At 8, Samuel had already aspired to be an artist. Although a graduate in business administration with a masters in divinity, Samuel's love for art eventually dictated a return to his first passion of painting. With a rich experience as a graphic artist and many years as a church pastor, Samuel now chooses to serve God, the Master Creator, through His gift of art.
While painting was initially purely a hobby, he now paints with a purpose. When he first started, he was disturbed by much of the art he saw around him.. He then decided that he would use more positive imagery, integrating his Christian faith into his art. Through a year of thought provoking processes, his love of art has gradually drawn him to articulate his passion meaningfully into his art of love through his symbolic use of the roses. This was clearly reflected in his first solo exhibition in 1997 of some 40 paintings which received a most encouraging response. An appreciative couple, Mr. & Mrs C.A.Kam, both English Language lecturers, expressed:
"Thank you for enabling us to see roses in a very interesting and meaningful perspective."
About his inspirational flower, Samuel comments:
"It is love that gives men the very hope, strength and meaning to life. It is the most basic element to our human existence. The rose is a recognized universal symbol of love and the queen of all flowers. It is, therefore, most appropriate for me to use the rose to express love in all its different forms, led first of all by the love of God. I can't take a lily and say it represents love."
To him it is not just art that he is painting. It is a ministry of love. He feels that there is the crying need for love as we see increasing breakdowns in our human relationship system and an increasing tendency of the society to become more self-centred.
"My attempt, therefore, is to do my small part in encouraging others ( and even reminding myself) through my works to return to the very fabric of love. Although my art is about love, I don't claim to be an expert in love. I use roses with ordinary objects to express love in its many facets in all my paintings. Through them, I hope to encourage my viewers to be a vessel of love, to enjoy the beauty of love, to uphold the fundamental pillars of love and to return, most of all, to God who first loved us."
Samuel is committed to focus on painting roses but in no way does he professed to be a master in the flower. He first painted the rose in 1981 and has since then fallen in love with this romantic and mystical beauty. His fascination with the rose grows with such a fond passion that when he decided to be a full-time artist in 1995, he has never cease painting the rose. In fact a few months after his first exhibition, he opened an art gallery to sell his own paintings of roses - a rare privilege in the context of Singapore. Now painting roses has become his preoccupation as well as his occupation and which he hopes to develop a niche in. When asked whether he would change his subject, he feels that he still has a long way to capture the rose. Maybe that is the reason for many to comment that the rose is the most difficult flower to paint. And in order to devote himself to painting this enigmatic flower, he has even make it a prerequisite when accepting commissioned works that the rose must form part of the painting.
Each painting of roses by this Singaporean artist is imbued with love. Perhaps what shines through most of his depictions of love through roses is a painstaking and practical love for his craft. And what a glorious love it is - Samuel depicts the roses in all shades and hues, in bouquets and in vases, in single stalks or growing profusely in the garden, under high magnification or as a minor component of a painting, in still-life or perhaps most interestingly in allegory. Samuel's technique as expressed in oil or watercolour is usually lifelike. The roses breathe delicacy either tightly wrapped in a bud or burst forth in full-bloom. The thorniness of the stem and stiffness of awkward leaves are not disguised. His meticulous eyes even capture the particularities of microscopic stamens and the folds of petals with an exacting detail and realism. Yet at the right spur of inspiration, he may just pick up his palette-knife to create vibrant rendition of the roses in impressionistic and semi-abstract styles with the acrylic paint.
A self-taught artist, Samuel does not intent his works to be nothing but serious. Some are breathtaking representations conveying the magnificence of God's love. There are sentimental and nostalgic pieces evoking fond memories. "Love Awaiting" has a girl sitting at an old bus-stop depicting a woman's waiting for a life-time partner is like waiting for a bus. "Love Liberates" presents two pigeons perching on an open window ledge and looking into a room with an empty bird cage, a bowl of roses on an old marble-top table and a photo of a couple hanging on the wall. "Love's Communicating" pictures two chairs by a coffee table under a tree in the greenery of a garden signifying love's taking time to treasure each other's presence and to share each other's thought. It's mood was so arresting to Suzanne Lauridsen that she wrote:
"Rarely have I felt such a surge of emotion standing before a canvas. Your paintings make me cry…..so powerfully nostalgic. You've painted my life into every stroke. Thank you for an unforgettable experience!"
Samuel's sense of humour shines through several paintings where the rose is juxtaposed with unlikely objects such as eggs, bananas and durians! The visual incongruity is counter-pointed with playful titles such as "Love Is Like The Durian - Fragrance from the inside but thorny on the outside". In contrast, "Let Your Love Shine" and "Where There's Love There's Tranquil Peace" have candles flickering in the dark. Their peaceful, serene and mystical setting could entice the viewers perhaps into a therapeutic rest.
Although Samuel' works embody a love message, they do not attempt to be preaching. He does not also project love as merely a romantic notion. In small or big ways, he believes love is to be lived and enjoyed by the one loved and the one loving! As such he draws his inspiration for his works practically from any sources at anytime and anywhere while many are direct inspiration from the Bible. He says:
"Love is the base of human life and you can 'see' it everywhere. The rose itself is a vivid representation of life with its beauty and its thorns. The varied colours of the roses have their rich established language. The Bible bears full record of God's glorious and magnificent love - so rich, so great, unconditional, unfailing and unchanging."
Samuel is married with a lovely and supportive wife, Lay Lian. They have an adorable daughter, WanRu, who takes much after mama's characteristics. Would she take after her papa's artistic passion to be a budding artist? Time will tell.