Monday, October 29, 2007

Reflection on Beauty

Beauty is seen
in the external appearances
in the minutest details
to the universal forms
in all solid forms
to seemingly formless forms

Beauty is done
action caught or
in words spoken.
Beauty is felt
Beauty is thought
Beauty is smelt
in all of these , Beauty is found
In outside appearances we speak of Beauty.

But Beauty too whispers
Smiling, strangely to us
For Beauty challenges
Beauty inspires
Beauty motivates
Beauty embraces and provokes
Our mind, body, spirit and soul

The idea that conceptualises
Beauty as beautiful
is one that keeps on expanding
embracing and comprehending
It surrenders itself
But holds us passionately
affectionately and lovingly
into One.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Night and Me ( in six parts )

This is poem of my mature years period,written on 30.7.74.

The Night and Me ( in six parts )


It was a cold July night

the rains have stopped

early in the evening

all around coolness was felt

the night was dark and damp

the streets silent

the roads were free

the buildings in rows

only the ever shining flickers

of the electric lights did I see

Here from above the multitude of houses

I came down in my helicopter



to disturb not

the silent sleep of the slumbering people

the warm kisses

the sensual feelings

the pleasurable joys

the ectastical sensitiveness of love

in the burning eroticism

of the young couple


I flew up higher

laughing myself to ife

the mutual reward of giving

the satisfaction of my ideals

I shared with my woman

deep in embrace

In a moment of high happiness

we declared ourselves as one

united in desire

the longing of sharing happiness

the longing of loving

of passion and affection now caught in one beautiful moment

we remained deep in our happiness

unuttered in words but felt

we embraced to love life

to live life

and all its beauty


I moved now into the silent night

to the world of calm reflection

stillness abound

rich in its stimulation

for in the thoughtful recesses

of his mind

the young scholar toiled

imagining, picturing, thinking

discovering and finding out

How I love life

and truth it rewards

to bath myself in the light of reason

I held my hands and fingers

raised above my head

and caressed the dark volumes

and shadows of my hair

my problem, my not knowing

the brilliance and the exposure

of the light of reason and happiness


I walked out

into the darkness and mysteries

of the night

on every step I forward make

brilliance shone

my body was brilliance

the night stayed darkly


My helicopter

brought me down town

among the conflagration of

colourful neon lights

that adorned the streets and entrances

of this cold darkly night

My eyes were caught by the kicking of doors swung open

a man was pushed out

into the cold lonely night

wrapped in downcast dissatisfaction

he walked out feeling pain

quilt, worry and shame

satisfaction unfound

joy missed

the prostitute

hands on her heavy hips

stood legs apart at the doorway

shouted obscenities at the man

giggled at life

not knowing exactly what to say

she banged the door

and turned back

into the dark corners of

undernourished and undeserved life

I see no more

what the night shall bring to her

only a sad memory

and a cold mysterious hope.


I looked behind me

the hours were late

the night more lonely

I flew faster

up and higher

running for the day

the brilliance to come.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tanjong Lobang Creative Encounters - Episode 3

Mr. Voong Kiat Hui ( Part II )
Mr. Voong was an art activist. By this I mean he has the best of intent in challenging us to practice the usefulness of art even at the school level. We were encouraged to take part in open art competitions, art exhibitions, art club activities, and other art-related activities in the school especially in the production of English dramas.

There is one activity of the Art Club which I enjoyed exceedingly. If you are to enter the Tanjong School Hall , on the left side of the stage is a glass mosaic piece. This was done over a couple of months because it involved breaking the thick glass mosaic blocks into smaller pieces and then glued them together by using cement. The composition depicts two fishes among weeds in an underwater scenery. The characteristic ' red sun', a symbol frequently used by Mr. Voong in his modern art painting is reflected here at one corner of the composition.

Glass Mosaic wall piece, done in 1969 by Art Club, under guidance of Mr. Voong. Location: Assembly Hall, Tg. Lobang, Miri.

Mr. Voong's other contributions
Mr. Robert Nicholl relied heavily on Mr. Voong to assist him in the yearly English drama production. This entailed him to design costumes and make-up , construct props , decor and sets. In some sets, he had to paint huge paintings as part of the living room scene. Two examples you can see here is the modern art painting in 'Tamu di Bukit Kenny' and huge portrait in 'Charley's Aunt'.

Adi has fainted! I am helping him to recover. Zainie Ozea, Zakiah and Fatimah in the background. Observe the modern art painting on the wall by Mr. Voong.

The above is an example of 'public sculpture' done by Mr. Voong out of wood. This was located next to Mr. Nicholl's office. I think the title was ' The Owl'. Yah, it's me posing next to it.
The above cover design is of the souvenir programme for the drama , 'Charley's Aunt' shown at the School Hall on 25.7.69. Observe Mr. Voong's very effective caricature of the players.

In the cover design above, note the 'fluidity' of Mr. Voong's Chinese painting style strokes. This play was staged on Friday, 6.9.68. In the above play, I acted the part of Alf Benson. My father, Charles Benson was played by Peli Aron. The play centred on a remote sea port in Great Britain around 1870 .

