Lot 111

b. Penang 1933 – d. 1986

THRESHING, c. 1950s

Signed ‘BENG’ (lower right)
Oil on canvas
80cm x 106cm

Private Collection, Penang.

ESTIMATE  RM 30,000 - 45,000

A theme explored by many Nanyang artists at the time, Threshing portrays a group of women dressed in traditional sarees working together in their daily act of pounding rice grains while a child is seen on the left watching her mother at work. An early gem by Ho Khay Beng rare for its large dimension, the artist takes on a refreshing challenge to approach a familiar subject other than his usual lotus blooms or dragons and the technical use of splashes devoid in this work. Typical of the Nanyang style, the figures here are stylised with black bold outlines, while the background dissolves into abstract coloured planes.

At a time when most artists from Malaysia headed for the great art citadels of Paris and London or even the United States, Ho Khay Beng had opted for Italy where he studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Rome from 1965 to 1967. In Rome, he took up additional courses in mosaics and sculpture. Between 1965 and 1968, he was awarded six gold and silver medals in competitions in Italy. His interest in art was  kindled by local pioneer Kuo Ju Ping and it was not surprising that he joined his mentor’s alma mater, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art in Singapore (1956 - 1958), where he was taught by the best – the founder Lim Hak Tai himself and pioneer artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Chen Wen Hsi. On his return, he taught Art at the Han Chiang High School in Penang. He was the vice president of the Penang Art Society (1970 - 1975) and a member in the powerful Malaysian Arts Council. He used the proceeds from the sales of works in his first solo exhibition held at the Chin Kang Association, Penang in 1965 to fund his initial studies in Rome. Later solo shows were held at Galleria Guilla Flavia, Rome (1966), Galleria Michelangelo and Galeria D’Arte I Volschi, both in Rome (1967) but his biggest honour was when he was invited to exhibit in Italy’s National Art Gallery in Rome in 1967. He had also participated in a number of group exhibitions such as at the Singapore Local Artists Exhibitions and Nanyang Academy 20th Anniversary Exhibitions (1957 - 1958), the Penang Art Society annual exhibitions (1959 - 1984) and the National Art Gallery annual invitational exhibitions (1959 - 1965). His works had been displayed worldwide in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy and the United States. He was awarded the Overseas Chinese Arts Association Prize in 1968. He is also known best for his portraits like those of Sultan Ahmad Shah; Tunku Abdul Raman; Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah; and China’s great artist Qi Baishi (1864 - 1975).

Ho Khay Beng Memorial Exhibition (1934 - 1986)
, The Art Gallery,
Penang, 1996.