Lot 106

b. Selangor, 1947 – d. 1999

, 1994

Signed and dated ‘KY 94’ (lower right)
Acrylic on canvas
137cm x 137cm

Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur;
acquired directly from the artist.

ESTIMATE  RM 50,000 - 60,000

Kok Yew Puah was a figurative painter who changed the landscape of portraiture. His most important contribution to Malaysian art was “to find an accurate and powerful expression for the visual reality” of the nation. He often portrays himself in his paintings and one such example is in this exceptional piece. A repetition of self-portrayal is illustrated here where he stands on the foreground in various poses: on the left he looks up with his eyes shut, his right hand covers his face at the centre, and on the right, he stands on his side facing the middle figure with his eyes closed. Executed in his signature style of social realism coupled with extraordinary use of lush colours balanced composition and sublime symbolism, this masterpiece projects an uncanny juxtaposition of the three self-portraits against a backdrop of four unmanned fishing boats, perhaps a scene from Pulau Ketam in Klang with a colour guide numbered one to twelve is on the top. The vibrancy of the cool blue with hints of green dominating the canvas is a response to his older palette from the 1980s which sees similar use of bold minimal colours, although his style has developed sophistically.

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 his family’s provision 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.