Underwater World I

Underwater Series I

When talking about his painting, Tay Kiam Hong once said: «You cannot paint underwater life just by looking at photographs. You have to observe the live fish swimming. Then the person looking at your finished painting will feel he, too, is swimming with the fish.»

You may then think that the artist must also spend time underwater with the fish. But Tay Kiam Hong is not a diver. He spends hours observing sea creatures swimming in aquariums or watching documentary films about underwater life, and captures with his brush strokes the movement of the fish in the water.

He uses the «xie-yi» or free-style of Chinese ink painting. His work is stongly influenced by the Shanghai School of Chinese Painting, where spontaneity is more important than detailed rendering, intuition prevails over logic and the agility and eloquence of the brush work takes precedence over painstaking perfection of techniques.

In Tay Kiam Hong"s work, the empty space is an important component of the painting. The emptiness reinforces the strength of the form, and the positioning of what he paints in the empty space is crucial for the artistic balance of the painting. In his Underwater Series 1, the empty space gives the fish he paints freedom of movement. Whether the painting is of turtles, sea horses, mud-skippers, horseshoe crabs, archer fish, puffer fish or squids, the person looking at the painting cannot help feeling a sense of being part of an infinitely greater scenario of which the painting is only a small part.

His paintings are refreshing, modern and thought-provoking.

Graham Sage

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