Re-opening of National Library Singapore 22 July 2005


Picture: LEE Hui Lian presenting her work to Miss Lim Soo Hoon, Chairman of the National Library Board, Singapore, at the reception of the Re-opening of the NLB on the 22th of July in appreciation of NLB’s support to her solo art exhibition which was also launched on the 22th of July and continued till the 24th of July, 2005 at the Central Lending Library of the National Library Singapore. Next to Hui Lian is Madam Kang Sai Mui, Senior Head of Scholarships at the Ministry of Education Singapore.


(photo courtesy of The Star Malaysia .20th July 2005)

My Journey…

The coach jerked so abruptly that I fell back on the bed and bumped my head against the wall. Feeling sore, I sat up again, careful to avoid the ‘ceiling’ of the bunk centimetres above me, and peered through the window on my right to catch a last glimpse of KL city.  The city was engulfed in darkness except for the spotlights that illuminated the skyscrapers like a lit Christmas tree. Looking at my watch, I realised it was already 11pm.  

My journey to Singapore by train was about to begin…

These four years being in Singapore is akin to taking a ride on a train, or at times, a roller coaster. There were times when the roads were bumpy leaving me nauseous, yet there were times when cabin crew came by to lend a helping hand to ease that discomfort; there were times when I saw many strangers from all walks of life passing by my bunk, yet more often than not, they would give you a welcoming smile; there were times when the train would go for hours on the rail, yet once in a while, it would stop for a rest; there were times when life seemed like a roller coaster – the agony of climbing up the steep track and then experiencing the split seconds of a heart stopping journey, yet at the end of it, I would look back and smile at the amazing experience that I had gone through…

‘Will I be able to fit in?’ were the immediate thoughts that came to my mind just four short years ago when I first stepped into Singapore to pursue my secondary school education under the ASEAN scholarship at a tender age of fifteen. For a moment, I felt so lost and forlorn in the midst of a sea of students in blue tunics when I set foot in the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (Toa Payoh), fresh and new. This feeling did not last for the reticent girl within me blossomed through various extra-curricular activities that I undertook while at the National Junior College and at CHIJ (Toa Payoh). Despite encountering setbacks that frequently left me on the verge of relinquishing all hope, it was through sheer determination and support from my peers that helped me through the challenges. It was also through these times that I truly appreciated the value of friendship and the meaning of starting small.

Adjusting to hostel life can be quite remarkable, having to live in a community comprising of people my age from all parts of the world. Although at times the sheer amount of academic work had us inventing various innovative albeit masochistic ways to stay awake, nevertheless, I had the time of my life turning dull hostel life into a carnival complete with disastrous cooking episodes and late night showings of horror films that had my fellow housemates reeling.

The late night supper cum movie event organized by the boarding house, formal dinners, festive celebrations, water polo games were but some of the many experiences which I will never forget.

Then there were the memories of working long hours in the art studios, having to creep down spooky corridors and climbing over the school gates when we students got locked in for staying in the studios for too long, not to mention missing dinners most of the time. Nonetheless, the joy of engaging in such humorous escapades kept my spirits high. I had friends who would bring stacks of oddly flavoured instant noodles or re-enact scenes from Romeo and Juliet with the limited art studio props, spicing up what may seem like an agonizingly long period of time spent on our art coursework.


Paintings in oil, watercolour etc have become an integral part of my self-expression. Unlike other kids my age, pastel chalks, plasticine, colour pencils replaced conventional toys of Barbie dolls, as my parents would watch me create extraordinary works of spaceships akin to crabs, dogs swimming underwater on paper or even houses built on wheels. At times, the immaculately clean walls of our home were subjected to scribblings of houses or human faces painted in green like those of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’. 

While in Singapore, I loved spending my weekends out of the hostel: I’d hop from one art gallery to the other, museums to museums with my fellow boarding mates or school mates, embark on food hunting sprees at Chinatown, where the heavenly food and architecture never failed to amaze me, watch musicals such as ‘Oliver’ and ‘Miss Saigon’, cycle at the beach, or merely sit by the river sketching. 


Four years in Singapore, away from home, has developed my skills to adapt to a new environment, as I grew to be more independent in many different ways. As a whole, the experience of living in a culturally diverse community as well as the exposure to the different Asian cultures has helped enrich me as person. As Michelangelo has it, “I saw an angel in the marble and I carved it until I set him free”. Living in Singapore has had a similar effect on me and I hope to continue growing as a person as I seek out fresh endeavours.

This is a journey I will never forget for it has truly laid a mark in my passage through life.

 LEE Hui Lian, April 2005  


  Klang series    

 …The road snaked along the plain into the horizon. The high sunlit clouds drifted across the clear blue sky. I peered up, squinted my eyes a little under the blindingly hot sun, trying hard to make out what seemed to be at the horizon. Tiny, ant-like huts peppered the vast land. Feverishly, I transposed what caught my senses onto the uneven surface of cold-pressed paper, oblivious to the inquisitive eyes of passer-bys who stood around.

Akin to a photocopier of images and the soul, my right hand, gripping a brush firmly, worked miraculously to compose a picture that effectively captured the instantaneous feeling and atmosphere, the window of the outside world as seen through my eyes. What may appear to be a pure white sky is infused with my personal touch of delicate strokes and emotion, churning out colours of violet merging with a tint of grey. A picture does not speak a thousand words, it speaks a million, as it encapsulates even elements as intangible as sensation, as complex as consciousness.

Klang, a small port town where I grew up just fifteen miles south of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, is truly an artist’s delight.  

Traveling from one end of the town to the other, capturing details which are often taken granted for, inevitably became an undying quest which I seek to fulfill. During the weekends or the school holidays, the afternoon sun would often find my family squatting under trees or by the port, crediting the splendour of Mother Nature and intricate facades of buildings with paintings…    


Flower series   

My name in Chinese means lotus. I guess that’s where my infatuation with the lotus flower comes from.

I have always been fascinated by the beauty of the lotus plant – a plant so pure yet so charismatic as it stands singularly and gallantly among the widely spread leaves that surrounds it. The flawless layers of petals that appear silky with a gradual tone of pink or off-white coexist harmoniously with the pastel green leaves, leaving me nothing but admiration for it.

Thus, I decided to embark on my ‘Lotus’ series where I sought to, and still seek to, define the sophistication of the lotus plant.  


Special Thanks to

Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore  
National Library Board, Singapore  
Lee Hui Ling for curating this exhibition; my parents, teachers, friends and the mass media who have helped make this exhibition a success.