Lot 085

b. China, 1913 – d. Penang, 1974

GROUP OF WOMEN, c. 1950s

Signed ‘Lee CY’ (centre left)
Oil on board
39cm x 48.5cm

Private Collection, Penang.

Lee Cheng Yong Retrospective,
Penang State Art Gallery, 1996.

ESTIMATE  RM 16,000 - 25,000

Art theorist and spiritual painter Wassily Kandinsky believed that a painting is defined in three terms: impressions, improvisations and compositions. Based on his text Du Spirituel dans l’art (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) written in 1912, impressions are rooted on an external reality that serves as a starting point, improvisations and compositions represent images arising from the unconscious, though composition is developed from a more formal point of view. Kandinsky also believed that colours matter significantly in evoking the physical effect of the eye, charmed by its beauty thus causing the oscillation of the soul or an “inner resonance”.

A Kandinsky-inspired piece, Group of Women is an abstract work by the uber-talented Lee Cheng Yong. Multi-coloured dancing lines are marked rhythmically onto canvas. Streaks and dots of the warmth of cheery red, orange and yellow with brushes of cool blue and calm green in different shades compose a merry visualisation of a group of women - formed by bold outlines in the act of jubilating - on a lightly primed canvas. Here, Lee Cheng Yong engages with his spiritual being, applying the three elements of painting onto his canvas, leading the viewers to the pinnacle of his spiritual pyramid.

Lee Cheng Yong studied at Sin Hwa Art Academy (later known as the Shanghai Academy of Fine Art) in 1927 and held his first solo exhibition at the Philomatic Union in Acheen Street, Penang in 1932 while his next was in 1960 at the Chin Kang Association in Macalister Road in Penang. He formed the Penang Chinese Art Club in 1935 and was elected its first president. He was honoured with a memorial exhibition by the Penang State Art Gallery in 1996. Although Lee Cheng Yong left copious works on various subjects in
various media indicating his versatility, he was also known as a dedicated art teacher at the Chung Ling High School. He fostered generations of star students such as Chong Hon Fatt and Chai Chuan Jin. He was prodigious mostly in oils, with works in the Post-Impressionist mould. Besides paintings, he had also done sculptures and murals. His works are collected in among others, the Fukuoka Art Museum and the Singapore Art Museum.

A Tribute to Lee Cheng Yong
, The Art Gallery, Penang, 2001.
Eight Pioneers of Malaysian Art (With Supplement on Peter Harris),
Dato’ Dr. Tan Chee Khuan, Penang State Art Gallery, 2013.