heading article1 citation conferment of hornorary degree of doctor of arts

by Prof. John Harper, BSc, PhD, CChem, FRSC Vice Principal, Academic Quality and Development, The Robert Gordon University, Scotland by Robert Gordon University, Scotland

Choong Kam Kow was born in Perak, Malaysia in 1934. His career in education commenced 20 years later when he joined a teacher’s training scheme and was awarded the position of a qualified primary school teacher, teaching mainly art subjects. He later spent 4 years in Taiwan studying western and oriental fine art and was awarded BA in Fine Art by the National Taiwan Normal University in 1961. Upon his return to Malaysia, he was appointed the Art Teacher in the Perak Girl’s High School.

In 1964 he became the first Malaysian fine artist to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship which allowed him to study in the USA at the Pratt Institute in New York where he was awarded a Master in Fine Art degree. His time in the USA provided him with a broad learning experience with good exposure to international culture and art, resulting in the development of a good understanding of life during a period of significant change. During this period he was also appointed Head of the Art Department of the United Nations International School in New York.

He returned to Malaysia in 1969 when he joined UiTM (formerly Institute Technology Mara). There he had a distinguished academic career until his retirement in 1989, by which time he had become the Head of the Fine Arts Department. During his time he was again awarded a Fulbright scholarship and became an ACLS-Fulbright Research Fellow from 1980 until 1981.

In 1989, Choong was invited to be the Dean of Fine Arts for LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore. There he helped to re-structure the school before returning to Malaysia in 1994 to concentrate on becoming a full time artist; however, the lure of academia attracted him to Malaysian Institute of Art where he was appointed Vice President in 1995. In 2000 he was appointed to his present position of President.

During his time at MIA, Choong Kam Kow has been very influential in developing the philosophy of the college and establishing the current courses content and education process. He has brought his international experience of art and design education and understanding of western educational processes and procedures to bear upon the college and has tirelessly worked with his academic and administrative staff to create a team which has transformed MIA from a traditional Chinese art college into an institution internationally regarded for excellence in art and design education. Like the Robert Gordon University, which is regularly highly ranked in the UK university league tables for graduate employment, MIA produces graduates highly regarded by employers as well as by institutions of higher education. Today, unlike many colleges in Malaysia, all courses (in addition to being career-relevant) are fully LAN accredited – a situation which reflects well upon Choong Kam Kow’s vision and leadership. Graduates, and their parents, can feel very proud of the MIA awards being made here today.

Choong Kam Kow has also been instrumental in developing international links with universities in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and China. Choong’s vision of MIA being regarded as a centre of creative excellence is recognised as becoming a reality by The Robert Gordon University. RGU has for the past few years chosen to work in partnership with MIA to create paths for students to progress to Bachelors and Masters degrees, and in some instances to achieve professional qualifications. This partnership was initially developed with The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment at RGU. The agreement offers exciting opportunities for Interior Design students and has now been extended to Gray’s School of Art for the benefit of all art and design students. This partnership offers merit scholarships for good students from MIA and is proving to be successful. Some graduates, like you today, choose to immediately transfer to RGU; others choose to come later - good networking by MIA and their alumni results in many graduates being encouraged by the college staff to further their studies at RGU after a period of working. There is a regular flow of MIA graduates progressing to RGU and performing well, many winning prizes at national level. The partnership also provides educational benefits for MIA staff – we sincerely hope that this will support Choong Kam Kow in his pursuit of excellence.

In his work as a fine artist, Choong Kam Kow is internationally renowned and respected. He has participated in almost 100 exhibitions throughout the world and has held 18 solo exhibitions in the USA, Europe and Asia. He has won many awards and prizes and his works are held in many museums of art and in private collections. The respect accorded to him has resulted in his appointment as Curator for a number of exhibitions.

Choong Kam Kow was born in Malaysia, a multi-racial and multi-cultural society; his father was a farmer; consequently Choong grew up close to nature and he displayed artistic talent from a very early age. These factors, together with his international experiences, have resulted in him giving much thought to identity and the effect of globalisation > this is reflected in his art which is influenced by many contrasts such as the different cultures, traditions and values of East and West and the contrasts initiated by the relentless passage of time.

In his own words: “My work projects the correlation between traditional values and contemporary life, reflects the co-existence between identity and modernisation and projects the theory that modernisation will inevitably lead towards globalisation which provides opportunities for adaptation of new life styles, acceptance of foreign elements, sharing of common values and opening up global thinking.”

These are important issues in today’s ever shrinking world.

Mr Choong will himself talk to you about his philosophy and beliefs when he addresses you after the conferment of his honorary doctorate – I am sure that he can do that much more effectively than I; however, as he is a very modest man, I think that the following 2 quotations from the publication “The Art of Choong Kam Kow – Manifestation of Culture and Nature” are worthy of inclusion here: In the words of Dr Luo Yiping, Dr of Fine Arts at Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and Associate Professor at Zhongshang University, China:

“The works of Choong Kam Kow are of remarkable quality and full of fascinating power………. In his works, there is strong presence of dualistic symbols and elements such as tradition and modernity, East and West, nature and humanity which are complementing and harmoniously co-existing. He has built up an organic entity of art with a content which is profoundly abundant and philosophically Eastern.”

Dr Michael Tucker, Professor of Poetics at University of Brighton, UK eloquently states:

“No earth without space, no space without blossom: such can be the simple yet profound note, as resonant as it is refreshing, which distinguishes the organic, multi-cultural path to enlightenment that is the art of Choong Kam Kow.”

The Robert Gordon University is proud to express its delight in joining the ranks of those who have honoured this remarkable artist and academic known to you as Choong Kam Kow.

The conferment ceremony was held in conjunction with Malaysian Institute of Art Convocation 2006 on 16.9.2006. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

(Original printed in "CHOONG KAM KOW RETROSPECTIVE - Cross Culture • Trans Era",
 National Visual Arts Gallery, Malaysia 2014)

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drchoong kam kow
Dr. Choong Kam Kow is a well known
senior contemporary artist,
a leading art & design educationist and
an independent curator in Malaysia