" and a four-year grant from the Lee Foundation, Singapore. He devoted himself to professional training and in the meantime, he was engaged in research on the paintings of celebrated old masters at the world's largest arts museum, the Louvre for 10 and 15 years respectively. His painting and sculpture is influenced by the Renaissance, Classical and the Netherlands and French Schools, the French Royaume style, Romanticism, Realism as well as 19th Century NeoRealism. His masterpieces possess the qualities of the paintings collected by traditional western European galleries. His paintings are bright and vivid and they give an impression of harmony with the beauty of nature. Thus his work has been appreciated by the nobility, dignitaries in the circles of politics, business and banking & art collectors.
As early in the sixties and seventies, Lai Kui-Fang's work is already well-known not only in Paris but highly acclaimed in the international scene. In 1966, he received the 1st Gold medallist from "Salon Des Artistes Francais" that was internationally announced by Reuter, A.F.P. and A.P. In 1968, the Republic of France conferred him the Knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters. In 1975, he was preferred to Officer of Arts, the highest honour bestowed by the government to distinguished masters of the arts. In 1969, he won the Grand Gold Medal of the City of Paris which was granted to him in recognition of his contributions to France. In 1967 and 1969, he was awarded two Grand Prizes from the President of the Republic of France. During 15 years in France, he has made an impressive record of winning 49 prizes, including gold & silver medals, decorations gazetted Arts Awards.
In Singapore he took first top prize and merit prize for the First Defence Art Competition in 1991, among 176 entries from 119 artists.
Lai's exposure to the masterpieces of the European Renaissance could be seen in his painting which had been largely inspired by Classical, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionistic, 19th Century Neo-Classical Realistic tradition , Italian Renaissance and the Netherlands School so much so that it landed him the job of been appointed the official copyist for reproducing the Master Pieces of the Louvre Museum.
A successful society portrait artist in oils, he has painted the portraits of many dignitaries, both local and foreign.
An oil artist par excellence, Lai paints in the European classical tradition. His portraits and landscapes bear the influences of the Old Masters and the great Romantics such as Goya Rembrandt and Delacroix. He skills in restoring masterpieces, which included more than 300 paintings, is sought after by museums and private collectors. He has also developed new techniques of restoring paintings damaged by heat.
Lai is also just as successful as a sculptor, working in diverse media such a bronze, pewter, cement fondu, marble, clay and fibre glass. Over the years Lai has captured the likeness of many foreign and local dignitaries and personalities in his sculpture and oil portraits. He is also a souvenir coin designer for the Mint of Paris, specializing in Oriental figures.
In 1991, Lai Kui-Fang obtained an Honorable Doctor's Degree in Arts from the Albert Einstein International Academic Foundation. In 1993, Pacific Western University, USA, bestowed a Doctor's Degree of Fine Arts on him.
The works of Lai Kui-Fang has been largely collected by national municipals and private collectors. There are 17 masterpieces in the Triton Museum of Arts in the USA, 2 in City of Paris, 1 in City of Juvisy, France, 3 historical paintings and 7 others in the National Museum of Singapore. His paintings can also be seen in New York, Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, San Francisco, Camel Santa Clera , San Jose, Giroy, Los Angeles, Paris, Ils de France, Corse, Nice, Sardinia, Rome, Milan, Greece, Geneva, Basel, Zurich, St. Gallan, Madrid, Western Berlin, Canada, Belgium, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Penang, Sabah, Brunei, The Philippines, Japan, China, and Singapore.
In 1972, honourably invited by the Triton Museum of Arts for a month ofSolo Exhibition. Following the Solo Exhibition in Singapore in 1972, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1990, 1991 until presemt.
Lai Kui-Fang is listed in the French directories: "Who's Who", "The Human Value of Golden Book" (Le Livre d'Or de Valeur Humaines '70), Contemporary National Dictionary '68. He is also listed in Singapore Artists Directory, Singapore Artists, Annual of Fine Arts, and Who's Who in Singapore and Malaysia "Singapore Artist Speak 2", "Singapore Artists Directory 1996". He is an editor'(Singapore-France) of Editorial Board for the World Famous Contemporay Artists' Dictionary and the world Famous Artists' Painting and Calligraphy Collection.
Lai has left his mark not only in Europe but in more recent years, in the People's Republic of China. In 1987, Lai was the first Singaporean to be invited to contribute poem cum calligraphy inscripted on the famous Henan Stone in Henan Yellow River.
His poems in the form of calligraphy have been inscribed on the famous stones in Taishan, Kaifeng.
