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.

Three Batik Pieces from The Mature Years

Kelabit Girl Dancing . circa 1986 ( Sold)

Bintulu Plaza Hotel - circa 1990. (Sold to Plaza Hotel)
Those who frequent Plaza Hotel can see this painting at the music stage today.

Venezuelan Hacienda - a study . June '02.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tanjong Lobang Creative Encounters

wooOOWWW! It's an alien planet landscape... with an alien figure showing the way ahead to the Time Machine... This watercolour painting I did as an abstract art piece on 22.4.68 ( date shown)...therefore Form Five work!!

( By Way of Photographs)

Han Hipnee signing in my autograph. Comments: Never know a Police Inspector with a softness to his heart.

Othman Borhan next to his prize winning batik painting , circa 1968. In 1969,Othman was awarded " The Best Art Student " for the year while in Upper Six.

Doing finishing touches to my homework piece. Here I am next to my bed ( lower bunker), in the infamous Dearnly Dormitory. Comment: Oh MY! Don't you have any other favourite batik shirt?

"Plein air" technique is a must experience under Mr. Voong. With Adi Tuah doing watercolour painting at the Brighton Beach,Miri. circa 1967. Comments: OK Datuk, this is for all times sake!!

This time I'm going to blog about the most interesting and significant early art education I had. To do justice to this period ( The Very EaryYears and Influences) and the persons responsible for the influences, I give myself this rare honour to put on record the learning experiences I enjoyed under the artistic direction of Mr. Voong

So bear with me as I try to recall with aids of my dairy, photographs( and autographs) and comments I gathered from others who have great admiration of Mr. Voong, the Art teacher.

First, I would like to throw at you the sense or mood of the times relating to the art activities we experienced. The photographs are characteristic of the times. Black and white and very nostalgic to me.

Then, in later episodes ( well its gonna be a long story) I'll write to the best of my ability , detailed description of Mr. Voong's style that impacted on me most and also other art students I know.

For its impact on others , I will write a special mention on my dormitory mate and friend, Othman Borhan. Later in his life, Othman became a respected artist in Kuching, Sarawak.

My creative encounters at Tanjong Lobang school( later'College') were also in the area of drama( stage performance) and poetry writing. These will be blogged about after finishing blogging on my Tanjong Lobang art training.

For sure it was the highest level of Art education you can get in Sarawak during those times.

" Form Six, Man!!!" and "Hey! Tanjong Lobang ,lah!!Bukan sebarangan dong!!!"

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Very Early Years and Influences

Bintulu Government Secondary School Art Competition

The 6th of August 1966 was penned in my diary as the day I won second place in the BGSS's Creative Art Festival Competition for a 'beautiful painting'. This painting was submitted under the " Crayon, Still and Plant Life" category. The picture I did was of an iris plat.
This was a major happening in my art career because it was the first time I won in an open competition. The award meant so much to me that even to this day ( 41 years later!) I still keep my first ever award certificate and you got to see it too.
Even though the certificate was of a blue manila paper, it meant so much for the budding artist in me.
Art Education
Thus my art education started early in the 1960's. However, even at the primary schooling level, of all the subjects we had to study like English, Arithmetic, Religious doctrine, Geography, History , General Knowledge, Science and Hygiene, Art was still my best subject. I was awarded V.G. ( Very Good) in the Primary Six December 1963 report card for Art.
I will never forget a poster I did at that time of the "Bintulu Regatta" done to advertise the river regatta held at Bintulu as part of the first Malaysia Day Celebration. It was a most meaningful occasion for Bintuluians at that critical juncture of their political history.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sketches and Portraits- 1974

The Young Man As Artist Period

Using black felt pen and 'rough pad' sketch books ( 175 mm x125 mm) I used to express the exceedingly intense feelings of anxiety and anger of a young man in the early 1970's.

Self Portrait

During this period I was taking up a professional teaching course at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, soon after I completed my first degree course atUniversiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang.


The 'rough pad' series was a critical period in my life. Indeed the main figure or motifs were self-portraiture. It was as if me, the artist, wanted to explore the deeper callings of a young man's searching soul.... and thinking of what the future will hold.

Back View
In the young contemplative moods of that period, my thoughts were bombarded with questions of Beauty, Love, Life's contradiction, History, among many.

Sketches of a Young Man

The drawing style at that period was spontaneous , on the spot, sketching of human figures and buildings.

Dewan Tunku Chancelor, University Malaya 1974.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Forward - naturally

In my mature years period , one of the areas of creativity I dwelt upon extensively was landscaping. The extremely intense experience I gathered in my mature years( 1983-1993) while working in BDA provided a rich exposure on many aspects of the landscaping activities. Landscaping became a constant theme in my present period which I term as 'forward - naturally'.

