CHANG FEE MING
b. Terengganu, 1959
AT DUSK...NANYANG, 2012
Signed ‘F.M. Chang’ lower left
Watercolour on paper
56cm x 76cm
Private collection, Kuala Lumpur; acquired directly from the
ESTIMATE RM 80,000 - 100,000
PRICE REALISED RM 198,000
“Whatever Terengganu will be in future, I will always try to paint her because she is part of me.” - Chang Fee Ming
At Dusk… Nanyang
March like the
One by one
carry flags with cultural slogans
and shout "Beautify Kampung China!"
In bright daylight, they allow
flock by flock
In dark swirling clouds of swiftlets
Invade the heart of ancient houses
The Life essence of hundred years
bit by bit
piece by piece
into golden bird-nests.
Batch by batch
dispatched to the land of the ancestors
For health and beauty, taken
sip by sip
by “the few chosen rich”
into the mouth
down the belly
Do you not realize
As you relish, you also
gorge by gorge,
devour what they built
generation by generation of Southern diaspora
with pain and hardship
the Nanyang flavour!
Expressed orally by Chang Fee Ming, captured into words by Gan Chin Lee
English translation by Jarina Jani.
大叫 美 -化-唐-人-坡!
Chang Fee Ming, ranked among the finest of Asia’s watercolourists, paints subject matters that bring nostalgic reminiscence of Asia’s ideal way of life. At Dusk...Nanyang, shows a Peranakan lady clad in traditional Kebaya blouse and kain batik in the foreground, set against the backdrop of Jalan Kampong Cina in Kuala Terengganu. The UNESCO listed site with its centuries-old street is lined with shop-houses built in Chinese, Malay, Indian and even neo-classic architectural styles. Today, the place is prey to the bird nests industry that grows grotesque huts on the classic roofs and deafens the ears by recorded avian shrieks. Touched to his heart by the transformation, Fee Ming produces a poignant portrait of new “Nanyang”.
On the left side of the painting are ancestral buildings in a collapsed perspective of chaotic lines in cold blue and grey washes. A buah gutong finial above a double-tiered roof signals a Malay house. Closer, Fujian mansions with round roof tiles, auspicious animals on the eaves and jade balustrades appear under the added contraptions. A television antenna and a mural with turtles evoke the pursuits of the day.
Covering a large part of the right side, in a magnificent forefront, a Chinese peranakan lady in traditional costume dominates the scene by the warm glow of her red-orange blouse worn over a kain batik with flowers that match the embroidery on the top. A chiseled pending - the golden fastening of the belt that holds the kain sarong - is half covered by a layer of lace. Here, Fee Ming lovingly deploys the skills in rendering lace and cloth materials for which he is so reputed. He demonstrates as well his natural flair for the metaphor: Both protagonists are aging, one is defaced, the other keeps her dignity in the splendor of her dress; but her tanned hand is at rest, hanging, unable to or unwilling to stop the wheel of time. If the words “an achingly beautiful work” can ever be appropriate, it is for this painting of Chang Fee Ming. This is Chang Fee Ming’s first major work focusing on the baju kebaya presented in the Peranakan vein.
Chang Fee Ming is an accomplished watercolourist known for his unique renditions and interpretations of peoples, traditional societies and their cultures and the often exotic, remote places he visited in Indonesia, Nepal, Africa, the Indo-Chinese communities along the Mekong right up to its source in Tibet. Since his first foray to Bali in 1985, he has etched his place in Indonesian art history, especially in Bali. He achieved a personal record when his iconic Mandalay, a 1993 painting set a Malaysia-Singapore record for watercolour, fetching a premium of over RM250,000 at a recent auction in Singapore.
His array of awards include the Malaysian Watercolour Society award (1984 and 1985), the Sime Darby Art Asia gold award (1985) and the PNB Malaysian art award (1985). He also won the Minor Awards in the Young Contemporary Artists competition in 1986 and 1987. He won distinction awards in the Rockport Publishers USA in 1997 and the Dom Perignon Portrait of A Perfectionist Award (Malaysia) in 1999. He was a co-winner (Malaysia) of the Winsor & Newton World Millennium Painting Competition in 1999. In 2009, he was selected for the Singapore Tyler Print Institute project in 2009 which resulted in his solo exhibition Imprinted Thoughts.
The World of Chang Fee Ming, Essay: Ooi Kok Chuen, Edited by Garrett Kam, 1995.
The Visible Trail of Chang Fee Ming, Christine Rohani Longuet, 2000.