Lai Kui-Fang has been assigned various appointments in China. He is a Lecturer in Fresco Protection of China National UNESCO Committee, Foreign Advisor of "Teenagers in China & abroad Magazine", Honorable Dean of the Institute of Poetry, Painting and Calligraphy of Tien Shui, Consultant of the Academic of the Zhang-Zhi Eastern Han Memorial Hall Dunhuang, and of the Hanyen Famous Stone Inscription Committee, Chairman of the World Renowned Artist-Review Committee and a member of the Academic of Taishan.
In September 1990, Lai was invited to attend the First Taishan International Academic Symposium organised by UNESCO and the China UNESCO National Committee . He was appointed as lecturer to give series of talks on the restoration and the preservation of Fresco painting.
In September 1991, Lai Kui-Fang was invited by the Government of Henan in China to attend an exhibition of well-known artists from China itself and abroad. Again in 1992 he was requested to be present at Three Gorges 2nd Arts Festival in Hubei. In 1993, he is assigned an Honorable Chairman for Asian Artists' Association and China Zhe-Ming Culture-Education Foundation.
In October 1993, he has been appointed Member of Permanent Council of HENAN OVERSEAS EXCHANGES ASSOCIATION.
In December 1993, he was awarded Gold Medal from the "GOLDEN GOOSE PRIZE CALLIGRAPHY & PAINTING" competition in China.
In June 1993, he was conferred as " World's Great Artists" Nominated by the World Renowned Artist-Review International Committee, CHINA. Also obtained Gold Prize for his contribution in the field of Arts...
In term of his activities in Singapore, he has been appointed by Prime Minister's Office as Member of Serangoon Gardens Citizens' Consultative Committee and Chairman for SubConstituency Area One for the Serangoon Gardens Thomson GRC. In December 1993, he was appointed as Adviser for the Choa Chu Kang Art Centre. In addition, he serves as Committee members for Chuang Chu-Lin Scholarship Foundation, Da Qiao School Advisory Committee, Pei Dao Secondary School Advisory Committee. Moreover, he has designed greeting cards for use by the Singapore Cabinet as well as another series of greeting cards for Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.
The Singapore government has commissioned Lai Kui-Fang to depict the history of Singapore on 3 large paintings when the former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew first gained independence from the Birtish in 1959. His monumental bronze statues stand in Chung Cheng High School and Pei Chun School.
Present commission include a large oil painting portrait of President Ong Teng Cheong.
Another 2.5 metre high "Joy" green Bronze casting stand in the garden of Choa Chu Kang constituency...
But it's easy to see what he's preoccupied with. In the porch, a huge oil painting of a lady reclined on a couch strikes the visitor, with its vibrant colours and composition. And in another room, the beginning of a portrait of President Ong Teng Cheong awaits Lai's attention.
"That one's commissioned by the History Museum to be displayed in 1997," offers Mr Lai, gazing at the already distinct likeness of President Ong. "I paint the back ground and his clothes from a picture, but for his face and hands, I have to get a van to bring the painting to the Istana and have him sit for me."
For the 59-year-old Mr Lai, painting dignitaries and important people - both local and foreign - is not at all unusual. After all, he has painted Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew as well as the country's first elected government at its swearing-in ceremony in 1959.
Recent works include historical painting depicting the signing of the Japanese surrender treaty and a discussion led by General Percival as he decided on Britain's surrender of Singapore - each with a $300,000 price tag.
Not surprisingly, most of his portraits are commissioned by politicians, VIPs, doctors, bankers and professionals - many of them desiring to be preserved in the combination of European classical, Romantic and realistic tradition that Mr Lai excels in. And going by the life-like painting in the porch, they will not be disappointed.
"The face is the most important feature," explains Mr Lai, who prefers to converse in Mandarin. "Who Will want your painting if the face does not look like theirs? I also need to see their hands when I paint them, to capture the veins and folds of the skin. Then will it be realistic."
A perfectionist he might be, but that is what you would expect from a man who spent 15 years training in France, 10 of those at the prestigious Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In those years, he collected a whopping 44 medals for his artistic achievements, including the Knight and Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters, as well as the Grand Prize from the French president.
The fact that he is an official restorer and copyist for masterpieces of the Louvre Museum shows the recognition of his talent and skills at precision work. Most of his works are in the collections of corporations, governments, museums and private individuals in Europe and the US.
And to think that his father wanted him to be a doctor. Mr Lai recalls: "My father, a mainland Chinese, said that in China, you can't make money as an artist - they're very poor - and if I were to become one, I'd be a beggar. As a doctor, even the poor and dying will pay for my services. But I told him the very smell of medicine makes me want to throw up!"
The truth is, Johor-born Mr Lai is blessed with artistic talent, something he cultivated as a five-year-old during the Japanese invasion. "When the Japanese troops moved in, my family went into the forest in Labis, Johor," says the chatty artist. "We didn't have a school, of course, so we'd just play with marbles, catch spiders, swim and fish. And I was so free, I started drawing."
