Idris Mohamed Ali is one of most senior Malay artists in Singapore today. For more than five decades, Idris has painted landscapes and street scenes of Singapore, capturing our visual heritage amidst the city’s rapid development.
Born in 1944 in Singapore, Idris started painting at the age of 10. As he could not afford formal art training, he had a brief tutelage under S. Mahdar, Mas Ali Sabran and S. Mohdir, and learnt from books, observation and practice. He also took advice from other senior artists at the Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya (APAD) or Association of Artists of Various Resources, in which he is a member since its formation in 1962. A year later, at the age of 18, he participated in his first group exhibition at the Victoria Memorial Hall.
Idris has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He has held three solo exhibitions—Water Strokes of Idris (1999); Singapura Chantek: Five decades of Painting Singapore (2013); and Khazanah (2017). In 2013, he participated in an art residency in Bali, organised by Maya Gallery Singapore, culminating in a group exhibition, The Journey, with other Singaporean and Balinese artists, at the gallery.
Specialising in watercolour, Idris painted his street scenes on site for many years, often choosing those off the beaten track. Despite being mostly self-taught, his responses to the beauty of buildings and places have attracted many collectors. Apart from landscapes, he also painted portraits; he once did a commissioned painting of Singapore’s former President, Mr and Mrs Wee Kim Wee. Idris’s works have been collected by the National Gallery Singapore, National Heritage Board and various government ministries in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as private organisations and individuals.
With a talent for drawing, Idris embarked on a career as a visualiser and illustrator in the advertising industry for 20 years, including being part of a few successful campaigns while working for ACE Advertising and Ted Bates Singapore. He was also an art teacher for young children at APAD's TUNAS classes from 1964 to the 80s, taught art at secondary schools and mentored art teachers.
Idris received the Pingat APAD (APAD Award) in 1974. He was also awarded the Cipta Mekar (Emerging Artist Award) for outstanding work at APAD’s ‘Action ‘90’ exhibition in 1990.