heading journey remembered

 
INTRODUCTION

EVERY human being has a different life experience and journey, be it the place where, or the time when the experiences and journeys took place. The environment we encountered through the senses, can provide countless possibilities of reactions. The senses, which receive and absorb anything from light, colour, sound to touch, will undergo a physical and psychological process for adaptation and/ or to further transform them into responses, reaction, expression and so on. This everchanging process will enable perception, observation, appreciation, conceptualization and fantasy to occur. These reactions can be further interpreted, conveyed or expressed in many ways depending on the upbringing condition, education, cultural and religious background of the individual.

There is no exception for Dr Choong Kam Kow in his nearly 60 years of artistic journey. Dating back to his early descriptive and representational landscape in water-colour, oil and mixed media of the Kinta Series and Formosa series to the present sophisticated Kungfu Series in acrylic and mixed media, Dr Choong has expressed and interpreted in visual terms his responses to the environmental and social changes which he has experienced throughout these years. He has taken the change as an evolving process and through which the nature, social environment, culture and philosophy were pursued thoroughly and comprehensively. The 268 works selected from 15 series of his collection displayed in his Retrospective exhibition will certainly demonstrate and convey his innovative expression and comprehensive interpretations of the world he lives in throughout these years.

His creative approach in the exploitation and handling of materials, colours, techniques and processes has resulted in so many splendid works reflecting an outstanding style of his own. The fusion of Western and Eastern aesthetics into his works can also be sensed through careful viewing of his work.

BACKGROUND

Dr Choong was brought up in the Kinta Valley of Perak, a land full of natural beauty and resources. The vast and fertile land of the Kinta Valley, located between mountain ranges is not only rich in tin deposits but is also ideal for farming. When he was a boy, his family took the opportunity to acquire a plot of land near Gunung Bercham for vegetable planting. The family’s daily routine was to work in their vegetable farm. Even as a boy, Dr Choong had to help out in the farm and when he started schooling, after school hours. He came into close contact with mother Earth and Nature since young. The artistic seeds of Dr Choong, I think, were probably planted and nurtured in this idyllic surroundings at a young age.

It is often said by the Chinese country folks that the hardship experienced by a person in his younger days will be the driving force for success at the grown-up stage. It probably holds true in the case of Dr Choong.

As a young boy, he had to walk for 5 km from home, wetting his shoes while passing through the narrow and weeds-filled mud path to school each morning. When he was in Standard Five and Standard Six, it took him longer to get to school. He had to travel by bicycle, braving hot sun and often rain, for 11 km from his home to the Yuk Hwa Primary School in Ipoh.

During the Japanese Occupation of Malaya from 1941 to 1945, his family switched from vegetable planting to tapioca planting as it was in great demand due to the shortage of rice. Many hawkers from Ipoh came to his farm by foot to purchase tapioca and return to Ipoh for retail as tapioca was widely used as a substitute for rice. The sales of tapioca enabled his family to have good savings in Japanese currency for a while. However, when World War II ended with the retreat of the Japanese army from the Malay Peninsula, Dr Choong’s family was hard hit as the Japanese currency become invalid and sackfuls of the banana-tree currency became waste paper.

As soon as the Japanese forces surrendered, the Emergency period began in 1948 due to the disturbances by the communists. The local British Government imposed the Briggs Plan to isolate all the rural villages from contact with communist elements. All the villages were ordered to vacate their farm houses and move into designated areas known as New Villages in 1950 in order to cut off supplies of food and materials to the communists. Dr Choong’s village and his family’s vegetable farm were affected and they experienced further hardships when they were only allowed to farm during the day and must return to their new villages before dark. All villagers were allowed to bring with them only a packet of rice and some water to the farms daily and this made the farms less productive.

