Young Malaysian artist gives free fluid art classes to elderly in memory of late grandma


Teo (centre) spent her 32nd birthday teaching fluid art to seniors at two nursing homes in Penang. Photo: The Fluid Box

While most young women would spend their birthdays celebrating with their families or partying with their friends, 32-year-old artist Beth Teo chose to spend hers with elderly strangers at two nursing homes in Penang this year.

The KLite says that it’s all because of her late grandmother, Cindy Hue’s influence.

“My grandma always said: ‘Follow your heart and find your joy in life, no matter what’,” she shares.

Teo teared up when the residents of the nursing home sang Happy Birthday to her. Photo: The Fluid BoxTeo teared up when the residents of the nursing home sang Happy Birthday to her. Photo: The Fluid Box“I’ve always wished I could share my passion for fluid art with her, to show her how much happiness it brings me. But sadly, I only discovered this magical art form years after she passed away.

“So, I decided to spread the joy by bringing fluid art to the elderly at a nursing home. Celebrating my birthday with those adorable grandmas and grandpas was truly meaningful,” she says.

Teo spent four hours at two nursing homes – Avenue Medihome Care Centres in Tanjung Bungah and Bayan Lepas, Penang, which were introduced by a friend – during her birthday on March 9.

“Throughout the event, I felt Grandma’s spirit by my side, urging me to be brave and to follow my heart. Tears welled up as they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me,” she adds.

Teo says that the response of the senior residents in the nursing homes surprised her.

She reveals what one of them – a 90-year-old grandpa – said to her: “This is my first time experiencing fluid art in my entire life, it’s so amazing and beautiful. Can you help me take a photo so that I can send it to my niece who’s in China?”

The 90-year-old grandpa wanted to take a photo with Teo to send to his niece in China. Photo: The Fluid BoxThe 90-year-old grandpa wanted to take a photo with Teo to send to his niece in China. Photo: The Fluid Box“Most of the residents were in their 70s and 80s and when they knew it was my birthday, they were so touched that I had chosen to spend the day with them. It was a new and first time experience for them, and I felt blessed too,” she adds.

“It made my heart overflow with warmth,” she says, adding that this birthday adventure was “the best gift I could ever give myself”.

“And I just know somewhere up above, Grandma is smiling down on me, proud of the happiness I’ve found.”

Teo highlights that it’s important for people to spend time with their aged parents and grandparents.

“Don’t wait till it’s too late,” she says, revealing that her grandmother passed away during the pandemic because of depression. She was depressed for many months and it affected her health. She became very ill and all the sicknesses suddenly started to come out,” she adds.

Teo says that her purpose of offering free fluid art workshops to seniors is because there’s a need to focus on the elderly, and not only on children.

“There are many people organising things for children but the seniors are often neglected, and Malaysia’s population is ageing.”

“People usually bring their kids out to the park, for picnics, to explore art, etc. But we forget that when our parents or grandparents grow old, they sometimes become like kids too.

“Sadly, many of them are just sent off to the old folks/nursing home where they spend their time, waiting to pass on.

“They don’t have many activities with family members, nobody visits them nor talks to them. All this can lead to loneliness and depression,” she says.

“I wanted to create more awareness that the elderly also need people to spend time, talk, and have activities with. I understand that when we grow up, we have our own lives, families and responsibilities to fulfil, but we mustn’t forget who brought us up.”

How it started

Teo giving an art pouring demonstration at Tsutaya Books Malaysia, Pavilion Bukit Jalil, which is the venue of her second free workshop for seniors. Photo: The Star/Ming TeohTeo giving an art pouring demonstration at Tsutaya Books Malaysia, Pavilion Bukit Jalil, which is the venue of her second free workshop for seniors. Photo: The Star/Ming TeohTeo, who studied business in Australia where she lived for three years, says that she discovered her artistic side after she returned to Malaysia.

“I don’t have a background in art and didn’t graduate from any art college. I can’t sketch, draw or paint, but I’ve always appreciated art since young.”

While she has experienced the corporate world - working with an airline company and as an educational counsellor in two different colleges/universities before going to Australia - she knew she didn’t want to return to the rat race.

“When I got back, it was still the MCO and I was figuring what to do because I knew I didn’t want a regular nine-to-five office job. I wanted to be an entrepreneur of some sort.”

