THE illustrious career of artist Chia Yu Chian will be commemorated with an upcoming art exhibition and book launch 27 years after his death.
The exhibition, which begins today, is organised by Yu Chian’s family, who still runs the Chia Yu Chian art gallery, in collaboration with the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).
Yu Chian was born in Kota Tinggi, Johor, in 1936, and his paintings were publicly exhibited for the first time in a group exhibition when he was only 15 years old.
He was also the first artist from Malaysia and Singapore to receive a scholarship from the French government to study art at the École Nationale Supériere des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
His youngest son, Chia Cher Ping, said Yu Chian created more than 5,000 pieces of art during his lifetime as he never stopped painting until his death.
“Even during the times he was admitted to hospital, he would go around and sketch scenes of life in the hospital,” said Cher Ping.
He added that his father would paint scenes of real life where the meaning can be clearly derived by the viewer.
Yu Chian’s early works were very much like the Nanyang style of art, but during his time in Paris, he was also predominantly influenced by European art movements such as Expressionism and Cubism.
“Soon after his return to Malaysia, he began to develop his own style,” said Cher Ping, who added that his father would paint anything from people to heritage buildings and scenery.
“I recall being a model for him once. We had to sit still for a few hours, but he would give us a little money for helping him,” said Cher Ping with a laugh.
Yu Chian favoured knife strokes in many of his works and a lot of them were oil paintings, though on rare occassions, he used pastel, ink and watercolour.
His art career had led him to meet many notable figures such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah.
“As a full-time artist, his philosophy and principles were handed down to his art students,” Cher Ping added.
Yeo Eng Hin was one of Yu Chian’s art students in the early 1970s.
Yeo said the last exhibition to feature Yu Chian’s artwork posthumously was in Singapore in 2009.
“This is the first time we will be launching a book about his life and art,” said Yeo.
Yeo added that his mentor not only encouraged his students to develop an interest in painting, but motivated them to study art in France.
“Unlike other artists, he never asked us to follow his style. He showed us art books and encouraged us to explore other styles and eventually develop our own,” Yeo added.
KLSCAH cultural and educational committee chairman Jean Lee Shok Jing said the organisation was proud to jointly organise the exhibition with the Chia family.
She said while the Chinese community in Malaysia was highly appreciative of foreign Chinese artists, especially with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and its objective of increased cultural exchange, there was a need to recognise more local artists.
“We really appreciate the Chia family for taking this opportunity to commemorate him and reintroduce his art to the local Chinese community,” she added.
About 60 paintings and more than 50 corresponding sketches still in the possession of the Chia family will be on display at the exhibition in the Kong Choi Room on the upper floor of KLSCAH.
The book on Yu Chian’s life and art will be launched at the exhibition.
It features many of his works, and will be available at bookstores at a later date.
There will also be a concurrent exhibition on calligraphy by one of Yu Chian’s former art students, which will take place on the ground floor of KLSCAH.
The “Chia Yu Chian Enlivened” exhibition runs from today until Nov 7 and is open from 10am to 6pm daily.
The official opening will take place at the venue on Nov 4 at 3pm.