Lot 137

b. Johor, 1936 - d. Kuala Lumpur, 1991


Signed and dated 'Yu Chian 1959' (lower right)
Oil on canvas
60cm x 46cm

Private collection, Kuala Lumpur.

ESTIMATE RM 10,000 - 18,000
This Chia Yu Chian work pays obvious homage to Henri Matisse (1869-1954), especially with the overpowering bright blue as in from Matisse’s Blue Nudes and cutouts. Yu Chian’s use of blue, however, had the temperate nature of the Mediterranean rather than the tropics. It was 1959, pre-Paris, before Yu Chian developed his own brand combining School of Paris chic with his Nanyang flavours – the same as Georgette Chen (1906-1993). The only other SinMa (Singapore-Malaysia) artist so influenced by Matisse was Liu Kang (1911-2004), for example the top half of his (Liu Kang’s) painting, Artist And The Model (1954). Yu Chian’s pre-Paris works mostly delved into local sceneries, landscapes, kampung life and activities. His works after he returned to Malaya nearly a decade later in 1963 were truly Fauvist but with elegance, and a composition and subject that were intrinsically local. Such was that his first solo, at the British Council in Kuala Lumpur, upon his return was nearly sold out, with a sales total of RM12,000 – a princely sum those days.

The Singaporean curator cum writer Bridget Tracy Tan, however put Yu Chian’s art in the Nanyang mould “with a gentle distillation of established idioms to articulate a persistently catalytic Modernity, one that was shaping and would continue to shape, the communities of Nanyang and their interests over many more decades.”

Yu Chian was the first in the Straits Settlement to receive a French Government grant to study at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1959. He then had only informal art tutelage under Chen Wen-Hsi. In Paris, he was accepted for exhibitions 15 times, a few with honorary mentions (Salon des Independents and the Societe des Artistes Francaise). Apart from solos in Paris, at the Galerie de Villiers and the Salon de Paris, he also exhibited in London (Britain) and Hanover (West Germany) in 1960. He was also commissioned to do a grand mural titled Life In Malaysia for the Malaysian Embassy in Paris (France), as well as portraits for various Malaysian government and political luminaries. He was honoured with Memorial exhibitions by The Art Gallery Penang (1997) and the National Art Gallery Malaysia (2002), and a 2009 exhibition hosted by Nanyang Academy of Fine Art called Chia Yu Chian In Nanyang.