Lim Kim Hai (林金海), 1966, Oil on Canvas, 66 x 56 cm
Of course as Singapore merged with Malaysia, then entered independence, a new sort of identity began to solidify. Now cast out to survive on its own for the second time, Singapore was in a vulnerable position. Uncertainty, and subsequently anxiety, about its future was the foremost concern of this period. This sentiment is acutely captured in Koeh’s 1966 portrait of a man. Set against the backdrop of an unexpected expulsion from the merger, the subject’s brow is fittingly furrowed in consternation. Rendered in Koeh’s signature impressionistic style, the scene seems suspended in time, as stray dots of white paint and touches of ambient light soften the atmosphere. Though his arms are crossed, the man’s distant gaze suggests it is simply a sign of deep thought. Considering this was created on the 1 year anniversary of Singapore’s independence, one might guess it is in contemplation of Singapore’s uncertain future.