Liu Kang | 刘抗 (b. 1911, Fujian, China; d. 2004, Singapore) is regarded as a first generation artist. Liu was primarily an oil painter. During his distinguished career which spanned more than 60 years, he produced a wide portfolio of works. He is best known for his figurative paintings with Balinese themes, inspired by his 1952 trip to Bali with his peers Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi and Chen Chong Swee, all proponents of the Nanyang style of painting.
Liu’s childhood was spent in Muar, Malaya. He began his art education in the 1920s while he was still at school, attending classes at the Shanghai College of Fine Arts. He went on to Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts under the artist Liu Haisu. Upon graduation from Xinhua in 1928, Liu continued his studies at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris from 1929 to 1933. Here, he was drawn to the works of the Post-Impressionist artists such as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh.
Liu moved to Singapore in 1942, contributing greatly to the art scene. As president of the Society of Chinese Artists, Liu with Richard Walker, Francis Thomas, C. A. Gibson-Hill and others formed the Singapore Art Society in 1949. For his contributions, Liu received several awards, including the Public Service Star in 1970 and Meritorious Service Medal in 1996.
Liu held his first solo exhibition in Singapore in 1957. In 1981, the National Museum Art Gallery exhibited 220 paintings in the Liu Kang Retrospective. A travelling exhibition of his work followed in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In 2003 Liu made a large donation of his life’s work to the Singapore Art Museum. In 2011, the National Art Gallery held Liu Kang: a Centennial Celebration at the Singapore Art Museum.