Teo did a lot of research, watched many YouTube videos and attended workshops, after which she decided to focus on fluid art.

“What I like about fluid art is no art background or experience is required. There are no rules because there’s no right or wrong, nor good or bad. It’s subjective and based on personal taste,” she says.

“In other types of art such as drawing or painting, you usually know what outcome to expect. But fluid art can’t be controlled, and that’s kind of like life.

“If you have specific expectations of how the result will be, then you may end up disappointed.

“For example, when my grandmother passed away, it wasn’t something that I expected and I couldn’t control the circumstances.

“This was during the pandemic and I couldn’t even be there for her when it happened. I was in Australia during that time, and I flew back to see her when she became ill, but I wasn’t in time. She passed on while I was still in the plane.

Teo demonstrating how fluid art is done at Tsutaya Books Malaysia, Pavilion Bukit Jalil. Photo: The Star/Ming TeohTeo demonstrating how fluid art is done at Tsutaya Books Malaysia, Pavilion Bukit Jalil. Photo: The Star/Ming Teoh“Fluid art has taught me to accept what we cannot change, like when the art is completed, we can’t change the outcome, we just have to accept it. The more you try to control it, the more frustrated you’ll become.

“I used to be like that – a perfectionist – but I’ve learnt how to accept things. If not successful, then try again and make more new art,” she shares.

Once the MCO ended and shops reopened, Teo bought all the materials she needed and experimented with her creativity in her small 800 sq ft home studio.

“I posted my art on social media and my influencer friend asked if she could come and learn.

“When she posted the art she made on her social media, more people wanted to come and try so I started having small workshops at my home studio, which could only fit about five to six people at a time.”

“After a year, I started getting enquiries for group and corporate events which required more space, so I moved to a larger premises which can accommodate more people.”

Teo admits she never thought she would become an artist.

“Initially, I just wanted to create a space where families and friends could spend a meaningful time with one another. Nowadays, everyone is always on their phone, even when they are together. But, when doing such art activities, at least they won’t touch their phones.”

My inspiration

Teo with her late grandmother Cindy Hue who raised her and taught her to value human connections. Photo: Beth TeoTeo with her late grandmother Cindy Hue who raised her and taught her to value human connections. Photo: Beth TeoTeo says she gets her inspiration from life and people, particularly her Grandma who raised her when her Mum was working outstation.

“Grandma was a very sociable person. She taught me about life, and brought me to many different places to visit relatives and friends when I was young. After I got my licence, we would drive for hours just to go outstation to meet up with people,” says the eldest of three siblings.

“Grandma taught me how important human connection is, and how this can never be replaced by online interactions.”

The petite lass admits it’s unusual for someone from her generation to prefer human connections to online interaction, but says she was “brought up to value human relationships”.

Teo highlights one of her art series – the Golden Whisper – which was inspired by her grandmother.

“The Golden Whisper was inspired by my grandmother’s words of wisdom.”

Teo believes that it is never too late to start a new pursuit.

“It’s never too late to learn something new. I only started fluid art two years ago at the age of 30. I discovered I had this talent in me.”

Teo with a piece from her Golden Whisper series which was inspired by her grandmother's words of wisdom. Photo: The Fluid BoxTeo with a piece from her Golden Whisper series which was inspired by her grandmother's words of wisdom. Photo: The Fluid BoxShe believes that everyone has a talent.

“For some, it’s obvious. For others, it takes some time and effort to discover their talent.”

She explains that she used ‘gold’ in the series because it’s something that’s precious.

“In the same way, we all have something precious within us. Everyone has a hidden talent, you’ve just got to find it.

“A lot of hidden talents have grown out of difficult times, such as during the MCO when people who lost their livelihoods had to be innovative in finding solutions to survive.”

She adds that each piece has a different colour to represent the different personalities of people but there is a golden element in all of them for a reason.

"Whatever colour it is, there is also gold because no matter who you are, whatever point you are in life, you’re still a gold... and you’re still precious so never look down on yourself, regardless of your age.

Teo conducted her second free fluid art workshop for seniors at Tsutaya Books Malaysia, Pavilion Bukit Jalil on Apr 13.

“I plan to continue having such workshops for seniors monthly or fortnightly, and hope to see people bring their parents and grandparents. It’s a good opportunity to spend time with your family.” she concludes.

More info: @callme_beth_ (Instagram)


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