10 Paintings Depicting Malaysian Culture from Artist Voon Kim Cheong

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Based in Selangor, 49-year-old artist Voon Kim Cheong paints stunning abstract paintings with cultural elements with vivid colour.  After graduating from Saito Academy in 1992, he continued honing his craft by learning from experienced artists. Today, he has successfully found and established his own identity as an artist through his unique artwork that perfectly embodies the rich colours and culture of Malaysia.

Kim Cheong said he is always inspired by cultural elements. “I personally feel there is no need to travel to other countries to get inspiration to paint. In multi-racial Malaysia, there is so much natural landscape and vivid culture in our surroundings. I apply these cultural elements in my paintings.”

As his paintings are abstract, at first glance you might not see the subject matter. However, if you look carefully, you can see the outlines of the fluid scenes and what they really depict.

Using rough textures and dynamic combinations of colour with oils, Kim Cheong applies both gentle and strong strokes into the painting.

He said, “Personally, I get most of my ideas and concepts through sketching randomly to capture the composition, strokes, colours, and the culture elements. In my latest  ‘Cultural Exuberance’ series, you can see that the use of abstract figure subjects focuses on wau, gasing, traditional dances, drums, children playing games such as flying paper airplanes, instruments, and textiles to highlight Malaysian elements.”

Drum and Drummer 13

In his latest series, the works are Inspired by East Malaysia’s cultural elements expressing energy in the form of pulsating drums, drummers, warrior dancers, and their instruments. He explained, “l symbolize the round-shaped drum as an amalgamation of the sun and moon, the sun is harder while the moon is soft as sometimes when you bang a drum it is hard, and other times is soft. I captured the flow of sounds, waves, and even movements by my twirling stroke gesture and energetic colours which move across the surface, overlapping form of figures and subject forming unity based on the tension between the balance of colour, shape, texture, surface, and depth. l drew figures in their finery and executed their movements in both gentle and strong strokes, drawing the force of the actions of drummers and warrior dancers. I try to communicate these issues of identity of a multicultural country to the understanding and respectful harmony of races and cultures.”

His works are also focused on emotions and movements. For the Wau paintings he was fascinated and mesmerized by the graceful glides of the traditional kite. Wau flying is one of the most popular traditional cultures on the East Coast on Malaysia. “I captured the movement of the kites in abstract form overlapping each other and apply strong and gentle strokes moving across the surface, and  texture mixed with vibrant colour. The kites are viewed as a symbol of having high aspirations and elevated vision. Man always had an inherent wish to fly high in the sky and reach the sky, so this would have surely made him invent the kite that can touch the sky on his behalf, giving him the satisfaction that he indeed touched the sky as high as he likes. The Red Sun behind overlapping the kite in this painting symbolises the ‘light’ and ‘hope’ to achieve our goal in success.”

Kim Cheong emphasized, “I  intend to share messages of spirit of unity, joy, strength, courage, harmony, and energy through my work, which to me, is the very essence of our Malaysian culture.

Have a look at some of Kim Cheong’s artworks below.


1. “Wau” Kites Festival

2. Teamwork

3. Fly Your Dream

4. Drummers and Warrior Dancer

5. Fly to “Success”

6. Drum and Drummer 14

7. Drum and Drummer 11

8. Deers Searching Food

9. A Flock of Deers

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