NATURE inherently tries to make life beautiful for the planet’s inhabitants, if one allows themselves to connect with her.
Penang artist Michael Quah certainly does and translates what he feels into evocative paintings that draw viewers in to share the experience.
He will be displaying 70 pieces in a solo exhibition titled “Nature At Play” at the Heritage Centre of St Xavier’s Institution (SXI) in George Town, Penang, from tomorrow to Sunday.
Done between 1995 and 2018, each of the watercolour works is a mini story expressed in colours, shapes, lines, textures, surfaces and distance.
“Nature At Play is a celebration of the wonderful happenings on a normal day.
“From a sunrise to a sunset, the movement of clouds to the flow of water, or hilltop versus underwater worlds, everything is in place for living beings to thrive.
“It’s also a snapshot of the hidden aspects people seldom see, such as the forces of thermodynamics influencing the flight of birds or the way fish swim, the interconnectedness of light, air, wind, water, tide and temperature in ecosystems, or the hydraulics involved in transpiration from roots to leaves and vice-versa,” Quah said of his works.
The 80-year-old appreciates watercolour’s fluidity. It allows for easy flicks, dabs, sweeps and rolls of the brush, so he can record his feelings at any given moment with higher fidelity.
He also loves how its granular pigments stain paper and create transitions while being versatile enough to be mixed with other materials – giving rise to many different effects.
“Watercolour’s playfulness makes it the ideal creative medium to express nature’s wide spectrum of moods and mysteries.
“I see my works as an entry point into feelings – celebrating, appreciating, being captivated, wondering, in excitement, enjoying breathing in open space, and being drawn into mystery.
“They are my personal stories to be re-lived, which I hope will lead to others sharing their own,” said Quah, who studied at SXI from 1950 to 1959.
He returned to the school as an art teacher in 1963 and served until retirement in 1994, after which he established his own advertising firm, Dreamagic, in Selangor.
In 1966, while attending art training at the Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute in Selangor, he was awarded the Frank Sullivan Best Artist Prize.
Quah relishes the prospect of returning to his old stomping ground, particularly because part of the sales proceeds will be channelled to the development of La Salle Learning Centre.
Viewing hours for “Nature At Play” are 4pm to 7pm on Friday, 9am to 5pm on Saturday and 9am to 1pm on Sunday. Admission is free.