Wednesday, June 6, 2012

JOHN TIONG What do an art director and an old artist in a new gallery have in common? They both wish to paint their lives in the best possible colours, to bring out the best in each other. The third gallery of Purplehouz Fine Arts in Jalan Chantek, Petaling Jaya, which opened recently s just a stone’s throw from the second gallery - opened last year - close to the residential area in Jalan Gasing. The owners, among them, Navinder Gill, have chosen to take art away from the commerical complexes so that art can better appreciated, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Gallery director of the lattest addition to the Purplehouz, Ee Soon Wei, who is active in the theatre scene says art seems to be the next best thing to do after theatre. He has made a career switch from printing to an art dealer. It is killing two birds with one stone - what better way is there for an art collector than to be a partner in a business where art is all what that matters? The Australian graduate has collected paintings over the last four years, including those of luminaries such as Datuk Chuah Thean Teng and Khalil Ibrahim. He would love to collect more of the local artists, and of course introducing the best to his clients. The first art exhibition of the new gallery features 41 pieces of artwork of 83-year-old Penang artist Lee Joo For, who surprisingly has been living in Melbourne since the early 70s. Apart from paintings, are his monoprint and linocut. What makes Lee’s paintings intriguing is his use of animals and celestial objects to convey his thoughts, such as horses, bulls, sun, moon, and tigers. In some of his paintings are also the anguish he went through when three of his five children were stricken by muscular dystrophy and many others, the unfair treatment of women. Lee’s art is a blend of western techniques, calligraphy, and his love of sketches. He uses acrylic, oil and chinese ink on canvas and paper but is equally adept in presenting his works in mixed media on paper. This exhibition, 40 years of Lee Jor For, till June 30, is rare in that it offers a broad section of the work of Lee over the last many decades. Lee who has been described as “underrated” by those in the art world is one of the few major artists born in the 20s who are still living. What makes his paintings worth collecting is that they were painted by an artist who has also achieved distinction in the theatre world, and an accomplished poet. Lee thrice won won the Malaysian Drama Festival Best Playwright of the year from 1969-1971 and was also the Best Radio Playwright Singapore, 1969. So owning his works has so much more of that premium touch and exclusiveness. One day, one can even auction them away in the land of the Aussies. Lee’s work tells us a lot about his involvement in theatre arts. Many of the paintings are so dramatic, they feel like scenes of a play on the stage. This is especially so in Our Pride and Sorrow (1998) where Lee painted himself and wife praying for their children who were stricken by muscular dystrophy. Both are kneeling while a magnanimous looking Christ shows some children a path. Below the left of a cross, an eye, that of God, looks on. Bulls are seen almost riding over some helpless children, as if fate is working against them. Lee uses his bulls to depict the negative forces of life. Lee’s sun or moon represent the Creator, and he uses them in many of his paintings to show how humanity cannot tear themselves away from the one above. Horses especially help translate his idea of humanity effectively. The animal embodies the grace of a woman, steadfastness of men and the supreme intelligence of the Creator, he said. The bold and breezy strokes Lee used for his horses evoke the overpowering energy found in the animal especially when it is geared up for action. The horses always carry that subtle message of the human struggle for what he desires, how he harnesses his will, sometimes in an almost chaotic manner, like horses. Lee said of them: “My horses are humanity. They stare or glare at you or throw sidelong glances or look back at us, accusing us of our inhumanity to man.” In Lee’s strokes, one can also experience the exploding energy one sees in humanity. This is especially so in the piece Horse Looking Back (1966). The well built physique especially the legs and muscles are so all so well executed, one could feel the animal racing across the paper, its head turned almost in an involuntary haste. Another spectre of the of horses can be felt in the Sarong Women on Horses (1944), where four women are portrayed as proud handlers of horses, representing the men they wish to control. The swirl of their hair and the fluid strokes for horses against a background of fiery orange red sky, yellow earth and sun succeeds in evoking the dilemma these women face as they try to control men. The allure of the painting is also in the women who are all in sarong and baring their shoulders. The dramatic world of men, women and animals is held together by God represented by the sun above the women. The other horse paintings not to be missed are Bold Woman on Horse (1977), Dead Heat Race (1969) Horse Energy (1973) and Racing Horse Profiles (1985). One other painting that clearly elucidates the inexorable forces and energy in animals is the Restless Tigers (1993). Restless Tigers draws out the fearsome nature of tigers through a maddening swirl of bold black strokes, so that the animals are all claws, canines and raised tails, all ready for for a deadly assault. The ferocity of the animals in their strip fortresses screams out to us on a a red background used to great effect. Two paintings that reveal the soft spots of Lee towards the women, especially their subjugated position, shine through in Interior People (1979) and Eating Desperation (1998). In the former a woman is featured in a foetal position, suggesting woman being trapped by the traditional bonds and cultural prejudices. In the latter, subservient women are seen serving a table of men as they eat. Some women were painted wailing. Lee said of what influenced him to paint the picture; “I saw exploitation within my own family with my brothers using my sisters as slaves. I saw them eating more than they should and leaving so little for my sisters.” Pictures in Fotostation: 1. Lee Joo For’s Bold Woman on Horse painted in 1977 2. Sarong Women on Horses which symbolise women trying to control their men. 3. Horse Looking Back (1966) shows Lee’s mastery in executing the horse. 4. Interior People shows a woman trapped in a world where prejudices work against them. 5. Gallery director Ee Soon Wei posing with one of Lee Joo For’s paintings. in W:\Life & Times\6june2012 slug...Joofor Caption: One prized painting of Lee Joo For...Restless Tigers (1993). slug...Joofor2... Lee Joo For (left) (please cut to show only Lee Joo For as I dont know who the other man is).

