Goh Beng Kwan, (b. 1937, Indonesia) was born in 1937 in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia and resettled in Singapore in 1945. His formative studies under ‘pioneer masters’ Dr. Chen Wen Hsi and Cheong Soo Pieng in the 1950s instilled in him an abiding appreciation of Asian art traditions.
Under an Allen Tucker Scholarship, then a Ford Foundation Scholarship, Goh pursued his art education at the reputed Art Students’ League of New York (1962-63), and Provincetown Workshop, Massachusetts (1964). Goh’s art underwent radical shifts. He was initiated into collage by the renowned collagist Leo Manso [1914-1993], and registered a renewed sense of his Chinese and Peranakan ancestries, which he began to reference in his works.
Goh returned to Singapore in 1966, and in the ensuing decades, emerged as an outstanding collagist and a pivotal figure of modern art in Singapore. He introduced an astonishing range of materials into art-making including tea-wrappings, acupuncture diagrams, nails, strings, and sand. His broadening of the boundaries of what was acceptable artists’ resources was enormously influential on successive generations of mixed media artists.
A nostalgia for ‘unspoilt nature’ in the face of urbanisation began to be discernible in Goh’s landscapes of the 1970s and 1980s. Goh’s collage ‘Dune’ won the first prize in the UOB Painting of the Year in 1982, and much acclaim was to follow. For his contribution to the visual arts, Goh was honoured with the Cultural Medallion in 1989. He is today regarded as one of the vanguard artists of a generation that shaped modern art history in Singapore.