Name Solamalay Namasivayam
|Education National Art School|
|Full Name Namasivayam S/O K. A. Solamalay|
Born 6 May 1926 (1926-05-06) Madras, India
Known for Figurative art, Figure drawing, Figure painting
Solamalay Namasivayam is a Singaporean artist who works primarily in life drawing and figure study. He is also a founding member of the Singaporean art group Group 90, and proponent to the development of figurative art in Singapore.
Born the eldest child of 12 siblings, and to building labourer parents in Madras, Namasivayam left his hometown at the age of 5 with his mother to join his father working for the Central Electricity Board as a mechanic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. Resettling in his new home at the Board's two-room worker's quarters in Bangsa Road (present-day Petaling Jaya), 6-year-old Namasivayam attended briefly at the private school in the Brickfields vicinity ran by Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). He soon was transferred to study at the government-run Batu Road Primary School, through a personal recommendation letter written by a family friend, a Caucasian Board electrical engineer. It was in Batu Road primary school that the young Namasivayam first discovered his love for art through constant help and encouragement from his art teacher, Wing Hong. He went on to study at the Victoria Institution, and had art lessons from his art teacher Yong Tai in his two years' with the Institution.
War came to Southeast Asia and his education cut short with the Japanese occupation of Malaya. When his father was transferred to work in Butterworth, Penang by the Japanese, Namasivayam continued his studies at a Japanese school in Prai town in Butterworth for 18 months before he was deployed to work as an engine cleaner at the local Japanese Railway Station. In 1943 the 14-year-old was sent to work on the Thailand-Burma Railway.
After the war in 1945 he went back to study at Victoria Institution to complete his Standard VIII secondary education. He also began to rediscover his passion for art, depicting landscape scenes mainly with pencil and on occasions with watercolour. At the age of 21 in 1947 he completed his Senior Cambridge examinations at the Institution., and sought employment with a French oil palm plantation company called SocFren, as a laboratory assistant. He later took on various jobs, until in 1950 when the elder Namasivayam decided to retire in his hometown in South India. Namasivayam accompanied his father along with his other unmarried siblings on the trip, and at the same time fulfilled his obligation to an arranged marriage. With his new wife, Namasivayam left India and moved back to Singapore to heed his calling to become a teacher in 1951. He enrolled himself with the Teachers' Training College, as a trainee teacher in Tanjong Rhu Primary School. Upon graduating from the College he joined Trafalgar Primary School, and was given his first opportunity to teach art in the school. The then-Primary School principal Ms Tan Chee Chee gave Namasivayam full play in the development of the school arts programme, and through his guidance his students won first place in art competitions held at Victoria Memorial Hall. In 1957 his love for teaching art was discovered by Mr Goh Kong Beng, president of the Singapore Teachers' Union and recommended Namasivayam for an art scholarship. He declined at first, and eventually he accepted it under the approval of the other teachers in the School. Namasivayam eventually received the Colombo Plan scholarship award to study art, along with four other trainee teachers Inche Suri Bin Mohyani, Chew Fook Chun, Seah Teow Puan and Sim Tong Khern, and left for Sydney on 11 March 1957. His art teacher's diploma course went on for 5 years, and during school breaks, he took time visit schools in Canberra and Melbourne for practical teaching experience. Namasivayam returned to Singapore in August 1961, upon completing his course of study.
Upon his return he taught at the Crescent Girls' School and the Gan Eng Seng School He was duly promoted to assistant Lecturer and Media Specialist with Teachers' Training College in the following year, where he continued to work with until 1981. In 1987 he took on the post as an art lecturer with the LASALLE College of the Arts.