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Wednesday July 4, 2007

A tale of great opportunities


GREAT opportunities are few and far between, each always leaving a lasting impression.  

Lau Wai Fong knows this well, by virtue of his own experiences.  

What has eventually culmi-nated in his – or any other artist's ambition – has been preceded by enough incidences to make one wonder if Lau has the hand of God upon him.  

Lau is finally holding his first solo art exhibition – at the age of 63! 

Artist and his works: Lau surrounded by what he loves best – art. The piece at top left captures a pier at Kuala Kedah that has since been replaced by a modern pier.
“All I can say is 'Praise God', the opportunity finally presented itself,” said the artist from Alor Setar, whose works can be found in the private collections of Balai Senilukis Pulau Pinang, Balai Senilukis Alor Setar, Universiti Utara Malaysia and Wisma Darul Aman, among others.  

Lau's tale is an amazing one, especially as his foray into art was completely unprecedented – he was not exposed to proper art education during his schooling years, nor did he show an interest in art. 

“I was six when I sketched St Anthony's Church in Telok Anson (now Teluk Intan) with a few colour pencils that I had scroung-ed together from somewhere,” Lau recalled, adding that his form teacher recognised his talent and presented him with his first set of colour pencils.  

“That was my first artistic incident; after that, I fooled around with a bit of drawing here and there.” 

It was not until he applied to be a temporary teacher upon completing his Senior Cambridge, when he was inspired and encouraged by long-time friend Mustafa Mahmood – then already a prolific artist – that he took art seriously and enrolled himself into the Specialist Teachers Training College in Cheras.  

Opportunity presented itself when Lau, then 20, was allocated a room which functioned as living space and studio within S.M. Jitra, where he taught art. 

“It was an acknowledgement of my talent. All the material I needed was provided, as well.” 

A fire razed the building to the ground, destroying his early artworks and collection of art books, but Lau pressed on, producing many scintillating artworks, exhibiting at group shows, winning awards and eventually rebuilding his collection of books.  

From the humble house painter, Lau is today versatile in acrylic, oil, pottery, sculpture, ink etching and printmaking; his subject matter diversifying from plants to landscape, figurative and even abstract. 

Lino-work: Lau applies his expertise in printmaking using linoleum.
“I'm a jack of all trades la,” he laughingly accedesacceded, but I'm going back to oil and figurative these days.” 

Bad experiences with galleries in subsequent years following his retirement caused him to be wary of exhibitions, but opportunity smiled at him once more, and again he had his old friend to thank.  

“Mustafa linked me with this gallery, and here I am doing my first solo,” he said with a shrug. 

Some 50 pieces of his works are exhibited at the gallery – a mere fraction of the 400-odd artworks he has hanging in his house.  

In his plant series, Lau exhibits his prowess with colour play; with ink etching and printmaking, one sees precision of technique.  

Some of Lau's pieces are a visual diary of places that no longer exist, such as the kampung houses by the seaside in Kuala Perlis and Kuala Kedah, as well as the pier at Kuala Kedah before it was torn down and a modern one built in its place.  

It is tough to put a finger on a focal piece, so varied are the works he has on display. But, it does not seem likely that Lau would confine himself to a particular style or medium, either.  

“As long as I breathe, I will paint,” he said. “There is still so much for me to learn!” 

  • A Life of Art by Lau Wai Fong is showing at Frame Network Gallery, C-0-9 Ground Floor, Plaza Damas, 60 Jalan Hartamas 1, KL until today. For details, call 013-332 0823.  

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