Malaysian Artist Profile: Su Lin Yong

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What an impressive woman I met recently! Not only is she one of the finest up and coming artists in Malaysia, but she has a degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and is raising three lively children.

Her name is Su Lin Yong and she has always had an interest in art. She tells me, “From as young as I can remember, I have always loved drawing. Both my parents are artistic in their own ways, and my two brothers and I have always enjoyed art. I did not have the opportunity to attend formal art classes, but I remember being very interested in the subject and always did well in my art classes in school, which I definitely liked.”

She continues, “My brown school exercise books, test question papers, and diaries were always full of sketches and doodles. My biggest interest was in drawing people. I have sketchbooks with drawings of my friends, unsuspecting lecturers – in university, I would draw the lecturers instead of taking notes! – sleeping students, anything, really, that would stay still enough for me to get in a quick sketch.

“I was in boarding school in the UK, and I spent so much time in the art room that I was given a set of keys to the room so that I could go in and out as I pleased. Those were the best years of my life. I had full access to all kinds of art supplies and media, and it was a great few years of experimenting, from silkscreening to large murals to mock stained glass.”

I asked Su Lin why she didn’t go to art college or to a formal art institute especially since she was in the UK.

She replied, “In my university days, I had signed up for life drawing sessions in the evenings and night classes in sculpture too. I would have loved to go to an art college or to do an architecture course, but like any good Chinese daughter, I studied and got my degree from the London School of Economics. After graduating, I returned to KL and was offered a job as a financial analyst for a fund management company. I also met a wonderful man, and we soon got married and started our family.”

Su Lin says her youngest of three is now eight years old, giving her more time for herself these days, so she decided to sign up for art classes once a week. “Almost every day now I paint, and I can’t express how happy that makes me to be painting and drawing again,” she enthused.

I asked what media she preferred to work in. “I have worked with oils and acrylics because I like their composition and nature. My own nature is that I like to work fast, and drying time for oils requires more patience from me. I haven’t tried watercolours yet, but I understand they are quite different to oils and acrylics. Perhaps that will be my next learning goal.”

I commented that she paints very lifelike human faces and she replied, “More than 80% of my paintings are of the human form. I am naturally drawn to this form and find it very exciting because it is challenging to capture its beautiful lines. Most of my pieces are of my children and of my husband.” She laughed, “I would love to concentrate more on the human form, but here in KL it is not easy to hire nude models!”


I was intrigued by her paintings on sumo wrestlers, as her mother is Japanese. Again, she laughed. “Because it is so difficult to find people who would pose nude or even half-nude here, I thought of the next best thing – sumo wrestling. It is such an exciting sport to me, and the men are a wonderful source for an artist like me who is looking for movement, grace and strength in the (most unlikely) human shapes.”

When asked how she felt while she was painting, Su Lin paused to consider her reply. “Most of the time I feel calm and happy in my solitary world of painting. I work best alone, with no time pressure or expectations. I always aim to produce loose and expressive works of art. I always ask myself when I complete the painting if it expresses itself authentically. This is why I love the sumo series because I find them more natural to produce.”

I find Su Lin’s works to be unique. I love her colour juxtapositions that indeed imply movement of her subjects. She’s an exciting and interesting lady and that really comes across in her art. Even though she has only returned to painting a few years ago, some of her paintings are already in collections.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the paintings on these pages, or the cover, please contact me at [email protected].

Source: The Expat October 2013

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