CHUAH THEAN TENG, DATO
B. China, 1914 – 2008
Mother and Children, 1970’s
Signed “Teng” on lower right
83 x 85.5 cm
Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
RM 45,000 – RM 90,000
Teng came from an artistic family (his mother designed shoes) and studied art at the Amoy Art Institute in Fukien Province, China. At the age of 18, he emigrated to Malaysia with his tradesman father and settled in the Pearl of the Orient. From helping his mother design dainty shoes for Chinese women with bound feet to becoming a pioneer of Malaysian batik painting, Teng has left quite the legacy in batik painting. His interest in art and craft was certainly owed to his mother. Teng became interested in batik while teaching art in the 1930’s.
While he had established himself as a painter, his enduring spirit propelled him to develop an artistic discipline that was distinctively Malaysian. Though trained in Chinese art, brush painting was too oriental, while the watercolour and oils were too Western for the artist.
Therefore, with the large and unused stock of pigments, Teng started to experiment with this material and adapted this age-old craft as a medium for fine art. A pioneer in this medium, he had to literally work from scratch — the process was long and tedious. According to Frank Sullivan, “His productivity in batik painting is enormous… never satisfied, he is always experimenting, seeking to give new depth and range to his batik art.” Teng received international fame in 1968 when his painting entitled ‘Two of a kind’ was selected by UNICEF for its greeting cards selections. Twenty years later, his painting ‘Tell you a secret’ was again selected by UNICEF. Teng’s various batik portrayal of Mother and Children are always heart- warming and tugs at one’s heartstrings.