This is a newspaper cutting of the drama from the' Borneo Bulletin'. In this play I took the role of Colonel Sir Francis Chesney. This is a hilarious drama. I could remember clearly how the audience was kept in stitches the whole evening. Note the huge portrait Mr. Voong did as part of the living room prop. This drama was staged on 25.7.69 to a full audience. For the record, the following day i.e. 26.7.69, the school organised a farewell party for Robert Nicholl.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Abstract Series

Abstract Series of The Mature Years Period
Abstract art is difficult to understand and more still to master. I find that it takes time for it to sink deep into one's psyche. Because the idea is abstraction, our mind need to be very focused, clear and simple to execute a reasonably good piece of work.
After the 'batik series' there was a lull in my activity on canvas. This was probably as a result of heavy workload that consumed much of my waking life doing my first career with the BDA. Nonetheless, it is while in the BDA that I attended an International Art Workshop from 8/9/89 to 17/9/89 in Kuching.
This exhibition was responsible for planting the seeds of a proper understanding in the concept of abstract art for me. However I discover now that it takes a real long time for abstract ideas to incubate in my thinking . Until one fine day on 12 September 1995 that the artist in me took the surplus paint and plywood boards with an eagerness and intense flow of emotions and actions. I finished four paintings in one session. It was the most productive and successful experience I had with abstract painting.
I see plenty more possibilities in abstract art and I am convinced that in later periods I will come back again to do abstract painting .
The few paintings I did in 1989 will become my personal collection.
There is however one extra large piece which I did on 12.12.01 entitled 'By the Water's Edge'. This painting was pure delight for me to do. It was done as part of a decorative wall piece for Mas Cafe at Parkcity, Bintulu.

By The Water's Edge - 2001, 87 cm x 208 cm
Movement 1 - 100 cm x 105 cm

Storm, rain and sea , 58 cm x 142 cm

Drooping leaves , 142 cm x 58 cm

Circular chain , 106 cm x 70 cm

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Very Early Years and Influences - Tg. Lobang Creative Encounters ( Episode 2)

A Seated Figure - the only piece of clay work that's in my possession from the Tanjong days !

Note the signature and date. Well by next year it will be forty years old !

Next to my bed in Dearnley dormitory with the ' seated figure' on the table.

Robert Nicholl's letter encouraging students to be creative ..not forgetting the tools of the trade.

Mr. Voong Kiat Hui ( Part 1)

No words can express better my admiration of Mr.Voong except to say that he was a real master of teaching art , a "sifu" if you will. But there again he was himself an accomplished artist. On many occasions when I had the opportunity to visit him at his teacher's quarters, I was always thrilled to see the huge size of his abstract paintings which were everywhere on the wall of his house. I knew Mr Voong as my form teacher( Form Four) , art teacher and art activist. A most pleasant personality with a friendly disposition. That's how I rememered him most. He mastered the various skills of the artistic medium which formed part of our art education syllabus in Form Four right on to Upper Six and imparted them well , for me especially.

The years of art training I had under him were very formative of my later styles in water colour, mixed media, batik and artistic activism.

Mr. Voong's influences

Mr. Voong left a lasting impression on me in many aspects. Firstly, his use of Chinese brush and Chinese style water colour technique. He taught as the proper way of handling the Chinese brush whether in slanting or vertical positions. Secondly he exposed me to modern art or abstract art in its many styles and medium, like water colour, clay work and batik. Thirdly, his love of 'plein air' painting, that is painting out of door, became my staple style used in many occasions even when I taught art to younger students in later years. Our favourite site for 'plein air' was Hicks Bay because it is closest to walk from the school. The challenge he put us was to capture the different strata of the rocky formation of the cliffs, the green vegetation that tops it, the fallen rocks and boulders below scattered on the beach, the sea, the changing skies and clouds and occasionally the sea eagles in flight.

Apart from outdoors, Mr. Voong was also excellent in studio work,like when he taught us to paint posters,still life or objects , portrait ,sculpture and batik making.

One of the moments I looked forward to was the outing to the brick kiln situated down the slope from 'gemok's tuckshop. Here we would place our finished clay work or sculptures to be baked at the kilns for free. The waiting was an extremely stressing for we would never know the result of the firing. Overburnt? Cracked? Or broken? But if all went well, the waiting was well worth the pain and stress like the clay work did entitiled ' Seated Figure'.

I still keep this piece of clay sculpture done in 1968 when I was in Form Five. My mother was so much in love with the piece that she decided to varnish one Hari Raya. The varnish has remained since. Here you can see this treasured piece of mine.

Mr. Voong worked well with Mr. Robert Nicholl. Together they made a point to stage an English drama annually for the benefit of students and the local parents as well as the Miri community at large. Mr Robert Nicholl had a way of orienting students early to be active in arts and culture even before they set foot at Tanjong Lobang's school gate. In a letter welcoming me to Tanjong Lobang school of which an exract of the letter is shown here, he encouraged students to " bring their instruments, photograpers their cameras, and those who have any other accomplishments should bring the instruments of their skills." Even'parangs' for that matter!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Objects Study

Objects Study - a painting in oils on board ( own collection ) size: 35 cm x30 cm

This is another rare work of mine because it is done in oils. Actually back in Tanjong days we were never taught painting in oils. I think the reason could be that the prices of the materials and tools to paint in this medium was too exorbitant for schools.
However, in 1992 I had formal lessons from Lawrence Song who just came back from the Netherlands after a two years stint studying oil painting sponsored by a Dutch couple who happened to see his artistic talent while working for a short period in Bintulu. I was fortunate to learn the practical basics from him. This picture is my first painting in oils. It is a real treasure for me.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Banana Study

Banana Study ( Crayon on Paper ) 30"x20"
This is a rare work among all other paintings because it is done in crayon. It is worthwhile to note that my first ever award in art was in crayon when I was still in secondary school. However over the years I did not continue to experiment more in this medium. In around 1981 when I moved house in Kuching to a wooden rented dwelling, there was this banana tree outside our dining window. I painted it to remember of our stay at that house along Jalan Hj. Taha , Kuching and the pure delight to see the banana fruiting in front of our window.