3 senior artists to watch

December 21, 2017

words by: Bere Wangge

When 82-year-old American author Annie Proulx won the Lifetime Achievement prize at the 2017 National Book Award in November, she didn't forget to remind everyone in her speech that she didn't write until she was 58. It got this particular writer thinking that maybe it really never is too late to be killing it.

Inspired by Proulx, we make this list of three senior artists whose long-overdue successes could hopefully provide motivation for the new year.


Lubaina Himid

Lubaina Himid

Lubaina Himid

The Tanzania-born British artist Lubaina Himid recently made news after she was awarded the 2017 Turner Prize. While the UK’s top award for contemporary art has been held annually since 1984, Himid is the first woman of color to ever win it. Furthermore, at 63 years old, Himid is also the oldest award recipient.

Her win wouldn’t have been possible in the past, as a rule requiring nominees to be under 50 years old was introduced in 1991. Thankfully, the rule has been eliminated starting this year, making it possible for Himid to be recognized.

An avid advocate of underrepresented black artists, Himid has always been known for raising the issues of colonialism and slavery, and their effects in modern society. Her work includes images of slaves and aristocrats vomiting at the news of the abolition of slavery painted on porcelain dinner sets.


Lui Hock Seng

80-Year-Old Photographer Lui Hock Seng of Singapore - Passing Time Exhibition 01.jpg

Next year in February, an exhibition entitled Passing Time will open at Objectifs gallery, Singapore. The exhibition will feature black-and-white photographs of the city-state in the 1960s to 70s, taken by a man who knows the era well, as he actually lived through it.

Eighty-year-old Lui Hock Seng is a self-taught photographer and winner of several awards such as the Associateship with the Amateur Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (1963) and the Kampong Glam Community Club (2016). Even so, he never pursued a career as a photographer professionally. In the olden days, he would take photos of the daily life of Singaporeans from Clarke Quay to the old Tanah Merah Village and Redhill brick factory while he was cycling to work.   

Passing Time will be his first exhibition ever. Lui still continues to take photographs amid his work as an office cleaner.


Lee Chanjae

Grandpa Chan

Grandpa Chan

At 75 years old, Lee Chanjae has reached the status of "internet famous," something that many of his way younger peers can only dream of. Known by his Instagram followers as Grandpa Chan or simply Grandpa, he’s the owner of the viral account @drawings_for_my_grandchildren.

As the name suggests, the account started out as a platform for Grandpa Chan to share his drawings and communicate with his three grandchildren. In 1981, Grandpa Chan and his wife moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they resided before returning to South Korea recently. Although reluctant at first—as he wasn’t familiar with advanced technology—Chan finally set up the account with the help of his son Lee Ji.

The subjects of his drawings are mostly his grandchildren’s favorite animals; but some of his most popular ones depict the daily lives and cultures in South Korea. Each of the drawings is accompanied with a story that is written by his wife; the story comes in three languages, namely English, Korean and Portuguese.

Why do you think this mother kneeled down? People in one district in Seoul opposed the idea of opening a school for students with special needs because it could degrade the image of their neighborhood. So a mother of a child with special needs kneeled, and begged to change their minds as she cried. Her photo went viral in social media and moved many people. Many said they re-examined themselves and confessed they felt ashamed. Arthur, when I heard you were a helper for a special needs student in your class, I also felt ashamed. Thank you for making your grandpa also look back to my neighbors. #watercolor #mother Por que essa mãe se ajoelhou? Os moradores de uma região de Seul eram contras à construção de uma escola para deficientes ali no bairro deles acreditando que a imagem do bairro piore. Então, a mãe de um filho com necessidades especiais implorou chorando que mudassem de opinião para que pudesse construir a escola... ajoelhando-se deste jeito. Mas esta imagem se espalhou através do SNS emocionando muitas pessoas. Muitos deles confessaram que sentiram vergonha de si mesmos. Arthur, quando soube que você é ajudante de classe de um amigo com deficiência, senti vergonha de mim também. Obrigado por me fazer olhar o próximo. 이 엄마는 왜 무릎을 꿇었을까? 서울 한 지역 주민들이 장애인 학교가 생기면 동네 이미지가 나빠진다고 반대를 했대. 그러자 한 장애아 엄마가 학교를 세울 수 있도록 제발 마음을 바꿔 달라고 울며 부탁했대. 이렇게 무릎을 꿇고. 그런데 이 사진이 SNS를 타고 퍼지면서 많은 사람들을 감동시킨 거야. 스스로를 돌아보고 부끄러움을 느꼈다고 고백하는 이들이 많았대. 알뚤, 네가 장애친구의 도우미라는 말을 듣고 할아버지도 뭉클해지면서 부끄러워지더라. 고맙다. 이 할아버지가 이웃을 돌아보게 해줘서.

A post shared by Grandpa Chan (@drawings_for_my_grandchildren) on

Last October, Grandpa Chan successfully completed his first solo exhibition, which was held in Sao Paulo. His drawings are also available for sale at his official website.