Dr Choong pursued his secondary school education in Yuk Choy High School at Jalan Kuala Kangsar, Ipoh, cycling for 40 km to and for daily. After his lower-secondary education, he attended a teaching course for two years and secured a teaching post at the Hwa Min Chinese Primary School in Temoh, Perak after completing the course. Although the distance between the school and his home was 60 km, he was undeterred. The public transportation between Ipoh and Temoh at that time was very inconvenient, so Dr Choong bought a second-hand 350cc British-made BSA motorcycle to commute from home to school during weekends.

Dr Choong had to teach all subjects at the school, including his favourite Art subject. While teaching there, he maintained his interest in art by frequently doing sketches and drawings. He became keener in getting formal education in Art when teaching the Art subjects there. It was then, around 1956, that he heard about his friends pursuing higher education in Taiwan. Studying in Taiwan was relatively cheaper when compared to that in Britain or Australia. His application to study in Taiwan was approved in mid-1957 and immediately after the Merdeka celebrations in 1957, he quit teaching and went off to Taipei to pursue his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at the National Taiwan Normal University.

TAIPEI SOJOURN

On the campus of the National Taiwan Normal University, Dr Choong pursued his study with 40 other classmates from Singapore, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Africa and Taiwan. In the class and studio, Dr Choong appeared more matured as he had some valuable teaching experience. He was determined to learn and improve, and was always placed among the top five in performance in all semesters. Besides his normal course work, he took every opportunity to draw and paint outside the campus during weekends and during long vacations throughout his four-year stay in Taipei. He loved to paint the Taipei street scenes, parks as well as the landscapes all over in Taiwan.

The Formosa Series produced between 1957 to 1961 is proof of his hard work. At this time, Dr Choong was fascinated with the styles of Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Matisse and Paul Cezanne and so he was applying the post-Impressionist, Expressionist and gestural approaches in water-colour. He continued to use these approaches in the Kinta Series, which was created in Ipoh soon after he completed his studies in Taipei.

Upon his return from Taiwan in 1961, Dr Choong was offered a position to teach Art at the Perak Girl’s High School and two years later, the Poi Lam High School in Ipoh, Perak.

NEW YORK EXPOSURE

As early as the 1960’s, Dr Choong had wanted to pursue further studies in Fine Art in the West to broaden his knowledge in modern and contemporary art. When the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE) was established to promote exchanges of scholars and researchers between Malaysia and the United State of America (USA), Dr Choong duly applied for a scholarship or grant.

He rode his 150cc Italian-made Vespa for 200 km to Kuala Lumpur to submit his application for a Fulbright scholarship at the MACEE office in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. In early 1965, he went for the selection interview and by mid-year, he received news of his successful application. On arrival in New York in September that year, he enrolled himself at the Pratt Institute Graduate School in Brooklyn to study for a Master’s Degree in Fine Art (MFA). After a year there, he was offered a position to teach and head the Art Department of the United Nations International School (UNIS). So he had to convert his study at Pratt Institute from full-time to part-time to enable him to undertake the full-time post at UNIS. Despite the heavier workload as a teacher and a graduate student, he managed to schedule his MFA study in the afternoon and evening, leaving a few theory subjects to be fulfilled during the summer vacation. During his stay in New York, Dr Choong visited art museums and exhibitions in art galleries and attended talks and seminars at the Pratt Institute and in museums.

Since 1945, New York has become the centre of modern art. Many great masters from Europe migrated to America during World War II and this gave birth to many contemporary art movements there, particularly New York after the war.

The late 1950’s and early 1960’s saw many new art movements flourishing in the United States. Apart from the New York School movement, there were Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, which dominated the American art scene for nearly two decades. Geometric abstraction spearheaded by Josef Albers, Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian in Europe made its way to expand in New York and elsewhere in America and eventually further developed into Shaped Canvas, Minimalism and Assemblage. Other art movements such the Op Art, Colour-Field and Photo-Realism also prevailed in the American art scene. All these and in particular, the geometric abstraction and conceptual minimalism have great impact on Dr Choong’s subsequent art practice and his mission as an art educator. The New York Series, Shaped Canvas Series and SEA Thru Series were produced as a result of his exposure to these American art movements.

