08 Nov 2014: Four Retrospectives I

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web. — Pablo Picasso

The Penang State Museum & Art Gallery staged several Retrospective exhibitions over the past decade honouring select Penang-born artists. These events have been documented in a series of high quality, generously illustrated coffee table books published by the museum. Perfect for those who want a tangible memento of their favourite artists, or for those who missed the events. Some of the titles include a companion DVD. The artists featured include Tay Mo-Leong, Eric Quah, Lee Joo For, Tan Choon Chee, Chong Hon Fatt, Tan Chiang Kiong, Cheung Pooi Yip and photographer Ismail Hashim.

Khoo Sui Hoe’s art has been described as “a cosmos populated with myths, tantalising messages, fascinating beasts, people and himself – transfigured in spontaneous imagery and creative morphology.” A cursory observation of Khoo’s work may invoke comparisons with the primitivism of Rousseau, but Khoo’s style has a definite and very original local flavour. Khoo’s paintings have been exhibited in 43 venues in USA, China, Australia and Indonesia.

From the abstract to the impressionistic. Chong Hon Fatt’s watercolour and oil compositions of buildings, diverse scenes and verdant plains, set in various locations, are marked by his trademark style of “dramatic highlights and shadows” … utilising “an astoundingly rich array of colours, light and dark pigments interplaying with each other … a visual feast that is most pleasing to the eyes.

Multi-faceted and multi-talented Lee Joo For’s art has, not surprisingly, been described as unorthodox, original, unpretentious, innovative, individualistic and perhaps even a little irreverent and iconoclastic. Drawing inspiration from Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin and Pollock, his creations range from simple line drawings and Pop art to strikingly-hued and boldly-lined surreal canvasses, almost as if they were produced by different artists.

Tan Chiang Kiong’s career started auspiciously, August 30, 1957, when he left for Taipei to study Fine Arts. His first solo exhibition was held in 1996. An artist and a teacher, Tan has imparted his formidable knowledge of art techniques and nuances to generations of hopeful art acolytes of all ages. He is the Dean of the arts faculty in Chung Ling Private High School, a post he held since 1964. His skilful creations of Chinese art and watercolour defy the adage that East and West are nonconvergent antipodes.  “A yin and yang dualism that lies at the heart of his art … an amalgam of Western aesthetics and Chinese art philosophy.”

The Retrospective series are now available at Areca Books.