When the transcontinental upheavals of the mid-20th century prompted Chinese artists to relocate, their displacement generated a diaspora that extended and re-shaped the traditions of Chinese art and resulted in the emergence of hybrid styles. In Singapore, Chinese born artists including Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi, and Georgette Chen became associated with the Nanyang School which synthesised Western painting methods with Chinese ink painting to depict Southeast Asian subjects. Working and living in Paris, the artists Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-kipainted idiosyncratic abstractions that reflected their close contact with Postwar European trends including the Informel movement. Chinese expatriates in both locations also felt the far-reaching influence of American Abstract Expressionism.
In this dynamic and fertile situation, China's overseas painters created works that reflected their shifting cultural perspectives and interests, while still being deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Today, these diasporic artists are seen as an influential generation that continue to inspire contemporary artists worldwide. Considering a selection of works by five notable artists – Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Wen Hsi, Georgette Chen, Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-ki – can provide a glimpse of the considerable stylistic variety and hybridity that developed.