SEAH KIM JOO
B. Singapore, 1939
Sri Mariamman Temple – Chinatown Singapore, 1970s
Signed “Seah Kim Joo” on lower right
60 x 45 cm
Provenance Private Collection, USA
RM 6,000 – RM 12,000
Known as one of the first few advocates of traditional batik-painting, Seah Kim Joo chooses a street of Chinatown in Singapore as his muse. Highly abstract and vague, the painting leads the viewer to dissect and distinguish between figures and the stalls and the streets. The mood is nostalgic, which makes one feel like they are revisiting memory lane by viewing it – especially those who have experienced Chinatown during its earlier days.
The Sri Maha Mariamman temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore was ironically, located in the middle of Chinatown. It was merely built as a humble shed by Naraina Pillai in 1827, the first recorded Indian immigrant to enter colonised Singapore (he travelled with Stamford Raffles from Penang). The beautiful place of devotion was completed in 1863, famous for its staggeringly detailed gopuram (tower gateway). The Theemidhi also takes place here – a remarkable fire-walking ceremony held a week before Deepavali.
Born in Singapore in the year 1939, Seah Kim Joo was raised in Terengganu, during which he was exposed to the process of traditional batik-making. He studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1959 before returning to Malaysia to enhance his batik skills through his travels around the east coast. After having won the First Prize at the Malayan Federation Open Art Competition two years in a row, he has then been recognised for his use of dye-and-resist technique in batik. His murals have adorned the Singapore Pavilion, and one of his paintings was selected for Singapore’s commemorative stamp series.