Friday, October 30, 2009

Wax and Dye

In May, I had the privilege of perusing an exhibition showcasing the best of Teng's work at the National Art Gallery. Datuk Chuah Thean Teng was a batik painter, a technique adapted from the Nusantara artform of applying wax blocking and vegetable dye to print fabrics. He was a superb craftsman who mastered a varity of media; from wood block prints, ink on paper, metalwork, pastel and poster colour.

His portraits of lush and voluptuous female figures, tinted in rich colours brought to mind the raw sensuality of Gauguin. The delicacy of his brush strokes and the dreamy feel of his landscape brings to mind Henri Matisse. his bold and fantastical abstracts earned him the apellate of the Picasso of batik. He documented life in the village; heavily featuring female figures from bare-breasted aborigine women to the modest and retiring tudung clad Malay girls. His paintings narrated of a lifestyle that is no more, articulating the linkage between nurturing family, land and humanity.

Just to share some of my illicit snapshots and thoughts. My last visit has shown that the NAG is more stringent about photography in the galleries; signages and guards abound.

Observe the little girl in this painting; her scowling demeanour and heavy lips lending her a rather sinister cast. The long suffering patience of the mother. Except for the hair, it could have been my mother and I when I was a bratty child (still am, sadly).

The perspective of this picture is both unexpected and charming, no? The shadows contrasting with the bright colours of her sarong and the manically cheery sky ... I don't know what it is but I like it. The sultry air is almost visceral.

This is the mural he made for the Faculty of Agriculture of University of Malaya in 1960.

R.I.P. Teng. You will be missed.

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