Lot 040

b. China, 1913 - d. Penang, 1974


Signed and dated 'Lee CY 57' (lower right)
Oil on canvas laid on board
50cm x 40cm

Private Collection, Penang.

Lee Cheng Yong Memorial, Penang State Art Gallery,
1996, illustrated on page 28.

ESTIMATE  RM 16,000 - 25,000

First look implies a play of Gauguin with his exotic Tahitian women and all the rustic charms. But even in the darkened canvas, it can be seen that Lee Cheng Yong is more concerned with the Golden Section theory in achieving beauty and balance in layout and design, through the interplay of scalene triangles. The main image of the village girl with the rump slightly pushed rightwards forms the main boulder triangle, which is bounded by a trinity of ‘supporting’ smaller triangles on the top right, top left and bottom right. That is not to discount the akimbo of the left arm shielding a small triangular island, and the slightly red triangle of what looks like a roof on the top right. Her rough-edge is further suggested by the darker outlines and the dark tones which are due more to the thick forest canopy in limiting light than a hint of the nocturnal. Unlike artists of his generation, Cheng Yong is not given to playing on the distorted and exaggerated forms, even though he is aware of Cubism from the clutch of difficult-to-source art books that he managed to get hold of.

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 culptures 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.