Chong Fah Cheong, 68, decided to get a tattoo a couple of years ago. If you think he was being vain, then you are terribly wrong.

The tattoo he chose, is the same design of his seal placed on many of his prolific works, such as ‘First Generation’ which depicts children jumping into the Singapore river. Chong’s tattoo serves as a reminder that his works, as well as himself, are works-in-progress and that there is always room for improvement.

It is no wonder that he, along with 2 others: Alvin Tan and KTM Iqbal have attained the nation’s most prestigious art accolade, the Cultural Medallion award that has been presented by the President annually since 1979. KTM Iqbal is a man of sharp wit, and to him, success as a poet, is when his writing is able to transcend all languages. It should not matter if a similar poem is written in English and re-written in Tamil – the beauty of a good poem, is the meaning that is imbued into it, that will allow it to withstand the differences in form.

Men of the minute: Chong Fah Cheong with Samuel Tan

Guests huddled in the Istana’s cosy hall, where shots of the Young Artist Award recipients were screened.

This year, wins were bagged by composer Chen Zhangyi, dance artist Lee Mun Wai, filmmaker Jow Zhi Wei, actress Siti Khalijah Zainal, and Ian Loy. Established artists aside, the spotlight was cast on music prodigy Samuel Tan, who is only 9 but has attained international recognition after he trumped contestants, who could be up to 35 years of age, for the grand Postacchini prize at the 21st International Andrea Postacchini Violin Competition.