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dont Go Far Off, Stay Close Pablo

dont go far off stay close
stay where you have always been
like the sun, for eons, never disappointing
sending its light and cheers
the moon, never haunting,
for eons sending its inspiraton
dont go far off stay close
make my day a blessing to have
and night a sanctuary to luxuriate in
dont go far stay close
let your laughters fill my day
and your breath, my breath
let the day brighten up with optimism
and the night a wonder drive for morrow
dont go far stay close
as close as the heart can be
because when you are gone
the days are as good as it is without
the sun and the night moon
and the beach without the water
to carress and serenade its love song

(In Memory of Pablo Neruda)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Haiku collection

Sunset Taj
a love intensifies in
the diminishing light

a saffron
shrouded sun
the buddha

Chap Goh Meh
this lovely cat her eyes
bright like the moon

Tapestry of the mind
filling up the gap
between the stitches

new oil find
an excitement floating
over dilemmas

what a lovely valentine
another dictator

there she is
lost like an ant
miss self conceited

Sniffing here
sniffing there
miss want-to-get-forward

valentine's wish -
love to grow many folds
like the price of roses

February high noon
the icicle tearful
farewell to winter

HIs overblown ego
every of his words sharpens one's knife
for the throat

every inch every line
nature's accents its mood
flowers everywhere

In between our talk
of an old disappearance
the freshness of tea

CHinese new year
the nian wants to run away
from it all

Haiku Collection

Yokohama sakura
my heart light
as the wind

folded cranes
one thousand and one wishes
for Japan

snow peak and fiery sky
a ballet dancer swirls
with all her ambitions

still stunning and waiting
at angkor wat corridors
heavenly nymphs

snow capped peaks and
the fiery sky
melt my heart

between the rushes,
gushes of the waterfall
angler quietly waits for his day

the mind's
twin brother

the cherry blossom
radiates so many feelings
this spring

dawn ganges
the chant of shiva rides
the light waves

dawn ganges
trailing the light
my chant of shiva

three cats
two facing
the other

earth hour
brightness and darkness
in our hands

haiku - the password to
a treasured and
enlightened moment

Liz taylor's love for the Ms
money, men and men with aids
leaves the first M to charity

in the flurry oftsunami
death radio news
cherry blossoms fall

tohoku tsunami aftermath
the snow weeping
on my face

Liz taylor tribute haiku

lost - the pair of translucent eyes
celluloids make
so exciting

yoga reflexology
an inner light corresponds
to each cakra

quake victims willy nilly
take a look

the size of my

my fascination tonight
too ballooned

in the arch
of the rainbow
a gown of bliss

tilting up and down
a row of pigeons
on a loose wire

smile and laugh
putting wings
to my day

the stream flows
trailing time
in a canvas of infinity

dawn lotuses
i am open to all
fresh ideas

the body burning up

in its sound

death anniversary
the field full with
migratory birds

sunset nostalgia
those empty days when my mind
was full of you

new spring kimono
trailing the fragrance
of the fresh blossom

riding the nose
to me

friightened octopus
legs at loggerheads
with each other

approaching spring
an excitement thrusting over
the landscape of my mind

dawn nettles
at each tip
the day's light

in the tranquility
of the buddha's curvatures
yesterday's rain

skewering the heart
first pimple
on the face

a shadow
the crescent

journey to Shirdi
between the leaves
the welcoming light of Sai

the snow
on my face

i met Roberta many years back. The first impression of her...