TEACHING ENGAGEMENT

For his active engagement in art practice and teaching together with the vast experience he gained in Taiwan, Dr Choong became the first Malaysian artist to be awarded the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Scholarship in 1965. He is also the first in this country to have obtained a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts (MFA) from USA. Upon returning from the United States in 1969, he was offered a lecturer’s job in the the School of Architecture, Planning and Land Survey at the Mara Institute of Technology (ITM, now Universiti Teknologi MARA or UiTM). The School of Art and Design (KSSR) was established in the early 1970’s. Dr Choong continued to serve at KSSR as a lecturer, the Course Tutor (Head) of the Fine Art Department and senior lecturer until 1989, when he retired at the age of 55. After leaving ITM, he was offered the post of Senior Lecturer at the School of Fine Art, La Salle-SIA College of The Arts in Singapore, where he was subsequently appointed Dean until 1994.

Not long after returning from Singapore, Dr Choong took up the post as the Vice-President of the Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA), Kuala Lumpur. In 2000, he became the President and CEO of MIA until 2009.

CONTRIBUTIONS AND COMMITMENT

The continuous engagement in art practice yielding works series by series, has never hindered his role as a teacher, lecturer and art educator at renowned art institutions. His vast experience and commitment gained the confidence of various institutions such as the National Art Gallery to appoint Dr Choong as a member of the Board of Trustees, from 2005 to 2009 and as a Permanent Collection Acquisition Committee Member from 2001 to 2006.

He continued to make contributions to the nation. He was appointed a Member of the National Art Award Committee and Chairman of the Visual Arts Award Committee in 2006 under the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage. Since 1988, Dr Choong has served as the Chairman of the Federation of Asian Artists Malaysia Committee (FAAMC). He has organised Malaysia’s participation in the Asian International Art Exhibitions (AIAE) and headed the Malaysian delegation of artists to attend all official openings held in all the host nations in Asia (The AIAE is organised by rotation among member countries annually). Through his efforts and the collaboration with the National Art Gallery, Malaysia became the host nation for the 5th, 13th and 24th AIAE’s in 1990, 1998 and 2009 respectively, thus making significant contributions to the promotion and development of contemporary art in the Asian region.

In 2000 he was awarded the Darjah Bintang Ahli Mangku Negara (A.M.N) by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, A year later in 2001, 40 years after completing his studies, Dr Choong received the ‘Most Outstanding Alumni Award’ from his alma mater, the National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan, in 2001 for his achievements as an artist and art educator. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Arts) Degree by the Robert Gordon University, Scotland, in 2006 in recognition of his achievements in art practice and contributions in art and design education.

These awards have clearly acknowledged the national and international recognition of Dr Choong’s artistic and academic achievements.

INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION

On the international level, Dr Choong’s art works have shown museum-quality standards. Several of his artworks have been acquired into the permanent collections of a number of art museums in Asia and Europe. It is a great honour for him that his silkscreen work entitled 5th Month Festival I & II (1977) was acquired for the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), New York, United States of America. Several of Dr Choong’s other works have also become the permanent collections of the following art museums such as the National Visual Art Gallery, Malaysia; Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan; National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan; Frederikshavn Art Museum, Denmark; National Taiwan Museum of Art, Taichung, Taiwan; Singapore Art Museum; Guangdong Museum of Art, China; Kyushu Sangyo University Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; Museum of Art, Guangzhou Fine Art Academy, University City, Guangzhou, China; and the Asian Art Museum, University Malaya, Malaysia.

THE EVOLVING JOURNEY

During the early stage of his artistic career between 1955-1956, Dr Choong often rode on his motorcycle to go to Kuala Lumpur to see art exhibitions at the Chinese Assembly Hall and British Council, before the establishment of National Art Gallery. His indomitable spirit has driven him to create works in water-colours and mixed media. He was brave and dared to experiment with the application of Chinese ink and colour on water-colour paper or Chinese xuanzi (xuan paper). The exploration and experimentation led to the Formosa Series and Kinta Series consisting of water-colours, Chinese ink and mixed media depicting landscapes, city scenes and still-life.

