Making art first, second & third

Tan Hon Yin in his studio/house in Penang

Tang Hon Yin, 67, was a geography teacher and later a State Education Director, in Penang for more the 30 years.  After school hours, his artistic passion was painting but now he does it whenever he likes. He is currently the chairman of the Penang Art Gallery.

For many years he has been producing paintings with Nature as the main subject. His first solo exhibition “Water Margin” was in 1983 in Penang. The collection was later shown in Kuala Lumpur in 1986. His latest series “Silk Road” was shown in 2008 in Melbourne, Australia.

Though he didn’t go to art school but through his many trips abroad, on his own initiative, he adopted two artistic parents, the American artists Mark Rothko and Richard Diebenkom. They were his main inspirations. Tang admired the two artists for their use of colours and shapes and compositions.

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Mountains and Artists


Syed Ahmad Jamal, Endau Rompin, 1985, Acrylics on canvas, 173x223cm

Nature has always been an inspiration for artists throughout the ages. Mountains, in particular, have inspired many regional landscape painters.

From China there has been a long history of artists who painted the many outstanding geological features of their physical geography. Some of these artworks besides depicting the shapes and designs of mountain formations in great detail also conveyed clear information of the various geological compositions of their landscapes.

One of the most well-known Japanese artists, Hokusai, from the Edo period, made colour wood block prints of a series of 36 views of Mount Fuji. The Great Wave of Kenagawa done in 1831 is one of Hukusai’s signature compositions of this collection of early postcards of Japan.

Cezanne paid homage to his boyhood home in Provence by painting the Mont Sainte-Victoire in Aix at least 60 times from 1885 to 1906. His devotion to a single hillock slightly over 1,000m in his backyard set the modern standard of painting and looking at European landscapes since the Renaissance.

He began to dismantle previous ideas of perspective and started to flatten out and break up his subject by using fragmented shapes, colours and brush marks. His paintings led the way for Matisse and Picasso and to Abstraction.


Syed Ahmad Jamal, Gunung Ledang Visited, 1992, Acrylics on canvas, 173x239cm

The mountains of Malaysia have attracted a few artists. Fung Yow Chork and Razak Abdullah are among the few landscape painters who got inspiration form the mountain backdrop of Kuala Lumpur, the Ulu Klang quartz ridge and Genting Highlands. Mount Kinabalu (4,101m), our highest mountain between the Himalayas and the Snow Mountains of New Guinea, has a devoted Sabahan painter — Benedict Chong.

Syed Ahmad Jamal, whose retrospective exhibition is currently at the National Art Gallery, has been moved by Gunung Ledang, near Muar, his home town, in Johor. Jamal has painted three artworks with that name. The first Gunung Ledang was in 1978 (this painting is not in the show), then Gunong Ledang Visited in 1992 and the last one Semangat Ledang in 1999.

Read more in The Malaysian Insider here…

Ibrahim Hussein (1936-2009): A tribute

Ibrahim Hussein, My father and the astronaut, acrylic painting, 1970.

FEB 19 — Ibrahim Hussein, who died early this morning, was the artist almost every working Malaysian artist, especially the Malays, looked up to in terms of local and international artistic achievement and financial success.

The price of his works, before his untimely death, is easily above RM500,000 and this is also why his works are well sought after as an art investment.

In my opinion, he was undoubtedly seated at the head of the artistic table before his death. In the second place, the position was open and it was a choice between Latiff Mohidin and Syed Ahmad Jamal. Now that the first place is vacant, who will take the spot is a matter of interest and for another article.

Why was he at the top?

Well, he started his artistic career in the ‘60s together with Anthony Lau, Jolly Koh, Cheong Laitong, Latiff Mohidin and Syed Ahmad Jamal, the six major creative personalities at that time. They had all just returned from their art training abroad and the National Art Gallery and art community welcomed them with open arms.

The emergence of this young — and at that time new — talents somewhat overshadowed the pioneer painters like Yong Mun Sen, Hoessein Enas, Chuah Thean Teng, Tay Hooi Keat and a few more artists.

But it was these older artists that first started Ibrahim or Ib’s interest in art.

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