Lot 003

Tan Choon Ghee
b. Penang, 1930 - d. 2010

Untitled, 1982

signed and dated
(lower right)
watercolour on paper
38 x 49cm

Private collection, Kuala Lumpur

ESTIMATE RM 5,000 – 8,000
The festive air is obvious from the jostling crowd outside the Penang Kwan Im Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple) with the ‘action’ taken at the inverted ‘V’ junction of Stewart Lane and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, with devotees buying prayer paraphernalia from the side stalls. The temple is the oldest temple in Penang, being built in 1728 – only the Cheng Hoon Teng in Malacca is older (built: 1645). The unusually larger crowd could only stem from a festive occasion, like one of the three birthdays of the temple’s guardian deity, Kuan Im, which falls on the 19th day of the 2nd, 6th and 9th Chinese lunar months. Or more unlikely, the Jade Emperor’s Birthday, which falls on the 9th day of the Chinese lunar new year, as there would hardly be space to swing a cat. This was a time when devotees could still take joss-sticks into the premises, as now devotees have to pray and leave the jossticks or paper in the front compound, after completion of renovations a few years ago. But here you get the classic Tan Choon Ghee watercolour touches of draughtsmanship and the gentle fall of shadows, with the negative space of the trishaw peddlers waiting on the lower left. And this, from his more sought-after mid-1980s period.