Mr. Tang Da Wu has played a leading role in bringing the art scene of Southeast Asia to today's prosperity, setting his base in Singapore throughout the 1980's and 90's. He pioneered a new way of expression that had not been seen in the Southeast Asian art scene with the bold cutting-edge expressions of street performances, installations made of daily objects, collaboration with the audience and workshops with children. He took the current and social issues of the environment and human rights as his subject and greatly influenced the art and culture in Southeast Asia. These facts make him a true pioneer for the contemporary art scene in Southeast Asia.
Born in 1943 in Singapore under the Japanese occupation and having finished the Chinese school in Singapore under the British rule, he left for England to study in 1970. He learned and acquired the methods and awareness of the issues of contemporary art in the St. Martin's College of Art & Design and the Goldsmiths College that were the sources of British contemporary art, contemplating about his own identity at the same time. When he went back to his home country in 1988, he dared to have a street performance on a main street where a lot of tourists were. He called upon the young artists gathered around him to found The Artists Village in Sembawang in the northern part of Singapore later in the same year. It is the art community where they make art, hold exhibitions and have performances together. This community swept over the Singaporean art scene with Mr. Tang Da Wu taking the lead.
These activities and works of Mr. Tang Da Wu attracted the challenging artists of the younger generation in Singapore. With a charismatic power of influence, Mr. Tang Da Wu has always kept encouraging, stimulating and inspiring the young artists and the generation emerged from the Artists Village are now taking a central role in the Southeast Asian art scene.
Mr. Tang Da Wu's activities have extended to Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, which makes him highly recognized as the most representative contemporary artist in Southeast Asia today. He has often been introduced in Japan, in such exhibitions as "Asian Artist Today -- Fukuoka Annual V: Tang Da Wu" (1991, Fukuoka Art Museum), "New Art from Southeast Asia 1992" (1992, Fukuoka Art Museum and other museums) and "Creativity in Asian Art Now" (1994, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art).
Mr. Tang Da Wu's works are not attractive and characteristic only because of their avant-garde freshness, the extremeness of social themes or the quality of highly completed artwork. But his attraction and character lies in his attitudes of seeking for the culture inside himself as a Chinese Singaporean and for his personal identity as well as his attitudes of questioning the true identity of Asian art. These artistic activities and attitudes of Mr. Tang Da Wu make him a truly worthy recipient for the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.