Lot 078

b. Perak, 1934


Signed and dated 'Choong Kam K '66' (lower left)
Oil on canvas
130cm x 127cm

Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur;
acquired directly from the artist at New York exhibition.

Art Expo Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 2012.
International Centre, New York, USA , 1966 - 1967.

ESTIMATE  RM 50,000 - 70,000

It is incredible that this important early work by Choong Kam Kow, one of Malaysia’s most versatile artists in the early years, is back to Malaysian shores after being abroad in New York for some 45 years! Sunset, an oil on canvas from Kam Kow’s New York series with its yin-yang balance of geometric and organic shapes, was even featured in the invitation folder of the New York exhibition at the New Masters Gallery at 19 East 57th Street on 4 May 1968 – his second solo there. He was studying and working there at this time, having obtained his MFA from the Pratt Institute in New York in 1968. He also taught Fine Arts in the United Nations International School from 1966 to 1968. For his studies, he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship (1965 to 1966) and the Fulbright-ACLS Research Fellow (1980 t 1981). He recalled painting this work when he was overcome by the golden hues of the setting sun at the Greenwich Cove in Connecticut. It reminded him of home back in tropical Malaysia.

The work is dominated by the flatness of a two-dimensional space, and like all Asians, Kam Kow is also quick to grasp the symbolic quality of the tripartite cosmology of Sky, Earth and Water. He painted two suns a world apart, the one on top bigger than its purported reflection. The static round but crimson shapes balance dramatically against the bold, aggressive strokes signifying the natural land mass. The exhibition received glowing tributes from then Pratt Institute Director Dr. Ralph Wickiser and Pratt Institute Dean of Art School Albert Christ-Janer, both art critics too. Dr. Wickiser wrote: “The work of Kam Kow Choong indicates that art is universal in nature, not merely the produce of mores and acculturation. His ability to sense this universal aspect of his experience has produced an exciting series of distinguished paintings.” Christ-Janer commented: “Kam Kow Choong appeals to my heart, through the wondrous way he works technically to reveal what he means poetically. I delight in seeing what he makes in a high personal idiom supported by the depth of his tradition.”

Choong Kam Kow caps a distinguish international career as artist, sculptor, printmaker, educationist and curator. He led the Malaysian Institute of Art, as president and CEO from 2000 to 2009 after five years as vice-president. From 1989 to 1994, he was the Dean of School of Fine Art, LASA LLE-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore. Earlier, from 1969 to 1989, he headed the Fine Art Department and was senior lecturer at the University of the Mara Institute of Technology. He obtained his BA in Fine Art from the National Taiwan Normal University in 1961. In 2006, he was conferred the Hon. Doc of Arts by the Robert Gordon University, Scotland. He has taken part in the Asian International Artists Exhibition alternating annually at Asian capitals since 1988 and is the chairman of the Malaysian chapter of the Federation of Asian Artists. He has served as a member of the National Art Gallery’s board of trustees from 2005 to 2009. His works are in the collection of major museums such as the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Denmark’s Frederikshavn Art Museum, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, the Guangdong Museum of Art, Taiwan’s Taipei Fine Art Museum and National Museum of History.