0417 GMT January 27, 2020
Born in Singapore in 1931, Choo was the only son of a Teochew trader. After gaining certificates from Catholic High School and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), he began his career as a teacher, straitstimes.com reported.
He started on-the-spot painting in the streets when he was in his 30s. Accompanied by his tireless father, who would carry easel and paints and an umbrella to shelter his son, he headed to places such as Chinatown and staked out his subjects for hours on end.
Choo eventually gained a reputation as a painter who could combine Western impressionism and rules of perspective with traditional Chinese brushwork. He continued working on his paintings and woodcuts in spite of the pain due to a degenerative spinal cord condition.
The artist, who made numerous trips across Southeast Asia, depicted the rural lifestyles in the region. He is also remembered for his paintings of animals. He once had more than 20 doves in his Pasir Ris home, and also kept a pet rooster as well as about 10 Persian cats – all of which became subjects in his paintings.
He was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1976 for his contributions to art. A long-time philanthropist, he has also donated his paintings and proceeds from their sales to charity.
Former president Ong Teng Cheong was a fan of Choo’s work. The Singapore government also commissioned his paintings as gifts to foreign dignitaries.
In 1989, four postage stamps were issued bearing the artist’s Chinatown paintings.
Filmmaker Eric Lim, 55, recently filmed Choo for his documentary ‘Memories of Chinatown’ that premieres next month. He says Choo had a jovial personality.
Choo stopped painting his favorite haunt, however, “as the view has changed a lot,” Lim said.
Yu, who described the late artist as amiable and unassuming, added: “Now that he’s gone, it’s a big loss for the arts scene in Singapore.”