CHEONG SOO PIENG
B. China, 1917 – 1983
Portrait of a Seated Sarawak Girl, 1959
Signed and dated “SOOPIENG 59″on lower right
Chinese ink and watercolour on paper
66 x 37 cm
Provenance Private Collection, Singapore
Illustrated in the soon to be published “777, Celebrating 7 Illustrious Years at KLAS” coffee table book published by KLAS in November 2018
RM55,000 – RM95,000
Cheong’s early works became a journal of his everyday life in Southeast Asia, capturing the stories of hawkers, barbers, fishermen mending their nets, people playing music or resting, as well as the architecture of Singapore through woodcut prints and sketch drawings.
Later, he explored the amalgamated use of Chinese ink painting with Western technique and pictorial tradition. In 1959, on a trip to the Dayak longhouses of Borneo, Cheong formulated his distinctive style of painting the women with elongated necks and slender limbs, much like renowned Italian painter, Amedeo Modigliani. While he had experimented with sculpting and metal installations, his Nanyang-style paintings caught the most attention.
Along with Chinese ink painting avant-gardist, Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong started the Southest Asian Art movement which used graphic outlines and muted palettes in Chinese Ink paintings that became known as the Nanyang Style. His Portrait of a Seated Sarawak Girl, signed and dated ‘1959’ on the lower left, reflects the artist’s experience of everyday life in Sarawak. Cheong creatively brought life to the artwork through the expert use of Chinese ink for the floral motives on the batik. Instead of an elongated neck, Cheong stayed true to the essence of the indigenous Dayak culture of having elongated ear lobes which signifies a higher status in the tribe. The longer the ear lobes, the more significant is the women’s position in the tribe.