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!

1 comment:

Robert Rizal Abdullah said...

Hi Mahmud,

Yes Mr Voong was a very talented artist and teacher. He enthusism in Clay modellings rubbed onto us. He submitted one of my clay models and it won a second placing in a National Art Competition in 1964. I felt like a millionaire when I received a cheque of RM250.00.

(Robert Madang Langi)