Lot 002

b. Penang, 1930 - 2010


Signed and dated 'Choon Ghee 1983' (lower left)
Watercolour on paper
50cm x 62cm

Private collection, Kuala Lumpur.

ESTIMATE RM 7,500 - 12,500

A typical Penang street scene in Tan Choon Ghee’s painting repertoire has ramshackled windows, century-old colonial buildings, hawkers sometimes on their tricycles, activities like children prayer, trishaws, alleyways, balconies, archways, fivefootways, clothesline… The narrow temple on the right in a recess from the road jostles for space with the row of three tall residential colonial buildings with differing front footings over a shallow drain. It’s unofficial siesta time as children are busily engrossed in a game, while a rider in the foreground is taking a short respite in the trishaw. The work of an old Penang street scene was shown in Choon Ghee’s solo at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in 1983.

Unlike most who graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art in Singapore who made a bee-line to Paris to further their studies, Tan Choon Ghee opted for Britain, the Slade School of Fine Art in London, in 1957-1959. He had his first solo exhibition at the Hooi Ann Association makeshift gallery in Penang in 1956, but his prospective art career was put on hold when he was given a German and an Australian government scholarship to study television set design. TV was only introduced then, terrestrial and in black-and-white. He worked for TV Singapore and TVB Hong Kong, but was unhappy and decided to go fulltime into art instead. Choon Ghee, already a legend watercolourist in his lifetime, was given two Retrospectives in his honour, by the Penang State Art Gallery (PSAG) in 1996 and 2000, a tribute show in Kuala Lumpur in 2009, and a posthumous show of his sketchbooks and paper works organised by the PSAG in 2014 titled ‘A Lifetime of Drawings.