KOK YEW PUAH
b. Selangor, 1947, d. 1999
TWO FRIENDS BY THE RIVER, 1998
Signed and dated 'KY98' (lower right)
Charcoal on paper
81cm x 88cm
Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur;
acquired through Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur.
Kok Yew Puah: A Tribute, Valentine Willie Fine Art,
Kuala Lumpur, 2005, illustrated on page 36.
ESTIMATE RM 12,000 - 15,000
PRICE REALISED RM 18,700
|Kok Yew Puah is a recorder of the changing environment in human terms using his Klang hometown as a universal signifier. He delves into the increasing lack of recreational spaces with increasing intrusive infrastructure such as flyovers. He also rails against environmental degradation through pollution and indiscriminate dumping. Here, two women are probably waiting for transport home after work. They look like workers of what look like a cottage industry involving basket-making. The faces register the boredom of the blandness typical of Norman Rockwell’s sterile works, although closer to Kok Yew’s inspirations are the works of David Hockney. In the thickets of dense lines, Kok Yew is playing with pattern variations of floral, stripes, checks etcetera. The ‘river’ referred here could be the Klang River or his favourite backdrop, Pulau Ketam.
Kok Yew is a very under-rated artist as art historian Redza Piyadasa wrote: “His art is about today. There is an authenticity about the man and his art. There is a contemporaneity in his art.” His most important contribution in Malaysian art was “to find an accurate and powerful expression for the visual reality” of the nation. He “forged some of the most intelligent and authentic images of modern Malaysian life” evident in this piece. In this sense, he was a pioneer in Malaysian figuration, capturing urban life during the rapid changes of the 1980s to 1990s in a vision that was multi-ethnic and optimistic. Kok Yew Puah was enrolled at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia from 1966 to 1972 and he attained Diploma in Painting and Master Diploma in Printmaking. Upon returning from his academic sojourn, he was recognised as an accomplished and innovative printmaker. He created works of abstract art in hard-edged and silk-screen print techniques. By the late 1970s, he was absent from the Malaysian art scene to attend to family’s provisions business. He briefly pursued his artistic endeavour in the mid 1980s focusing on portraiture and figurative compositions with social commentaries concerning the changing landscape particularly in Klang where he was born and bred. During this phase, he developed his extraordinary brand of Realism.
Kok Yew Puah: A Tribute, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, 2005.