heading article1s colour and line in geometric shapes

When Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon’s surface, the world was amazed; it was the moment that ushered in the Space age that was to be the peak and the advancement of science and technology of this twentieth century. Apparently the impression made has been so widespread that it begins to seep in between the colours and lines in art that give existence to form and space. This phenomenon is widely seen among our modern artists, where Choong Kam Kow’s work is among those that show an interplay of colour in geometric shapes on canvas.

It is such a strange and interesting thing in the art world, as in the world of poetry which is sometimes ridiculed by people, to give expression to the technological transformation and leave behind the social life, which is seen as propaganda by some people. In our being proud of the artist Choong who displays his advanced technique, and in our anxiety at looking at the abstract works of some of our artists, one cannot help but feel that something has been abandoned by some of them. Namely the political economic-social realities of life, which perhaps as desired by some people, should just be handed over to the political experts, economic experts and social experts to manage.

When we hear the speech of the Minister of Trade and Industry, Saudara Mohd Khir Johari saying that the sons and daughters of rubber tappers, rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers have the opportunity to have a better standard of living because Malaysia is a country with lots of opportunities, we are prompted to ask, how will Malaysia integrate the artworks that symbolise the world of technology into the translation and materialisation of the meaning of words in the speech?

The Trade and Industry Minister further stated that the people who are well off ought to think about the welfare of those who are not well off, then again we would ask: Should artists not reflect on the life of the people and express it in their art?

We hear a moderate speech from Jack W. Lydnian, the US Ambassador to Malaysia saying that he was pleased to be able to participate in the opening ceremony of the exhibition of paintings by Choong Kam Kow performed by the Minister of Trade and Industry, an old friend of the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE). More than that, the Ambassador was pleased because Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka had co-organised this exhibition which was held at its own premises as well.

Artist Choong Kam Kow insists that an artist needs to explore and present something new in his work. His experience in New York has turned his work towards the “Hard-Edged” and New York is a city that radiates progress and technological heights to be encountered by man. Kuala Lumpur, Choong said, is a city moving toward its future.

Choong, who was born in Ipoh, Perak, is young man full of talent and his work promises him a great future. For him, amidst the pressures of modern life, it is necessary to have freedom of expression in a work of art.

The Trade and Industry Minister expressed his hope that this first time that Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka coorganised a painting exhibition would not be its last. He hoped that Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka as an agency for the promotion of language and education would also continue to contribute to the progress and development of the arts.

This is also the hope of everyone who loves art as a fruit of human civilisation that not only counteracts the assaults of modern life which can be quite brutal, but also as a strength and a statement that man in the age of science and technology is not to be a robot.

Usman Awang

(Originally printed in the Dewan Budaya, February 1987)

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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