On Mr S R Nathan: 'We bonded like old friends'
Businessman who painted S R Nathan in 2014 says former president put him at ease
He was meeting the former president for the first time.
But all Mr Chung Chee Kit, 68, remembers was Mr S R Nathan's friendly demeanour calming his nerves when they met to discuss the painting he wanted to do of him.
"It was such a great honour and privilege (to meet him)," the maritime aficionado and self-taught artist told The New Paper.
"He was such a personable man, and even though he was the former president, the conversation turned out to be like one between two old friends as we bonded over our similar backgrounds in the shipping industry," Mr Chung added.
That was two years ago.
Although Mr Chung, a director of the IMC Group, did not tell many people about his passion for art, his opportunity to do the painting came about after one of Mr Nathan's friends, tourism industry veteran Pamelia Lee, saw one of his art pieces.
Mrs Lee, 74, told TNP over the phone yesterday that it was a painting Mr Chung had done of his retiring colleague, former Keppel Offshore & Marine chief executive officer Tong Chong Heong, as a parting gift.
"I was impressed with his work, which was why I suggested he do a painting of Mr Nathan for his birthday.
"I called Mr Nathan and asked him if it was all right for Chee Kit to do his painting, and he said yes," Mrs Lee, who is retired, added.
Mr Chung said he was thrilled by Mrs Lee's proposal.
But it was his first meeting with the former president that remains indelibly etched in his mind.
They had a 30-minute chat at the Singapore General Hospital while Mr Nathan was undergoing a minor medical procedure.
Mr Chung said: "I wanted to paint him as the person that he was.
"Even though he was the president of the country, he wasn't uppity and truly was a man of the people.
"He didn't just say things because they were politically correct. He said them because it really was who he was."
Mr Chung finished the painting in three days.
Two weeks later, he presented it to Singapore's longest serving president at his Ceylon Road home on the morning of his 90th birthday.
He said he will never forget Mr Nathan's reaction when he saw the painting.
"He jokingly asked, 'How did you know I had a suit in that colour?'"
PROUD: Mr Chung presented the painting to Mr Nathan at his home on his 90th birthday. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MR CHUNG CHEE KIT
Mrs Lee, who was with Mr Chung at the time, said: "He wasn't a man of many flowery words. I remember him smiling and nodding his head in appreciation of the painting."
Mr Chung did not stay long during the visit, but the memory is one that he will forever hold dear.
He said: "He was friendly, approachable and had no airs, and I will always remember him as that man."
He jokingly asked, 'How did you know I had a suit in that colour?'
- Mr Chung Chee Kit
Even though he was the president of the country, he wasn't uppity and truly was the man of the people. He didn't just say things because they were politically correct. He said them because it really was who he was.
- Mr Chung Chee Kit, who painted a picture of the late Mr S R Nathan