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Monday September 23, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday September 23, 2013 MYT 10:22:25 AM
by story andphotos by yip yoke teng
Dr Cheah posing with a poem he composed and penned in calligraphy in conjunction with his latest exhibition, New Nanyang Style - 55 Years Retrospective.
DR CHEAH Thien Soong’s unique Chinese ink paintings often lead one into a vast world of splendid landscape, multi-faceted humanity and the wisdom of life.
The 71-year-old likes to add depth to his works by layering several dimensions together, and penning calligraphy in between his subjects.
These works are a reflection of his art pursuit spanning a proud 55 years.
To get a better understanding of his world, head to the Oriental Art and Culture Centre in Old Klang Road for Dr Cheah’s New Nanyang Style — 55 Years Retrospective exhibition, which runs until Sept 29.
Among the ink pieces, one will spot a solitary oil painting, which is a rarity as Dr Cheah had stopped using the medium since 1965 even though he graduated two years before that from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore with a major in Western art.
“It was the right move.
“In arts, we say, an artist’s work must display four characteristics — of ethnic, style, locale and time.
“As I am a Chinese born in Malaysia, it is my duty to explore and develop oriental art,” reminisced Dr Cheah.
He said the main difference between Western and Eastern arts was that the former emphasised on being realistic while the latter prioritised the artistic conception, a quality prized by Western artists only 1,000 years later following the emergence of abstract and impressionist works.
He discovered many similarities between the two when he pursued both at school, hence his works that merge the best of both worlds.
His passion for painting started when he was a child.
His single-parent family in Ulu Beranang, Negri Sembilan, was not well-off but he was blessed with the freedom to roam the farms and forests.
He drew comics and scrawled graffiti across the walls, before long, his paintings were hung up in class for other pupils to admire.
Dr Cheah made special mention of the art teacher at his secondary school, famous Malaysian Chinese artist Chung Chen Sun, for inspiring him.
The exhibition details the different stages of his art career: 50s to 60s was his learning stage, between 60s to 80s he evolved from traditional to modern art, in the 80s he was a rising star in ink painting.
In the early 1990s, he entered the “Rebuilding Nature” era while in the late 1990s he explored humanity using his favourite subject — a black marsh bird known as a crake or water hen.
After that, he unfurled his “Zen” era which was followed by the new Nanyang style that made his works ever so defined.
One interesting fact about Dr Cheah was that he did not paint anything for a good 10 years, in his 30s, when it is usually the period an ordinary person works the hardest to strive for career excellence.
“I did not touch the paint brushes at all during that 10 years.
“I had to make a living, and I had done many things ranging from being a construction worker, rubber tapper to a furniture maker,” he said with a smile.
“But all these experiences, push the depth and breadth of an artist’s work,” he added.
The Oriental Art & Cultural Center is located at No:10 & 12, 2nd & 3rd floor, Pusat Elken, Jalan 1/137C, Kuala Lumpur. For details, call 03-7785 6363.
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Lifestyle, Central Region, art, exhibition, Cheah Thien Soong
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