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Malaysian Artist Profile: Eng Peng Yeo

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Eng Peng Yeo was profiled several years ago after I saw his series on the pineapple and mangosteen. I was so impressed by the realism that they so vividly portrayed that I thought the paintings could almost be thought of as an optical illusion, in that a viewer would swear they were photographs. Not only is he a magnificent talent and widely renowned in Malaysia, but since the mid-1990s, Mr. Eng has been internationally celebrated and collected, too.

Another reason I consider him special is the many years he has reached out to other artists by devoting himself to teaching art classes to them. Since April 2012 and through all of 2013, most all of our cover artists happened to be his students. And although he has a few men in his class, most are women. In fact, all the artists he teaches that we have profiled the past 18 covers have been female.

They are, on average, middle-aged with grown children, leaving them with the time to devote to their love of art. Some are art teachers who know it is important to continuing learning in their field of art, and honing their skills and craft with a “senior” acclaimed and highly successful artist. Many are women, who due to financial considerations, felt they had to have careers in the corporate world first and so they worked two or three decades before being able to have the luxury of being artists full time. I found each one of these ladies very inspiring; their genuine excitement and passion for their art was infectious.

After meeting the first lady referred to me, I was so taken by her description of his class and his methodology, as well as his personality, that I asked her to give me some of her fellow classmate’s names. While meeting and interviewing each of them, I was struck by the strong impact he has had on them. He seemed to teach them holistically; not just dwelling on, say, the technical facets one needs to structure a skilful composition, or the protocols of selecting the most compelling colour pigments, or how to formulate the specifics of reaching their artistic goals, but instead he has an unique ability to motivate his students in ways best described as holistic teaching.

Mr Eng explains that no matter their level, he works on their foundation, infusing his instruction with his philosophies, which are primarily based on the importance of conservation in nature and respect of the environment. He teaches them to stop and look at the little things around them and take note of the copious detail contained in, for example, just one leaf or flower bud.

“There is so much to explore in every single place you go, and if you look with mindful attention, you will notice so much more of this amazing creation called Earth we have the honour to be living on. We must therefore paint the flowers, the trees, the vanishing majestic landscapes around us while they are still here. It is our obligation to the newer generations that will come after us to preserve what we
have had the privilege of being surrounded by,” Mr Eng declares.

His own stunning paintings reflect his passion for the details in our environment. In his painting, “Flash,” which he describes as a “burst of energy exploding out of the deep colours, giving the viewer the ability to intuit far details with much more imagination, while breaking through from one’s perspective.”

He continues, “The overall reds, oranges, yellows, and thick black surfaces create an effect of strength, with little sense of depth. Objects which appear in the abstract according to the strokes and colours I’ve made, give pause to people and motivate them into thinking about the painting in front of them with more ability. Then they can imagine much more that could exist on the canvas but which the artist has deliberately not put there, wanting the person to see it with their own imagination.

“‘Pineapple,’ ‘Wayang Kulit,’ ‘Batik,’ ‘Rafflesia Arnoldii,’ ‘Mangosteen (outlined),’ and the rest of my paintings on these two pages were created by me to give people the ability to expand their imagination just by looking at them.” Mr. Eng’s latest series centres around the oil palm plant with all its glorious potential to have viewers fill in more of the form, expression, shapes, and even add colour on their own.

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If you are interested in purchasing any of these paintings, please contact me at [email protected]

Source: The Expat January 2014

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