Art & soul

By Lo Tien Yin
The eyes are deeply penetrating. And there’s that inimitable half-smile.

Rendered in watercolour, this painting of NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson is a gift from artist Mr Yusoff Abdul Latiff, 70, whose younger son graduated from NTU in 2012. The retired teacher has been painting since he was young and teaching art in between other subjects.

“In any portrait, the eyes define the uniqueness of the person. In Prof Andersson’s case, they seem to say: ‘I have great confidence in you.’ His half-smile exudes the sense of satisfaction one gets when success is achieved,” explains the artist, who was mentored by one of Singapore’s most prominent watercolourists, Ong Kim Seng.

Mr Yusoff started painting portraits five years ago – as an acknowledgment of people’s achievements and contributions.

“Prof Bertil Andersson certainly came to mind as the first university president that I wanted to paint. I have always been fascinated by the phenomenal rise in stature and ranking of NTU in such a short time. The NTU President must have played a crucial role in energising and mobilising the people in the organisation for it to have achieved such a status,” he says.

“We are fortunate to have this foreign talent put his heart and soul into making a Singapore university a world-class institution,” he adds.

Mr Yusoff also paints buildings with character, as well as landscapes. He admires NTU’s “rolling topography of vales and dales”. He recalls how father and son would make detours to explore the sprawling campus whenever he drove his son back to his hall of residence.

“I am flattered that I am the first university president Mr Yusoff has painted,” says Prof Andersson. “My wife also likes to paint, but she has never done a portrait of me!”