The Art of Water & Colour 水与彩的艺术

Khoo Cheang Jin_Captains & Legend.png

Khoo Cheang Jin
Artist 艺术家


“The unique features in George Town is familiar to me as I can imagine what goes on behind the walls of these shophouses. This neighbourhood is where we played, lived and slept. So, it’s only natural that this familiarity is almost an instinctive one.”

“乔治市的独特之处是一景一物皆如此清晰,我可以想象到这些店屋墙壁后构造是什么。这一带是我们玩耍、生活和睡觉的地方。所以,这种熟悉感对我来说几乎是本能。”

Do not be fooled by the unassuming and demure appearance of Penang artist Khoo Cheang Jin. Behind it all, this watercolour master represents not only a living symbolism of Penang’s finest works but also reveals the tale of the city’s cultural, historical and social influences. While Cheang Jin may have started using watercolour since his high school years, he was reignited with his interest again after completing his degree in architecture from University of New South Wales, Australia. After a 5-year stint as an architect in Singapore, he returned to Penang in 1996, which marked a significant turning point in his life. He co-founded URBAN SKETCHER Penang with artist friend Ch’ng Kiah Kiean to start a non-profit organisation originally from Seattle, America. Dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing, it has also connected people from around the world who draw where they live and travel.

Cheang Jin held his childhood life close to his heart. One of the fondest moments growing up was living with his family in one of the shophouses on Lebuh Melayu, now part of the UNESCO Heritage site and one of the most unique streets in the world.

“The unique features in George Town is familiar to me as I can imagine what goes on behind the walls of these shophouses. This neighbourhood is where we played, lived and slept. So, it’s only natural that this familiarity is almost an instinctive one.”

Greatly influenced by other prominent watercolour masters – Tan Choon Ghee and Yong Mun Sen – Cheang Jin brought alive the streetscapes of George Town and to wherever he would travel for that matter.

“Each building has a story to tell. Especially in Penang, shophouses still keep the original name boards long after changing the nature of their business. The remnants of the past is rich,” added Khoo.

While Cheang Jin’s confidence and skill continues to grow, his techniques have also gradually developed into bolder strokes using brighter colours. Armed with 10 solo exhibitions to date, he still paints on paper usually seen through the thinness of the transparent watercolour – a signature of his artworks. His art reflects emotion more than the precision of the subject matter. The process is in freeing the mind – capturing nostalgic moments as well as the texture of man-made structures alongside nature’s decrepit elements.

Kimberly Street Kopitiam, Penang 56x38cm Watercolour

“The danger when it comes to capturing a scene or event is when my paintings start to look too detailed – like a photo shot with a camera. I want to avoid details and let my viewers feel the space and perhaps even trigger childhood memories.”

“The danger when it comes to capturing a scene or event is when my paintings start to look too detailed – like a photo taken with a camera. I want to avoid details and let my viewers feel the space and perhaps even trigger childhood memories.”

Attracted by the hustle and bustle revolving around these heritage structures, the tension created while painting on site can never be compared to painting in a studio. He recalled the days he spent documenting the 9 Emperor Gods Festival at the temple located on Burma Road, Penang.

“I spent 6 out of the 9 days at the temple sketching and painting the activities there. Everyone has a role to play at the festival, including me. What truly fascinates me is the synergy between the structure and the people and I work to capture the atmosphere of everyone going around in their business.”

Cheang Jin has gone through a phase of overworking the subject resulting in stiffness – capturing lifelessness more than the events’ movements and atmospheres. He set aside to change that very notion by practising speedy sketches and painting, which was prominent in his works at his two solo exhibitions at Galeri Seni Mutiara, Penang titled “Somewhere in Time” and “Penang, My Penang 2” in 2016.

Cheang Jin continues to serve as President of the Penang Water Colour Society. He is also a signature member of the National Watercolour Society in America, Penang Art Society and Malaysian Watercolour Society. Over the years, he has garnered the Young Artist Award at the Penang Museum and Art Gallery Annual Art Exhibition. In 1994, he was given the Youth Art Excellence Award in Singapore.

