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Thursday September 5, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday September 5, 2013 MYT 1:07:20 PM
by choo woon limphotos by ricky lai
Vibrant green: This piece has a bright green and yellow background with koi fish moving towards the light, symbolising love and joy.
THE first thing one notices when speaking to veteran artist Tommy Chen is his strong passion for art.
“Painting has always been my calling. I want to share positive messages with everyone through my artwork,” said the animated 46-year-old from Malacca.
Nicknamed ‘Tommy McKoi’, Chen has been painting Japanese Nishikigoi (koi fish) for the past 23 years.
“Koi fish have very human characteristics. They are strong, determined and joyful as they swim in the water. One feels peace and harmony when looking at them,” he said.
Chen is holding his first solo art exhibition at The Frame Shop, Cyberjaya.
Entitled the “Splendour of Light”, the exhibition features 35 pieces of his vibrant, lifelike collection of koi fish paintings.
Despite having participated in numerous art shows internationally, it took two decades for Chen to realise his dream of holding a solo exhibition.
“I felt the time was right, and my art is at a level where I’m fully confident to showcase it to the public,” said Chen.
He explained that the ‘Splendour of Light’ signified hope, love and joy — themes central to his artwork.
The new series of paintings include ‘The Joy of the Living Water Series’ and ‘The Abundant Life series’, mostly acrylic on canvas.
The beautiful, delicately painted fish exude an aura of tranquility, with lily pads and rays of reflecting sunlight weaved into the scenery.
Chen draws inspiration from observing the fish in their habitat.
“Koi fish are very expensive. I usually go to friends who rear the fish, who allow me to observe the fish in their ponds. Sometimes I take pictures for reference, or I do on-site sketches,” he explained.
He also visits parks and resorts where the fish are reared. Recounting an episode at a resort in Malacca, Chen said that he saw two groups of fish in a pond, which was shaped like a figure eight.
“When the schools crossed over from each side, they did not clash. They were in perfect harmony, like there was a natural traffic light. I find it fascinating how synchronised they are,” he said, adding that he could spend hours just observing them.
“To paint a good picture, you have to imagine that you’re the fish and understand their movements.”
After graduating from the Fine Art Department of the Malaysian Institute of Art, Chen worked as a printmaker, and later a museum curator, before realising his passion was in painting.
“Over the years I have improved my brush strokes and techniques. In the early days, some of my collectors used to joke that my fish looked more like dolphins or sharks,” he said.
On future exhibitions, Chen said that he would organise more if the timing was right. “I’ll follow what my heart tells me,” he said.
He said he was branching out to paint other fishes, such as arowana. Guests will get a sneak peek of one of his works from his upcoming ‘Majestic Series’ at the exhibition.
The “Splendour of Light” exhibition is being held from 11am to 6pm at The Frame Shop, Shaftsbury Square, Cyberjaya until this Saturday. Admission is free.
The paintings are for sale and prices range from RM3,000 to RM18,000.
For details, call 03-8320 4644 or 012-227 7267.
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Central Region, art, koi fish, tommy chen
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