CHUAH THEAN TENG, DATO'
b. China, 1912 - d. Penang, 2008
MASA HADAPAN KITA (OUR FUTURE), c. 1960s-70s
Signed 'Teng' (lower left)
60cm x 80cm
Private Collection, United States of America;
acquired directly from the artist.
ESTIMATE RM 55,000 - 75,000
PRICE REALISED RM 71,500
|Dato’ Chuah Thean Teng weaves elements of Malay craft tradition and designs into his simple narrative of kampung life with the intimacy and camaraderie which also highlights the beauty of the traditional Malay house. Interest is drawn to the variegated nature-inspired patterns of the batik sarong with the pointillism in one, the pucuk rebung (bamboo shoot) triangles and the starfish and sunflower whorls in the others. All activities are spread over the mengkuang (screwpine) mat with the kelarai shapes in the spartan room with three women taking care of their charges and where the Malay version of the Western Art’s iconic Reclining Figure watches over a baby crawling towards her (one other is hidden inside the sarong cradle while another is resting snugly on the laps of one of the mothers). The contours of the sawn wooden planks that make up the wall enclosures and also the floorboards look like the configurations of certain terraced rice-fields. What is bold about this composition is the exterior opening which is left white like an ambiguous space or even as an unintended screen.
Then Reader’s Digest editor-in-chief Kathy C. Stockwin commented on Teng in 1987: “The colourful images of the Malaysian countryside have received international acclaim… He admires the simplicity and honesty of the kampong (villages) folk and portrays them with warmth and humour. His keen eyes see grace and dignity in everyday activities – children playing, women, men at work…”
Dato’ Chuah Thean Teng is the world-acknowledged founder of Batik Art and he never looked back since his breakthrough exhibition in 1955. His paintings, Two Of A Kind (1968) and Tell You A Secret (1987), took on iconic status when selected for Unicef’s greeting cards. He studied briefly at the Xiamen (Amoy) Art Institute in China but did not manage to complete due to an illness. He was honoured with a Retrospective by the National Art Gallery (NAG) in 1965 and by the Penang State Art Gallery in 1994. The Penang State Government conferred him the title, Dato, in 1998 and he further received the ‘Live Heritage Award’ in 2005. The NAG gave him a Memorial exhibition in 2008. His major works are on show at his Yahong Art Gallery in Batu Ferringhi in Penang which is a veritable museum which also showcases the batik works of his sons and grandsons.
Chuah Thean Teng Retrospective, Penang Museum and Art Gallery, 1994.
Teng Batik, Yahong Gallery, Penang, 1968.
Teng: An Appreciation, National Art Gallery, 2009.