Caladium bicolour (Angel's Wings)

Caladiums are a showy plant and most tender tropical foliage plants, prized for the gorgeous colours and rich patterning of the large thin eaves. Notice the large contrasting veins .

This period in my life I will dedicate to nature but of a different paradigm, which I prefer to
designate as "forward with nature". This thematic treatment shall be explored in greater details in my other sites, viz 'my landscaping story','my eco-farm'(under-construction) and ' a Malaysian sidewalk'.

Well, today it has been raining since 5.00 am till about 9.30 am. Having nothing to do outside, I decided to take a pix of the landscaping detail I did a couple of weeks ago, just outside my cottage bedroom wall. This piece I did in about an one hour time.

Clerondendrum thomsoniae
(Bleeding Heart)

Watch the clusters of deep crimson flowers emerging from the pure white bell-shaped calyces contrasted by the large, oval deep green leaves. This plant grows well in a sunny position. Because it is a climber, it needs to be pruned regularly. It grows well in Bintulu due to the humid environment here.
Earlier on , I grabbed my Nokia phone n93i and took a pix of the landscaping detail of the wall outside my bedroom. The wall is made of rattan ( a natural vine available in the wild ) here. My idea in this simple landscaping piece is to make the plants hug on to the walls, naturally.

Clerondendrum thomsonaie

( Pink variety)

Monday, September 10, 2007

More on First Solo Exhibition - 1981.

Friends and Admirers to the Show

A leaf from Visitors Book

Self-Portrait -1973 ( Water colour)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Bintulu Batik Series - ethnic by design

Kelabit Lass - circa 1986, Kidurong, Bintulu. (Sold)

These batik paintings were done in Bintulu. They depict much on the ethnic cultures of Bintulu.

The year 1986 seemed a very prolific year for me. The reason being that having a good job with the BDA, I could therefore concentrate on doing batik without worrying about daily meals .

Iban Design - circa 1986, Kidurong, Bintulu.(Sold)

Kelabit Dancers - circa1986, Kidurong, Bintulu.( Sold)

Traveller's Palm - circa 2002, Park City, Bintulu.( Sold )

Ethnic by Design - circa 1986, Kidurong , Bintulu.
( own collection)

First Bintulu Artist to Hold Solo Exhibition

Venue of Exhibition: Sarawak Museum , Kuching , Sarawak.
Time: 15- 17 October, 1981.

The Year 1981 remains as one of the highlights of my encounters with creativity. That year I held my first solo exhibition in Kuching. I have not known yet any Bintulu artist who has held a solo exhibition in Kuching, the art capital of Sarawak. That would put me as the first Bintulu born artist to hold a solo art exhibition in Kuching. One for the Malaysia Book of Records!.

I have in my personal collection a couple of the paintings that were shown in the exhibition. These shall remain my personal collection and will not part with them because they are my signature paintings. Probably they will qualify for the Sarawak Art Museum (when I am not around in this planet!)

There are about 5 more of the other paintings which I still keep in my study. I will post these paintings when the time comes later. It is interesting to note tat these paintings were almost in water colour or mixed media and the size of the paintings are imperial sizes, i.e. 30 ins. x 22 ins.

Mosque in Sunset - 14/2/81, water colour

Croton - 24/4/76, Mixed Media

Door of Life - 8/8/81, Mixed Media

Solitude - 8/4/81, Water colour.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Batik Paintings

The production of batik paintings was an interesting discovery of sorts during my mature years period. In the first solo exhibition I had in 1981 at Kuching, there was not a single piece of batik painting exhibited. It would seem that time is really needed to master an art. Batik techniques were learnt during college days( 1967-1970) but little was mastered then.

It was only when I came back to Bintulu in 1983 onwards that I contemplated on mastering this art. This was largely due to the fact that Bintulu was an upcoming town and there were plenty of expatriates available as buyers. Thus it makes commercial sense to go back into batik painting because batik is uniquely Malaysian.

The motifs then were exclusively native or ethnic.. In the earlier pieces(1985-1989) . The colours were very subdued and rich in hues. In later paintings(1985-1989) I concentrated on the unique spontaneity and impressionistic tendencies of batik. Here are examples of work done during this period. More examples will be shown in later blogging.

It would seem appropriate at this juncture to remark that in the 2nd solo exhibition which I am now planning, there will be plenty of batik paintings especially those with modern or abstract motifs.

Kelabit Girl with Flute - circa '86

By The Water's Edge - august,02

Three Doves - circa '86

Water Lilies- may,'02

Plants study - june '02

Paddling upriver- april '85

Two Women Washing - may'85