Centenary events and activities

Chong Fah Cheong

I first came to know Brother Joseph as a young junior aspirant to the religious order of St John Baptist de la Salle in 1960. Brother Joseph was then an art teacher at St. Xavier’s Institution in Penang, Malaysia, although I was not taught by him. All the students knew of his large wall murals around the school which I found very captivating and accomplished.

My association with the De La Salle Christian Brothers’ schools in Malaysia and Singapore gave me occasion to meet him and also to know and see his many early metal sculptures in their schools.

My closest association with Brother Joseph was while I was teaching art at St Patrick’s School when he was the principal. A number of trees in the school compound had been cut down and he suggested that I use the plentiful wood to teach my students how to carve. That started my early development as a sculptor.

When Brother Joseph started the modest beginnings of St. Patricks Arts Centre in the back area of the school, he asked me to undertake the sculpture programme, and I readily agreed to do so. Brother Joseph’s single-minded push to start a new art school for Singapore saw his determination to overcome all odds, even, as I understood, the hesitant support from his own religious community.

I remember his untiring efforts working on his own sculptures in his small workspace at St. Patrick’s to fund the building of LASALLE College of the Arts, the premier arts college that the St. Patrick’s Arts Centre grew into.

It was Brother Joseph who also introduced me to bronze casting. I have fond memories of travelling with him to Bangkok, Thailand, when he introduced me to the Kinaree Bronze Foundry in Thailand where he was casting his sculptures. We once stayed in the same hotel in Bangkok where we enjoyed a drink of his favourite whiskey.

I celebrate my practice and life as a sculptor, with heartfelt gratitude and fondest memory of my confrere in Christ, Brother Joseph McNally.