Lai Wai Soon is an exquisitively elegant artist and if you have the good fortune to meet him in person, the same two adjectives are most apt to describe him too. Wai Soon was born and grew up in a historic section of Penang Town. He studied Chinese painting for 7 years before turning to oils and acrylics and their mixture as his medium of expression. He has exhibited in various parts of Asia such as Korea, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia. He has become internationally acclaimed for attractively combining the bold, colourful strokes of Western oil paints onto a background of Chinesestyle smeared water colours.
“Western oil paints are wonderful for expression but I also use the splashed-ink-and colour method of the famous traditional Chinese painter, Chang Da Chien.”
“I rotate my canvas to allow the liquid paint to flow slowly and to settle into shapes of ponds, flowers or leaves,” explains Soon.
Wai Soon became famous 15 years ago for his inspired reworking of the culturally laden lotus flower. He rendered the classic lotus flower with liberated strokes into a lush, tropical feel with the broad leaves of the lotus arch freely supported by their long elegant stalks.
On Wai Soon’s canvases, standing tall in their natural habitat, the lotus petals radiant greens and yellows, which hint at a tinge of romance and idealism. The leaves and succulent petals allowed him to demonstrate their beauty using vibrant colours and a wide range of compositions. Soon was attempting to break away from traditional art painting, adding wild and energetic brush strokes to enliven the works.
In recent years he has moved from literal portrayals to a more expressionist approach.
“I’m in the school of thought that believes artists should push themselves experimenting with different colours and techniques.”
Wai Soon told me that after viewing some local and overseas natural scenes and beaches and mountains, he was deeply energized by semi-abstract expressionism. The rockscapes series here on these pages, absorb the influences of Chinese art painting, especially the technical mountain stroke, expressed on the canvas with oil paints. The powerful stroke play with the empty spaces abstractly symbolizes the scenery and landscapes. Deeply inspired by Chinese art sensibilities, philosophy and layouts, he presents the waterfalls and rocky scenery on the beaches in Vietnam, in all their natural splendour.
He believes that it part of the Oriental philosophy of yin (the space) and yang (the object). “If the painting is full, it can’t breathe,” he feels. “With more empty space, there is more life”
His luxuriant, sensual and evocative oil paintings are mesmerizing. Their heavily worked textures radiate vibrant reds, blues and oranges exuding a contemporary Asian aesthetic.
This article has been edited for ExpatGoMalaysia.com
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