Lot 004

b. Penang, 1933 - d. 1986


Signed and dated 'Ho Khay Beng 75' (lower right)
Oil on canvas
40cm x 30cm

Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur

ESTIMATE  RM 5,000 - 8,000

This work is set in the backdrop of the lifting of the ban on lion dance in Malaysia on 31 May 1974, following the then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein’s historic visit to China. It not only paved the way for a bridging of the Cold War divide but also brought the rest of Asean closer to China. Lion dance was seen to have secret-society elements and was a potential tool for rebellion like during the Qing Dynasty in China. But on Razak’s visit to China, he realised that the lion dance is an integral symbol of Chinese identity, culture, pride and strength with some 2,000 years of tradition. It is an entertainment, a ritual and a sport that demands tremendous discipline in mind and body.

Today, lion dance is celebrated on a wide scale during Chinese New Year with bands of traines trouped visiting Chinese houses accompanied with drums, gongs and cymbals. Firecrackers are let off to drive away evil spirits and blessings of good luck and prosperity. It is not uncommon today that some of the lion-dance practitioners are non-Chinese.  Thus, Ho Khay Beng's paiting work is more than just a pictorial record of the cultural ractice but reveals an aesthetic accomplishment of colours and movement and in achieving a certain abstraction.

At a time when most artists from Malaysia headed for the great art citadels of Paris and London or even the United States, Ho Khay Beng had opted for Italy where he studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Rome from 1965 to 1967. In Rome, he took up additional courses in mosaics and sculpture. Between 1965 and 1968, he was awarded six gold and silver medals in competitions in Italy. His interest in art was kindled by local pioneer Kuo Juping and it was not surprising that he joined his mentor’s alma mater, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art in Singapore (1956 - 1958), where he was taught by the best – the founder Lim Hak Tai himself and pioneer artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Chen Wen Hsi. On his return, he taught Art at the Han Chiang High School in Penang. He was the vice president of the Penang Art Society (1970 - 1975) and a member in the powerful Malaysian Arts Council. He used the proceeds from the sales of works in his first solo exhibition held at the Chin Kang Association, Penang in 1965 to fund his initial studies in Rome.  Later solo shows were held at Galleria Guilla Flavia, Rome (1966), Galleria Michelangelo and Galeria D’Arte I Volschi, both in Rome (1967) but his biggest honour was when he was invited to exhibit in Italy’s National Art Gallery in Rome in 1967. He was awarded the Overseas Chinese Arts Association Prize in 1968. He is also known best for his portraits like those of  Sultan Ahmad Shah; Tunku Abdul Raman; Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah; and China’s great artist Qi Baishi (1864 - 1975).

Ho Khay Beng Memorial Exhibition (1934-1986), The Art Gallery, Penang, 1996.