The New York exposure marks the turning point of Dr Choong’s creative journey. Each change of style was the result of his observations on, and response to, the social and cultural conditions of the social environment he encountered. The changing process enabled him to shift the focus and seek new strategy for creative solution in each new series.

The social, cultural and art dynamics that Dr Choong experienced in New York have spurred him to undergo assimilation process and transformed his Asian mindset into a broader global outlook. When he returned home, he was able to bring with him innovative changes and new discoveries in his art-making. The New York Series, Shaped Canvas Series and SEA-Thru Series produced in New York and after his return were the result of such assimilation.

After having fully explored and exploited all the creative possibilities, he moved on to seek new inspiration and embarked on new series of work. So in the mid-1970’s he began to re-examine local culture and heritage which was in line with the rationale of the National Cultural Congress held in 1971 and the Indigenous Roots Seminar (Seminar Akar-Akar Peribumi) in 1979. It became an important factor for Dr Choong to shift his creative focus from modern world to a more traditional and cultural environment. The culturally significant series of Festival, Dragon and Gongfu reflected the outcome of his return to his cultural root. The international exposure that had taken place throughout his life made him a disciplined artist equipped with a global thinking perspective. The familiar local traditional forms and cultural values are explored and reinterpreted with contemporary approaches in his works, series after series. On the formalistic aspect, his works are seen as more frontal, rich in texture and sometimes tactile. Conventional spatial depth is often negated, vivid colours and combined techniques of brush, spray-gun and silkscreen, paper-pulp exploitation to convey specific contents and messages are aptly dealt with throughout all his works.

The whole evolving creative journey of Dr Choong can be divided into the following stages:

1. EXPLORATION & SEARCHING (1950’s - 1960’s)

It was a period of exploring, experiment and searching. Five series namely the Formosa Series, Kinta Series, Expressionistic Ink Series, Print Series and Figure Studies were produced during this formative period.

1.1 Formosa Series (1957 - 1961)
A series of water-colours on street scenes and landscapes was produced from 1957 to 1961 when the artist pursued his fine art studies at the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, Taiwan. Being fascinated and inspired by the works of great masters like Gauguin, Matisse and other post-Impressionist artists, Dr Choong employed the spontaneous and gestural approach to capture the colourful Taipei street scenes and the serene landscape of country side and central highlands of Taiwan. Expressionist techniques and gestural brush strokes and spontaneous application of water-colours is his hallmark during this period.

1.2 The Kinta Series (1961 - 1975)
It covers the period from the late 1950’s to the mid1970’s. Dr Choong employed the Post-Impressionistic and Expressionistic techniques in oil, water-colour and Chinese ink inspired by masters such as Cheong Soo-Pieng, Ma Baishui, Abdullah Ariff and Yong Mun Sen on scenes of villages, mountains and tin-mines in Perak where he spent his childhood and boyhood days.

1.3 Expressionistic Ink-Painting Series (1965 - 1986)
Dr Choong was inspired by the Abstract Expressionism, a major art movement in the USA during his stay in New York from 1965 to 1969. As a result, he produced this series of expressionistic ink-painting by employing, exploring and exploiting the techniques and knowledge of conventional Chinese ink painting he learned from Huang Junbi, Lin Yushan and Pu Xingyu during his study in Taiwan.

Bold strokes are vividly dancing and interacting on the paper. Tone and shades of ink are permeating, flowing, expanding and intermingling and formed the main characters of this series.

1.4 Print Series (1965 - 2012)
Dr Choong treated printmaking as a form of alternative graphic expression. He believed that its rich and complex process and techniques like those employed in etching, lithography and silkscreen can help generate new ideas for painting as well. He combined free strokes, undefined areas and geometric shapes to convey the notion of confronting elements or forces of the world we live in. The techniques exploited in his prints are closely echoing his approaches in oil paintings in the New York Series.

