I would like to end my life with a paint brush in my hand.
His earliest foray into the Singapore art scene upon his return, was with the Alpha Gallery. It was a new gallery set up at the 7 Alexandra Avenue address, by the prominent architect Datuk Lim Chong Keat. With the guidance of the Gallery's first manager Khoo Sui Hoe, a young artist like Anthony could develop his art and have regular exhibitions at the Gallery. Anthony later took over Khoo to become the gallery manager for Alpha between the years 1973 and 1978.
Here, abstraction was the predominant form of expression, although Poon deferred in being more conceptual, analytical and controlled as compared to his contemporaries. His early works, although containing figurations instructive of the formal teachings of NAFA, already showed signs of semi-abstraction. He quickly developed a unique style, centred on his interest in the spatial relationship between line and colour. This was evident in the Kite series of geometric abstractions and aerodynamic shapes on shaped canvas, developed just before his return to Singapore. He then expanded fully into the third dimension in the mid 1980s, with the Wave relief marking his progress into three-dimensions on canvas.
Sculptural works followed in the early 1990s, allowing for an interactive play of volume and void to form. His sculptures told of his meticulous slant towards precision, which were a creative engineering feat of geometrical shapes.
More than 20 of his works can be seen throughout Singapore, from the Singapore Turf Club to the National Library, Ministry of Information and the Arts, and the HDB Hub. Public collections can also be seen overseas in Brunei, Beijing and Washington DC.
In 2002, Poon's 5-metre stainless steel sculpture Success represented Singapore in an international exhibition of 230 new sculptures held at the City Sculpture Park in Beijing, China. His work was chosen by the Ministry of Culture of the PRC in Singapore for the Olympic Games in 2008. Even after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he continued to work as per normal, completing a sculpture for the Beijing 2008 Olympics soon before he passed away, fulfilling a wish he made in 1991 when he said, "I would like to end my life with a paint brush in my hand."
He sat on the specialist panels of many art advisory boards, including the Singapore National Arts Council. He was also a member of the Third Singapore Note And Coin Advisory Committee, assisting in the design of new currency notes and coins. In 1990, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Art, Singapore's highest award for those achieving artistic excellence.
He was known in the art world for his professionalism and discipline. Fellow artist Teo Eng Seng said, "He was a good example of a successful artist. People tend to think that artists are not organised, but Anthony was highly organised, highly competent." Friends of Poon also remembered him as a food lover. His close friend and artist Teo Eng Seng remembered fondly of his friend who was always urging fellow artists to try new places to eat, even if the places were out of the way. Poon would drive his friends around to different eating locations everyday, sometimes even driving 5km just to try a new joint. Then he would order a lot of different dishes and tell everyone to eat as much as they can.
Anthony Poon died from lung cancer on September 2, 2006 at 3.50 a.m, aged 61. Following his death, and in accordance with his last wishes, 23 of his works - three sculptures, two three-dimensional relief paintings and 18 paintings - were donated to the Singapore Art Museum, joining the 16 pieces already in the museum's collection. These works were chosen to 'fill in the gaps' in the existing collection, and span his entire body of work from the 1960s until 2005.