What's In My Portfolio: Foo Kwee Horng

Interview by Marc Almagro
Photography by Chino Sardea
14 Mar 2018

Mr. Foo Kwee Horng is a National Arts Council Artist Mentor, a National Institute of Education supervisor, and an SUSS associate

"I may have taken the long route to get to where I am now, but everything turned out well, and it was therefore worth the effort. Before I started teaching, I was a social worker. I obtained a degree in social work at the National University of Singapore."

"After a few years as a social worker, however, my passion for art brought me to another direction: I began teaching art – first in primary school, then in secondary, and finally in a vocational school. I spent 15 years imparting my skills and knowledge, and developing in my students a feeling for art.


Eight years ago, I left the service to become a full-time artist.

As an artist, I draw inspirations from many things. I don’t explore only one genre, subject or medium. I have painted social commentaries and portraits; I have done some straightfoward still lifes, as well as plein air watercolors. It depends on what I want to do at the moment.


I did not receive formal training in art, although I got some technical guidance for a couple of years when I was in A levels. Back in the 1980s, if you did reasonably well and wanted to go to the university you simply went. Although I liked to paint, I went to the university for my degree.

I left teaching not to seek fame or fortune. I did it to gain freedom to do art in my time. I did it for that freedom. Not everyone is given that opportunity. As a schooltyeacher, my time at work was given to my students. I was teaching art, but it was their art, not mine. Today, time is in my hands.



A common misconception is that full-time artists paint all the time. But I am at liberty to pursue whatever I want. I travel, work as a volunteer, collaborate with art galleries in conducting art workshops, and teach painting to individuals. I devote my time to whatever I want to do, and whatever I do enriches my me as an artist.

I spent 15 years teaching – that’s an indication that I wasn’t miserable when I was part of the education system. But today, I enjoy my freedom to hone my skills, paint decent artworks, and hopefully find someone who appreciates them."