1.5 Figure Studies Series (1965 - 1968)
Figure studies is the fundamental practice of every artist. It can be pursued in many different ways with a variety of materials. For Dr Choong, among other approaches, the figure is often taken as a subject for analytical studies. The figure is seen as an integral part of the surrounding environment. Form, lines, space, weights, light and shade are juxtaposed and integrated on the 2-dimensional plane to form a homogeneous entity. The figure and ground relation is pursued with the emphasis on the interplay and interaction of positive & negative space, movements, flows, visual balance and tension.


2. TOWARDS MODERNISM: CONCEPTUAL CONFIGURATIONS (Late 1960’s to Mid. 1970’s)

This period includes the New York Series, Shaped Canvas Series & SEA-Thru Series, which reflected the modern concept of art-making as a result of Dr Choong’s four-year stay in New York.

2.1 New York Series
The New York Series encompasses the period 1965 to 1969. This series reflects his Asian reaction towards the metropolitan Western world, in his case of rural Perak to the city of New York to face cultural shock and the new social and environmental challenges.

The organic cum geometric canvases he did then reflect the tension he experienced in the fast and hectic world of New York. He combined hard-edged shapes with impasto patches of textured areas embedded with sand pebbles in his oil compositions. This series shows the application of formal contrasts resulting in visual dynamics, illusion are concocted and activated the space of the object in the mode of New York School. The colours are pushed or propelled backward or forward. Texture, handling and visual weight are explored deftly.

2.2 The Shaped Canvas Series (1969 - 1972)
In this series, he treated ‘colour as shape’ and ‘shape as colour’ to mirror the industrial system and beauty.

The Shaped Canvas Series covers the year from 1968 to 1972. The efforts represent his response to the call of science and technology in the nation in search of progress and development. The hard-edged configurations mirror the industrial beauty in precision. Gestural marks were deliberately eliminated. The notion of ‘colour is shape’ and ‘shape is colour’ was deftly pursued.

2.3 SEA-Thru Series (1971- 1975)
The SEA Thru Series is “a slant on semantics’’, wrote the late Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal. It is the interplay of optical illusion and physical mass, according to Dr Choong, “Yin is interacting with Yang. Solid complementing void. Optical illusion confronting physical mass” is the core message of this series. Multiple changes of colour reflection created by different sources of light can be perceived as the viewer moves around or views from different angles. It is an attempt to reflect the meaning of the dual aspects of the world. They are confronting yet are complementing to each other.

One might be wondering why he titled it as the SEA-Thru Series and not See-Through. According to him, the idea of this series came about when he moved into his own house in South-East Asia (SEA) Park in Petaling Jaya in late 1960’s.


3. RETURN TO TRADITIONAL VALUE (1977 - 1998)

3.1 The Festival Series (1977 - 1998)
The Festival Series expresses the following notion: “The spirit of sharing festive joy, mutual respect and goodwill is in the heart of every Malaysian”, stated Dr Choong.

According to him, the configuration of forms of festivalrelated cakes, offerings, craft elements and artefacts is intended to convey the spirit of sharing traditional values and goodwill in this series of work - the Malaysian way of life. The beauty and aesthetics of forms of the festival-related cakes and artefacts are fully explored, appreciated and enhanced.


4. HERITAGE OF NATURE (1985 - 1994)

4.1 Rhythm Of Growth Series (1985 - 1992)
In response to the environmental conservation campaign by the Malaysian Nature Society, Dr Choong and a group of artists made an expedition into the tropical rainforest of Endau Rompin in 1985 as an attempt to have a better understanding of the natural heritage. In the forest, he realised and was enlightened by the growing and ageing process of Nature. And through observing the relationship between the lingzhi (a kind of mushroom) and dead-wood trunk, he discovered the cycle of the life in Nature.

