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His portrait goes viral, but artist says focus on Mr Lee

PHOTO COURTESY OF ONG YI TECK

The artist who drew a portrait of Singapore's founding prime minister by writing "Lee Kuan Yew" some 18,000 times wants everyone to remember the purpose behind the drawing, not the artist.

Mr Ong Yi Teck, 20, said the portrait, which took him close to 15 hours to complete, was meant as a tribute to Mr Lee.

"I'm part of the younger generation that was born into a fairly developed country.

"But my parents, who have seen Singapore grow from what it was till today, appreciate Mr Lee for what he's done. And I feel the same," he said.

His father encouraged him to do the art piece.

After completing national service with the Police Coast Guards, Mr Ong, who is waiting to enter the School of Art, Design & Media at the Nanyang Technological University, finally found the time to do it.

He started working on the portrait on Thursday evening, using two fine-tipped drawing pens to write Mr Lee's name and another thicker pen for touch-ups.

It took three five-hour sessions before he finished on Friday at close to midnight.

"I could have used shortcuts, but I wanted to take my time to show my sincerity. It was a labour of love. Thankfully, my pens didn't run out of ink," he added with a laugh.

Mr Ong posted pictures of his portrait on social media and they went viral over the weekend.

Pictures of his portrait have been shared by thousands and his original post on Instagram has nearly 2,700 likes.

The piece is not for sale because the artwork was meant to pay homage to Singapore's founding father, said the artist, who also does commissioned drawings.

When asked whether he would take it to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) or the Tanjong Pagar Community Club, where people have been leaving cards and gifts to wish Mr Lee well, Mr Ong said he would not.

"I would prefer to put it in an exhibition, where others can look at it, (and where I know) that my work of art will be safe," he said.

...My parents, who have seen Singapore grow from what it was till today, appreciate Mr Lee for what he's done. And I feel the same.

- Mr Ong Yi Teck, who took almost 15 hours to draw a portrait of Mr Lee Kuan Yew made up of 18,000 instances of Mr Lee's name