with a deep hurt
she calls out
my name

In the lake too
blessings of the new day
the sun, the trees, and the bliss

New Haiku Collection

shrivelled leaf
i still hold onto
the sweet moments

morning dew drops
such tender refreshing
youthfulness - you

striking like the collapse
of another huge tower
bin laden's death

the soul
of God

sunday late noon rain
hynoptising, the hasty feet
clapping hands of rain

fleece in the sky
my worries have found company
and slowly drift away

William Kate Royal Wedding
I feel the joy of youth

so dearly facing the sky
between me and the rose
a sacred intelligence?

that star
i faintly remember
a long lost friend

black cat in the dark
its eyes help me
see it

sea death
a bouquet of roses washed

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Haiku and other writings

They write their articles like upper form students who try out all the words they have just learned making their article strange and not coherent. I say you can use less of the big words, write more creatively and still win the Nobel prize.

I admire some writers who use their words in such a prudent manner
so that when you read their work, you just want to read more...and never give up.

I love writings by Nobel prize winners because they create beautiful art and cultural pictures with their cleverly chosen words... and usually not those which would overwhelm you or put you in a very inadequate situation.

Second Haiku Collection February 17, 2011

February high noon
the icicle's tearful
farewell to winter

There is one thing I will just laugh off without fighting back - when someone labels me a terrible writer.

I told them if you are always so negative about your staff, your company is going to go nowhere.

his overblown ego
every of his words sharpens the knife
for his throat

It is good that God does not reveal too much of himself. It would have killed the real fun.

One Malaysia
the land below the wind
the torch bearer

The strangest experience while criss crossing Borneo is the sight of posters of Prophet Mohammad's footprint for sale as well as people hanging them in their shops perhaps to bring good luck. John wonders whether this is allowed in Malaysia. Feels strange that the poster of the Prophet is not allowed while his footprint is allowed. Can someone enlighten me as this reporter just wants to know more.

every inch every line
nature's accents its mood
flowers everywhere

Back from criss crossing Borneo....found that you cannot drive from Banjermasin to Pontianak because there is no road yet. However, covered Samarina, Balik Papan and Banjermasin on the East and Southern coast. Overhead at the airport...."We all
thought Kalimantan is all forest until we found these modern towns. It is just not so backward."

Nature is game for life no matter how small it is, how trivial each is. it soon raises dust to a a creature, infuses its own thoughts so that it livens up life. look at the clouds in the sky, sooner or later, the wind makes them into shapes of birds, rabbits and doggies....nature is game for matter how trivial they are.

met so many different groups of people this morning. Borneo has seen migration from Java and other parts of Indonesia since long time ago. The man who took me on a cruise of the Mahakam was a Bugis, the one whotook me tothe Bali hindu temple a Javanese, met Chinese at the Tua Pek Kong temple and bumped into dayaks here and there.

took the one hour flight back to Balik Papan last night instead of the 15 hour gruelling drive over dangerous mountain terrain and was immediately whisked to Samarinda, the town by Boneo's longest river the mighty Mahakam. IT just dawned on me that Borneo is the largest island at the is the oldest natural rainforest and a giant storehouse of great herbs and plants.

cameron highlands
over the tea fields
a mysterious appearance

in between our talk
of an old disappearance
the freshness of tea

The road from Balik Papan on the west east coast of Borneo to Banjermasin, the main town in the south really threw me off my seat. It was a hair raising experience as our bus passed by deep gorges both on the left and right in the middle of the night. All i could see were tree tops and tall ferns. The driver had to negotiate his way. by folllowing the white line in the middle of the all the three hours we were on the highlands. In Banjermasin, I heard from the Banjermasin folks that the annual plunges average about two.The best part about Banjermasin is that it has some of the most beautiful mosques i have ever seen in the travel throughut the Indonesian archipelago. The main mosque has a dome shaped like a huge flying saucer.

Chinese new year
the nian wants to run away
from it all

winter wish
sakura, sakura sings
in me

bombay shah rukh han posters
the sea, the ghettos
and the dreams

adam's apple
how deep and vocal
this downfall

beauty of butterflies
helping the forest flourish
and the flowers bloom

singapore travel
an emptiness orchard road
could not fill out