As there were no pens or pencils available, he used charcoal. "I drew on the wooden walls of my home and I never understood why they left spaces between the boards," says Mr Lai with a laugh. "I drew the Japanese soldiers beating the Chinese!
"But basically, the environment in the forest was conducive. I drew snakes, butterflies, tigers - there were a lot of wild beasts then - and other animals that I saw around me. They were very beautiful and gave me inspiration"
As a youth, Mr Lai moved to Singapore, where he studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and was shortlisted for that important French government scholarship to train in Paris. Recognising his talent and Industry, his principal gave $250 -- a big sum in those days -- to the Alliance Francais, so he could learn the French language.
In the meantime, Mr Lai worked for Grant Advertising the biggest ad agency in those days, earning a fairly generous $500 a month. He says with a smile: "I was the one who drew the picture for all those old Esso gas, Nestle, Fab, Land Rover and Colgate ads."
In 1963, he was given the scholarship to France. "I heard that France was expensive and I only had a few thousand dollars in my bank then, so I didn't want to go," says Mr Lai. But after "a big scolding" from his mentors, he left for the Parisian training that would bring him his current status.
Since then, he has completed about 2,000 portraits. A six-month stint in Rome has also equipped him with the skills of a sculptor - an example of which is a bronze bust of the late Yeoh Ghim Seng a surgeon and former Speaker of Parliament.'
On busy days, Mr Lai paints for 2-1/2 hours each in the morning, afternoon and evening, spending about 10 months out of a year painting. Other than portraits, his paintings of landscapes and goldfish are also in demand. Depending on the size, Mr Lai's triple-layer oil portraits cost anywhere between $6,000 and $80,000 each.
Mr Lai's 54-year-old home-maker wife, 20-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter share his home cum workplace. In his home are also three or four cabinets crammed with Chinese antiques -- the result of a l0-year-old hobby. Like the haphazard way in which his living room is organised, carvings in different grades of jade share shelf space with crystal figurines, fine porcelain and bronze artefacts. Even his antique earthen wares are simply wrapped in plastic bags, totally free of the special lighting and display cases that most collectors are wont to have.
But while he is obviously delighted to share his fascination with these Chinese treasures, Mr Lai isn't at all keen to pass on his skills in painting.
"I feel very fortunate to have had the scholarship to learn. But if I were to be a teacher, I'd just stay at the same level, teaching students to paint apples and grapes," he explains. "Though it may sound a bit selfish, I can only have the time to improve myself as a full-time professional artist.
"Otherwise, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to paint Mr Lee Kuan Yew. right?"
Paris-Trained, World Class Portrait Artist Cum
From Singapore Acclaimed in Istana , Jakarta, Indonesia.
(H.E. PRESIDENT MEGAWTI WITH ARTIST AT ISTANA.
Collection of H.E. PRESEDENT MAGAWTI IBU MEGAWATI SOEKARNO PUTRI ISTANA, JAKARTA)
AN AMICABLY CONVERSATION WITH H.E. PRESIDENT
IBU MEGAWATI SOEKARNO PUTRI AT ISTANA,JAKARTA
From Today, August 28,2002.
From Lianhe Zhaobao, August 27, 2002
Dr. Lai Kui-Fang (60), world-class artist, portraitist & sculptor, and Paris-trained French scholar and holder of Knight/Officer of the French Order of Arts & Letters by the French government recently finished a large oil painting masterpiece depicting the world shocking and tragically moving event in New York City, USA last September.
The large oil painting titled September 911 - America Under Attack is Dr Lai's most recent large scale painting, measuring 2m by 4m long. This oil masterpiece depicts the final terrifying moments of the Twin Tower office buildings collapsing after being hit by two commercial airlines respectively. And also captured on canvass are the chaotic mass of survivors running desperately away from the collapsing towers and their horrified looks that will forever remain etched in people mind around the world that witnessed this tragic incident on their TV sets.
Primarily, Dr. Lai's motivation to capture this tragic event on canvass this first globally shocking historical moment of the 21st century is for future generations of humanity to reflect upon the significance of this tragic day. For this objective, Dr. Lai has succeeded in capturing this historically significant moment.
To complete this oil painting, Dr. Lai spent 478 hours, including countless pencil sketches, revisions, contemplations and comments from his peers before the final moment is realistically drawn on canvass.
This oil masterpiece depicts about 260 human figures and
faces, more than 100 firefighters, 34 office towers including the
Manhattan bridge with the haunting silhouette of the Statute of Liberty in
the distant background as seen from ground zero.