Edwin Hing Wan was born in St. Margaret’s Village, Mayaro, on the southeast coast of Trinidad, the third of a family of six boys.
After attending Mayaro Roman Catholic School in Mayaro, he stayed with family in Diego Martin in order to finish his education in Port of Spain, where he first attended Tranquility Intermediate School and later Queen’s Royal College (1945). It was at this school his interest in art began. Together with friend and classmate Noel Vaucrosson, Hing Wan was selected by the British Council to attend special art classes. They read all they could find at Port of Spain’s Central Library, becoming especially interested in the work of the famous watercolorist Eliot O’Hara.Through classes at the Trinidad Art Society, he was able to study under a student of O’Hara, Commander Jack Wilson, who was stationed at the time at the United States Naval Base at Chaguaramas.
In 1951 he graduated from QRC and was awarded a scholarship to study Petroleum Engineering. He went to work at Trinidad Leasehold Ltd (Texaco) at Pointe-a-Pierre. His job involved drawing. He was one of the first student apprentice draughtsmen of the company. This was short lived as, early 1952, he developed a cyst on his spinal cord. Despite an operation in Trinidad and several months of treatment at the Middlesex Hospital in England, he remained paralysed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Through physiotherapy he was able to regain partial use of his right hand and with a special disc designed to hold his brushes, he continued to paint.
Despite the many difficulties he faced – he could only paint in the mornings and could not sit still for long periods or travel long distances – his technique is extremely mature, his tone and ring distinctive. His subjects were the beaches, rivers and rural scenes of Mayaro, Manzanilla and Guayaguayare, but particularly coconut trees, depicted in every variation of light.Although he repeated the same scene over and over, it was without monotony.
Early in his career he signed his paintings Ou, his father’s family name, but later signed Hing Wan. Artists Sybil Atteck and Noel Vaucrosson supported his efforts throughout his life, and Texaco and later Amoco sponsored his materials, studio and reading material and exhibitions. This he repaid with his work. The Guy de Pompignon family also sponsored several small exhibitions of his work at their home in Mayaro.
In 1975 Hing Wan mounted his only one-person exhibition, at the National Museum and Art Gallery. Alwin Massy of the Trinidad Guardian stated: These are paintings of courage. That the painter is handicapped is not at all obvious for the execution of the washes on display. Although it is extremely difficult for the critic, in judging the quality of work, to separate himself from the emotion of knowing that the artist was seriously handicapped, the consistency and high quality of Hing Wan’s technique and style places him, without doubt, among Trinidad’s leading contemporary watercolourists. Hing Wan died in 1976 at the age of 43, succumbing to the disease that had left him paralysed for 23 years. His mother said that on his deathbed he asked her to pass him his brushes as he wished to paint. He was posthumously awarded the Chaconia Silver Medal for Art.
Read Michael Anthony Review in the Express Newspaper- click here