From realism to abstract art

Yeo (left) and Koh sharing their thoughts on their joint exhibition at Art Expo Malaysia.

IT WILL be a contrast of realism and abstract art at Yeo Eng Peng and Anne Koh’s upcoming joint exhibition titled “Duo III” at Art Expo Malaysia (AEM).

While some may expect the student to take after the teacher, this is not the case with Yeo, an art lecturer, and his student Koh.

In Duo III, Yeo’s realism artworks are of local cultures and Malaysian pride, while Koh’s abstract paintings are inspired by her love for music and her safari to the Serengeti.

Yeo said, “Of course, foundation and basic training are important but I believe that as a teacher, you should inspire students. I encourage my students to explore and find their own styles.”

Just like Duo I and II, Yeo will also feature pineapples and oil palms this time around.

“I began painting pineapples 10 years ago. I wanted to take up the challenge because there is much detail involved in painting the fruit. I find it very interesting.

“I still remember my first watercolour of a pineapple; it took me one month to complete,” he said.

The Johor-born artist travelled to the north and south for inspiration – the pineapple plantations in Simpang Pulai and oil palm plantations in Juru. 

Aside from being his trademark, Yeo feels that these plantation products also represent local culture.

His painting “Heart of the Nation” was inspired by Malaysia Baru.

“The new Malaysia after the May 9 election brings new hope to the people.

“The oil palm seeds, formed in a heart shape, stick together to present unity and the thorns are seen as protection from external threats.

“The sky-blue abstract background symbolises the freedom of the ocean and the victorious flags of Pakatan Harapan, while the batik motif reminds us to preserve the unique Malaysian culture,” he said.

He added, “I hope people can feel the positive energy when they view my art.”

Inspired by her trip to the Serengeti, Koh fuses wildlife and music into her artworks, creating an orchestra of different animal sounds.

“When I was in an open field in the Serengeti, I heard music – but it was actually the sounds from the animals.

“My nephews are classical musicians. Whenever I attend their performances, I get inspiration for my artworks. I’m not a musician, so I will study the music first before I paint,” she said.

Koh said there is a story behind every piece of work. For instance, “Zebras Crossing” is about a treacherous river-crossing of zebras she witnessed.

She had Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance in her mind when she prayed for the zebras’ safety as there were crocodiles waiting to prey on the hooved beasts.

“I cried before I started the painting as I pitied the zebras. And I cried again after finishing the painting,” she said.

As this marks their third joint exhibition, the key to their continued collaboration is mutual understanding.

“We often meet to exchange opinions. I have the freedom to paint whatever I want but I also make use of his experience and knowledge,” Koh said of Yeo.

Yeo added, “It’s easier for us to work together because we have a common direction, we appreciate the beauty of art.”

When asked about the theme of the exhibition, Yeo said, “We do not need a theme to restrict ourselves.”

A total of 21 new artworks by the two will be exhibited under NN Gallery at the Art Expo from Oct 12 to 14.

The two expressed their sadness over the passing of the late Syed Nabil Syed Nahar, who co-founded NN Gallery with his sister Sharifah Nor Akmar.

“We miss him very much, he was a very respected figure in the Malaysian art scene. We will continue to pursue our dreams with him in our mind,” Koh said.

“I knew Nabil for 15 years. He passed away three months ago.

“He was a very good art curator and very passionate about the arts,” he said.

Art Expo Malaysia will be held at Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur. For details, visit

Central Region


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