Chia Yu Chian was born in Malaysia in 1936, and spent his formative years pursuing his education in Singapore. He graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in Singapore and went on to become the first artist from the Straits Settlements to receive a scholarship from the French government, advancing his Fine Art training at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts de Paris.
Chia was 15 when he first showed his works in group shows organised by the YMCA Art Group and the Singapore Art Society Annual Exhibition in 1951. He took much of his artistic inspiration from familiar local scenes, mostly painting episodes from daily village life, and the vast tropical landscapes of the region. Having studied in both Paris and Singapore, Chia’s works straddle the divide between East and West – bringing together the subtle gradation of colours typical of the Chinese palette.
The prolific artist produced more than 2000 artworks in his lifetime, the majority of which are oil paintings. He is best known for his Parisian cityscapes and romantic Malaysian landscapes. Since his death in 1990, there has been a few exhibitions of his works but never one as big as 'Private Lives' at Ilham Gallery. Curated by Rahel Joseph and Simon Soon, 'Private Lives' focuses on the last decades of Yu Chian’s practice, with works dating back to the late 1960s. It brings together works depicting the grit and grouses of daily living, in a city where the fringes of society coalesce in the everyday mundane.