Remembering Tan Choon Ghee in Ink and Watercolour


Penang State Art Gallery receives its largest bequest ever from his widow, Madam Kam.

A rare 1961 self-portrait captures Penang’s legendary watercolourist Tan Choon Ghee (Chen Cun-yi) as a strapping 31-year-old, his gaze intent and his eyes beady. He shows a nondescript steely resolve, as if he were facing phantom imponderables.

The work, perhaps his only self-portrait, was honed after the rigours of the Slade School of Art, London (1957-1959), and the locally skewed curriculum of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art (NAFA), Singapore (1949-1951). Perhaps the three-month participation in a West German exchange programme also left its mark.

Unbeknown to him then, he was at the crossroads of a bifurcating career. He was to take up a Colombo Plan scholarship in 1962-1963 to study television set design at the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) in Sydney, paving the switch to television set and costumes design and illustrations.

To read the rest of the article and to access our e-Archive, subscribe to us for RM150 a year.

Related Articles