Khoo Cheang Jin

千万不要被邱昌仁谦逊沉稳的外表所迷惑。其实这位出生在槟城的水彩画大师不仅是槟城最优秀的鲜活创作象征,还展现了这座城市的文化、历史和社会传承故事。尽管从高中时代起,他就开始迷恋水彩画,而在澳大利亚新南威尔士大学完成建筑学位后,他的画魂又重新点燃了。

在新加坡从事建筑师行业 5 年后,邱昌仁于 1996 年重返槟城,这可说是他人生的一个重要转折点。他与同是艺术家的朋友庄嘉强共同创立了槟城 Urban Sketchers,这是一个最初创始于美国西雅图的非营利性组织,这项以描绘地理位置为重点的绘画艺术所引伸的细致叙事和教育价值,使世界各地的人们更亲密接触他们生活或旅行的地方。

他的童年生活紧贴着柔软内心。在他的成长过程中,最美妙的时刻之一是和家人住在台牛后巷 (Lebuh Melayu) 一所老店屋里,目前这里是联合国教科文组织文化遗产的一部分,也是世界上最独特的街道之一。

“乔治市的独特之处是一景一物皆如此清晰,我可以想象到这些店屋墙壁后构造是什么。这一带是我们玩耍、生活和睡觉的地方。所以,这种熟悉感对我来说几乎是本能。”

由于深受著名水彩画大师陈存义和杨曼生的影响,邱昌仁把乔治市街景和他旅行足迹所及的地方都刻画在作品里。

“每个建筑都叙述着各自的故事。尤其是在槟城,即使在改变业务性质后,店屋依旧保留着原来的名称招牌,过去的遗迹显得如此丰富多彩。”

尽管本身的自信和技能在不断增长,个人技术也趋向大胆和利用更明亮的色彩。他至今举办过10次个人画展,但仍然在纸上作画,通常是以清澈的水彩画标志性创作方式。邱昌仁反映出情感超越主题的精确性。这个过程为散发思维—捕捉怀旧的时刻,传达人造结构的纹理和自然的朽迹元素。

“如果在描绘场景或某个活动的创作看起来过于仔细,就像相机拍摄的照片一样,这是蛮危险的。我必须避免太细节化,这才能使人们感受到空间,甚至触发童年记忆。”

“如果在描绘场景或某个活动的创作看起来过于仔细,就像相机拍摄的照片一样,这是蛮危险的。我必须避免太细节化,这才能使人们感受到空间,甚至触发童年记忆。”

他被一些传统建筑周边喧嚣构图所吸引,他认为在画室里创作永远无法与现场作画时的紧张感与张力相比,并回忆起曾在“九皇大帝”庆典期间在槟城车水路寺庙里作画的日子。

“长达9天的庆典,我花了6天时间在寺庙里勾勒活动场景素描。每个人都在庆典里扮演着各自角色,包括我。真正让我着迷的是结构和人们之中的协同作用,我努力捕捉人们专注日常,举手投足间的生动氛围。”

邱昌仁经历了过度创作一些僵硬主题导致停滞不前的阶段,枯燥无味多于活力盛会和氛围。为了扭转上述局面,他开始加强速写和绘画,2016年在槟城珍珠画廊举行的两次个人画展:“时间的某处”和“槟城,我的槟城2”尤其突出类似概念。

另外,他将继续担任槟城水彩画协会主席。同时也是美国国家水彩画协会、槟城艺术协会和马来西亚水彩画协会的重要成员。多年来,他在槟城博物馆和艺术画廊年度艺术展览会上获得了青年艺术家奖,并在1994年荣获新加坡青年艺术优秀奖。

161004 Nine Emperor God Festival @ Burmah Rd, Penang 25x56cm Watercolour


by Monica Tong

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