Source: excerpted from the New Sunday Times Malaysia August 7,1983
Hands of an artist, eyes of a child by Joan Lau
child and artist: These three elements in their most creative resulted in Shoko
LEE’ amazing watercolour paintings which were exhibited recently.
painting possesses the wild abandon of a child’s imagination-a red rocking
chair floating above an Arctic scene complete with walrus lounging on the
iceberg. Yet the assurance of the strokes embellished the whole work with a
sense of reality.
seemingly wild flights of the imagination are very real to Shoko LEE, the
painter. In her series of watercolour paintings titled “My Diary 1981-1983”
we see 39 works, which are interiors.
represent her feelings about her pregnancy and her perception of the world
around her during that period. A few of the paintings centre on the things of
infants-baby stroller, colourful rattlers, stuffed toys, baby basket and shoes.
are no more mere pictorial representations of a fond mother’s interest n her
baby’s things. These pictures blend together with her interpretations of time
becomes very abstract. Things float and hover the countryside, a fork spears
down a rainbow, chillies from the aura around the sun-these are merely some of
interesting reasons why she uses them.” While I was pregnant, I had this urge
to eat chillies. I was afraid it would be bad for the baby but the doctor
assured me it would not”.
have several paintings using green and red chillies to represent that time when
I had this craving for chillies,” says Shoko, 35.
paintings are visual depictions of what happened during the years of 1981 to
1983. They are like a dairy and these abstract works allow us to share in the
same feelings of wonder, humour and puzzlement.
not a new force in the local art scene. She has had certain fame with her book
for children which she also illustrated-“Sunny Boy”.
those illustrations have expanded to encompass questions she asks about life,
birth, being a mother. Her motifs are from the things of her life-crabs because
she lives in Klang (Malaysia)and cats because she loves them.
work is the inner expression of events in my life,” she adds. “The objects
float in the paintings just like my baby did when she was in my womb.”
hover in the sky and are manifestations of the freedom felt by the artist’s
imagination. It adds a touch of surrealism to the paintings and a sense of the
fantasy usually found only in movies.
Shoko is now a housewife living in Klang with her baby
daughter and her artist husband, LEE Kian Seng. “the predominant colour
in this series is dark blue. This is to give the paintings the feel of
usually do not have a preference for colours as they are all beautiful to me.
But in this series where space plays such a big part I am using dark blue more
often,” she explains.
paintings themselves do not look like watercolours. They have solidity as
compared to the usual translucence of watercolours. But the pastel hues and the
wonderful attention to detail would exile the mind of any child.
stars each work with a sketch. “When I am satisfied with the sketch. I start
working on a large format. Working with watercolour means making sure of one’s
use of colours.
in my mind. I think of the colour I want and then start working on it. I cannot
afford to make any mistakes,” she adds.
is Shoko LEE’s pictorial space…her inner landscapes. Her paintings were
exhibited at Hotel Equatorial (Malaysia) from July 28 to Aug.1 (1983)
Joan Lau, New
Sunday Times Malaysia 1983/08/07
(Extracted from The Souvenir Program of The Exhibition "MY DIARY 1981 –
LEE first made an
indelible impression of the Malaysian Art scene through her illustrations of
‘Sunny Boy’. These were wondrous ventures into the realm of phantasy, of
personal legend, reminding one of ‘The Little Princes’.
With the present series of
watercolour paintings, the artist of Sunny Boy has come of age, entering the
‘legitimate art’ circle. Art makes it possible to realise the dreams of our
will. The age of rational has produced parallels in irrationality, creating the
balance, lest we become too intense with seriousness. In the spirit of ‘Sunny
Boy’ it is important that we retain the child’s sense of wonder of the
‘simple’ world – such as the sky, where one’s imagination is free to
wonder from the everyday demands and chores to the limitless bounds of the
thinkable space. Shoko let her mind wonder and her imagination wander among the
boundless universal space. Being an artist she is able to translate her
responses into visual forms, which are then transmitted to us in a new
differentiated reality. We, as observers, are on turn enriched by the dimension
of her experience… In her present collection of works aptly titled ‘My
Diary’ stretching from 1981 to 1983, all those wondrous ecstatic moments of
sheer serendipity, of the playful joy, are set in pictorial space – form and
space being the main elements in visual/pictorial art.
The artist is inspired by space,
rearranging objects in an irrational configuration in space. The elements of
‘irrationality’ are essential in a highly rationalised order of the
condition of society.
In these works, the artist
relates the ordinary everyday objects with which she is so familiar, especially
during serving and washing up, cups and saucers, to objects in the outer space
where there is no gravity. Where rockets, space ships, and space shuttles,
hurtle in the ‘scientific space’ these common objects float freely in the
space of the imagination. Like a good-humored poltergeist, the artist tosses the
objects in a surrealistic space.
Before the birth of her first
child, the artist was closely attached to her cats, which were regarded as
members of the family. These are portrayed in human guises.
During a certain stage of
expecting her first child, Shoko was symbolically interested in round objects,
the sense of completeness of terrestrial objects, symbol of the self, totality
of the psyche.
As pregnancy progressed, the
craving for chili is expressed in glowing reds as if lit from within. The
biomorphic form that represents embryonic stage later developed towards the
birth of the first baby. The artist conjures a new phantasy as toys float
weightlessly in space.
Using mainly watercolour on thick
cartridge paper the paintings glow in layers of brilliant colours as Shoko skillfully
wields her brush, turning out the real magic of the imagination, bridging the naďve
world of the universal child and the sophisticated world of the contemporary
adult. We are fortunate to feast on this creative offering, reminding ourselves
of personal values, which are dearest to us – which can be shared but never
taken away. The essential qualities in art are emotive and contemplative. Let us
wonder passionately and ponder religiously at these serious exteriorizations of
the spirit of the eternal child, to grasp its message, for the best of art stems
from a moral act.
Syed Ahmad Jamal
, Director, National Art Gallery Malaysia , 1983.
| My Diary series | Shoko LEE's main page |