4.2 Rockscape Series (1985 - 1992)
The Rockscape Series was also inspired by the expeditions into Endau Rompin as well as the Bako National Park in the 1980’s.

While in the jungle, Dr Choong could view from a distance and look at close-ups in order to appreciate the changing rhythm and mystery of Nature.

He probed into the eternal and ephemeral of Nature to understand the contrasting yet complementing nature of Yin and Yang. He realised that in nature, the solid rocks and mountain cliffs have to live with the gradual erosion process over the years. Even the seemingly long-lasting mountains cannot avoid the changes of vegetation due to seasonal variations and changes.

In this series, he employed the staining process and spray-gun techniques to achieve the best visual results. He also used hand-made paper to create quality and beautiful tactile surface and low-relief works which has aptly interpreted the weathering and erosion processes in Nature.

4.3 Earthscape Series (1992 - 1994)
It was intended to reveal the hidden soul and beauty of our Mother Earth in this series. During his childhood life in Kinta, Perak, Dr Choong often wandered around the vast mining land and tin-mine operation sites to enjoy the openness of the wilderness of nature. He could observe Nature from above the land and even viewed the colourful earth strata below the surface of land. Since young, he admired so much the colourful symphony exposed by the embankment of hundreds of open-cast tin mines in Perak.

No wonder Dr Choong stated in his exhibition catalogue, Manifestation of Culture and Nature: “To observe the appearance from without and view the secret from within to hymn the wonderful Earth”.

The message manifested in this series is: “All things spring forth from the bowels of the Earth, live on the Earth and return to the Earth”.

This series was produced in the early 1990’s based on his childhood memory and the response to the fast disappearance of the mining sites due to modern development. It is also seen as a continuation of his Expressionistic Ink-Painting Series in the 1960’s and the more recent Rockscape Series in the late 1980’s.


5. CULTURAL PRACTICE & HERITAGE (2000 - PRESENT)

It includes the Dragon Series and Kungfu Series, which reflect the cultural practice and traditional value.

5.1 The Dragon Series (2000 - 2012)
The creation of this series was inspired by the arrival of the new millennium which coincided with the Year of the Dragon of the lunar calendar in 2000. It continued into 2012 when the Year of the Dragon recurred after a lapse of 12 years.

The idea behind this series is also to convey that the dragon tradition and spirit are inherited in our culture since ancient times. It traverses regions and exists across hundreds of eras to manifest the dynamic force of Man.

The re-interpretations of Yi-jing (I-Ching) and almanac texts, the shape of legendary dragon and the application of vibrant colours on canvas are to manifest the notion that traditional custom still formed an integral part of our Malaysian Chinese cultural practices today as well as the various meanings that the dragon symbolized. Manual painting technique and silkscreen printing process are cleverly employed to innovate the best visual results in this series.

5.2 The Kungfu Series (2005 - Present)
Taiji and Qi Gong practices were instrumental in my recuperation from a colon cancer operation“ stated Dr Choong.

“During the practice, when the Qi (Chi) is properly manipulated, the body and mind will complement each other, and become harmonised and vitalized”, according the Dr Choong.

Dr Choong has been in recent years engaged in expressing the postures and movements of Taiji, Qi Gong, and Shaolin Gongfu on his canvas to convey the sense of rhythmic vitality in the human body. The movements of human form is captured and frozen as a means to reveal the rhythm of Qi (chi), the internal energy for maintaining the vitality of our body and mind. It is a reflection of his personal experience in Taiji and Qi Gong practice which has helped him to stay fit after his colon cancer operation.

The portrayal of body movements and postures of manipulating the Qi or energy during Taiji, Qi Gong, and Shaolin Gongfu practices together with the incorporation of the Gongfu manual texts (either in static form or running calligraphy) are to express a kind of visual dynamics and the associated meanings.


