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Malaysian Artist Profile: Lee Weng Fatt

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Lee Weng Fatt is an extraordinarily skilled and internationally collected artist, and for good reason, you will agree as you gaze upon his selection of paintings on these two pages. He illustrates the tremendous beauty and grandeur that exists in historic buildings in the Greater KL area. Most of these homes are pre-WW2 homes and are replete with ornate carvings, excruciatingly attention to detail, striking arches, and comfortable porches and of course wood frames from nearby forests.

Weng Fatt grew up in such a house. His parents owned a sundry shop on the ground floor and the family lived in the two floors above it. One of several children, Weng Fatt has very fond memories of him and his siblings playing in the yards around their home. There was always a treasure to be discovered. He is able to illustrate the tremendous beauty and grandeur that exists in these old building and the majesty that emanates from each of them. His oils, watercolours (specifically made with hard-sought after pigments), and his pens on the canvas breathe a rich and detailed mosaic of the history surrounding them with supreme eloquence. He transliterates these unique older houses onto his canvas as a way to pay tribute to them and to capture them in time so they do not disappear from our imaginations, even if they are disappearing due to ongoing construction which, sadly, sees many of them torn down. His houses are found in KL, Penang, Ipoh, Melaka, and even Cameron Highlands.

Weng Fatt is a multi-talented artist with a cross-disciplinary vision. He wants the public to care about older buildings for their intrinsic historical value and importance and for the public to understand the critical importance of preserving them with their history and beauty of a bygone era.

Culture Minister, Dato’ Dr Rais Yatim, an avid art collector and lover, told me once, “Weng Fatt can revitalize Malaysian heritage and can change the mindset which unfortunately currently puts modern progress over heritage.” He goes on to exclaim, “Heritage is of critical importance to the citizenry as it tells the story of where we came from and our roots.”

Weng Fatt has the impressive ability to imbue what are now these historic buildings with a genuine presence and an evocation of their cultural and historical past. In addition he can be whimsical proven by his propensity of putting a small farm animal like a field mouse or a kitten into his painting to breathe life into the painting. Roosters are his favourite.

He has created a new series called Historic Buildings Breathe Life. These paintings are notable for his use of muted colours with the occasional explosion of vivid colours. He is far more interested in creating a mood for each building rather than having exacting details like most of his prior series.

In Historic Building Breathe Life, he creates a new signature for himself as he makes generous use of the substance bitumen which is found almost exclusively in Asia Minor countries and is like asphalt. I don’t know of any other artist who uses bitumen in their paintings, but he certainly uses it to fabulous effect.

Weng Fatt speaks lovingly of his childhood surrounded by these beautiful buildings. He remembers fondly when he would look up and admire his three-storey home as well as those of his neighbours, especially the intricate designs and the bright colours. He tells me that the colours and designs on the buildings in KL were so fine back then, especially the ones in the Masjid India area that to him they were living art canvases.

After his secondary education, Lee went on to complete his education in fine arts at the KL College of Art. Those were the days that he would practice hard with the paintbrushes constantly in hand to paint and master the skill of art.

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“I would take photographs of old buildings and assemble them together before deciding which building I would paint for the next three days,” Lee tells me.

After graduating in 1989, Lee went on to pursue his dreams of turning drawing of old buildings into a full-time job where he would travel to different states in Malaysian to take his photographs and then sit down and paint. Looking back now at the paintings he once painted with passion, he said many of the shops are no longer operating and had turned into modern buildings.

He hopes his paintings will be able to educate the younger generations of each building’s history through the delicate artwork.

“I wish I could do more,” he laments. “These historical buildings are part of our heritage, our history, and it saddens me to see them coming down.”

He tells me he wishes the present government would make more notable efforts at preserving these rich old treasures for future generations of not just Malaysians but tourists, too, to enjoy.

Lee Weng Fatt is himself quickly becoming known as a national treasure and has many awards to his name. He has personally selected the paintings on these two pages and put the lowest possible prices on them in the hopes you will be able to purchase some. They would make fabulous gifts for that special someone during the upcoming Holiday Season.

If you want more information or wish to view this collection, please email [email protected].

Source: The Expat November 2013

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