RAPHAEL SCOTT AHBENG
b. Sarawak, 1939
GOOD EARTH, 1994
Signed and dated 'good earth RSA '95' lower right
Mixed media on canvas
120cm x 178cm
Private collection, Kuala Lumpur.
ESTIMATE RM 10,000 - 15,000
PRICE REALISED RM 18,700
The Good Earth, an ideal from LinYu Tang’s novel of the same title, is filled with a sense of belonging, placidness and destiny even if the earth is not one paved with green and gold, as is the case here. Raphael Scott Ahbeng has opted for an unusually darkened veneer in semi-abstract that looks at first glance like a jumble of tribal artefacts than his usual métier of nature and landscapes. Then again, the patterns of Sarawak tribal culture are derived mainly from the land, and hence manifestations from the red and brownish hues hint at the immediate Staas landscapes around him in the gold-mining town of Bau. In modulating the colours with subtle nuances and in unison, Raphael seems to be playing out a visual tune from the sape, the Sarawak guitar.
Sarawak’s ‘Grand Old Man of Art’ Raphael Scott Ahbeng, a Bidayuh, is a man with many talents – artist, photographer, cartoonist, radio broadcaster and teacher. He attended informal art and photography courses at the Bath Academy of Art, England from 1964 to 1967, and also took up a Drama course at the British Drama League in London for four months in 1973. He was also a cartoonist for the Sarawak Tribune. After teaching, he left the civil service in 1990 to concentrate full-time in art. He first showed promise when he won First Prize in the Sarawak Shell Open art competition in 1959 and took part and won again in 1982 and 1983. He also won Third Prize in the Natural Malaysia competition, Kuala Lumpur in 1991. He was adviser of the Sarawak Artists Society from 1999 to 2000.