6. MULTI-THEMATIC SERIES (1970’s - 2000’s)

It consists of commissioned, special projects and thematic exhibition works over the years. Dr Choong has been from time to time engaged with projects, or participated in thematic exhibitions and competitions or commissioned by the interested parties which saw him producing theme specific yet impressive works. The collections in this series demonstrate his capability in handling highly demanding works. He would generously share with the public his creative rationale, concepts and the strategy of presentation in dealing with a commission and competition projects as shown by the accompanied sketches and project analysis on display in the exhibition.

CURATORIAL APPROACH

I am honoured to be entrusted with the task to curate Dr Choong’s Retrospective exhibition. After having reinvestigated the whole body of his collection of around 500 works, together with numerous discussions and interviews, I am most impressed with his working spirit, esteem and indulgence in producing so many profound works. He has been a sharp and careful observer of the changes of social, cultural and environmental conditions, and has responded to the changes through visual expression, series by series. The subject matters and modes of expression may differ from one another, but the fundamentals and denominator remain the same. That is the core element of his underlying grid structure, as well as the iconic shape of squares, colour system and the combination of two or more materials and processes that have appeared and re-appeared throughout his whole body of work.

The main issue that Dr Choong addressed has been the changing time and space that he has been facing with all along. The changes in the exterior social and environmental conditions, as well as the change of his personal inner condition and attitudes towards these changes, have become the driving force for Dr Choong to adopt new approaches of visual expression, resulting in the creation of a new series of work. Once the idea is expressed and aspirations fulfilled, he would move on to create a new series of work. He continues to move on without being stagnant at any stage. As such, he can have ample space to explore, experiment and innovate new ideas and concepts. His understanding of Western and Eastern aesthetics has further enhanced the quality of his works.

In the process of formulating curatorial strategies, I realise that the notion of change, manifested throughout the whole body of his work, must be highlighted through the arrangement and display of works. In order to give the viewer a clear understanding of the notion of change and the rationale behind the expressed forms, series after series, I have chosen to display Dr Choong’s works in chronological order. Brief texts of introduction, presented in three languages, will be displayed at the beginning of each series to provide a clue of appreciation. The gallery is arranged like a time passage, with a single direction movement to allow the continuous flow of Qi (energy), both physically and mentally. The different background wall colours will further enhance the relationship between the works and the background, as well as between the works. Once the viewers have entered the gallery, they will see the whole body of work, series by series, in an orderly manner and enjoy Dr Choong’s evolving creative journey.

CONCLUSION

This Retrospective Exhibition features a collection of comprehensive works created during Dr Choong’s 57 years of art practice. His determination in traversing an artistic journey with a heightened sensitivity makes him an artist of high regard who is always kind at heart and is ever willing to share his knowledge and experience with others, be it locally or internationally. Dr Choong has, as a senior artist, lecturer and academician together with his contemporaries inspired and nurtured, through his art practice and teaching, a new generation of artists. They include Dr Ruzaika Omar Basaree, Anuar Rashid, Amron Omar, Awang Damit Ahmad, Juhari Said, Kumari Nahappan, Jalaini Abu Hassan, Bibi Chew, Naser Baharuddin and Hasnul Jamal Saidon (just to name a few) who are now making contributions to the nation.

It is my sincere hope that this Retrospective exhibition will be appreciated by everyone, just as I have appreciated and enjoyed it.




Associate Prof. Ramlan Abdullah
Faculty of Art and Design, Universiti Teknologi MARA
August 2014

(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

FEDERATION OF ASIAN ARTISTS ASSOC.
MALAYSIA COMMITTE CHARIMAN
NATIONAL TAIWAN NORMAL UNIV. ALUMNI
ASSOC. SELANGOR VICE PRESIDENT
 
HON. DOCTOR OF ARTS (RGU. SCOTLAND, UK)
MFA (PRATT INST. USA) BFA (N.T.N.U. TAIWAN)
FULBRIGHT-ACLS RESEARCH FELLOW