A Tale of Two Countries: Watercolour Works of Singapore and Malaysia

Malaysia and Singapore are like two sides of the same coin – sharing culture, cuisines, language and a diverse ethnic makeup. This was documented in ‘A Tale of Two Countries – Singapore and Malaysia’ by Singaporean artist Seah Kang Chui at a week long art exhibition, which ran at Soka Gakkai Malaysia in KL. The show featured over 50 watercolour artworks by the veteran painter.

*All artworks are copyrighted to Seah Kang Chui

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Seah has 40 years of experience under his belt, and it shows through his colourful paintings. A central theme to all his artworks is the depiction of rural scenery in Sg and Malaysia, from villages to old, heritage buildings. Some, like Lau Pa Sat Market (left) convey a deeper message. Seah said he deliberately painted the high-rise buildings in the background using a blurred style, to signify the ‘faceless’ modernity compared to the old market’s rich culture and history.

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Singapore River

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An old bridge in Singapore, with the ultra modern Marina Bay Sands building in the background.

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If you grew up in Malaysia and Singapore, many of these village and jetty scenes would be familiar. Seah captures the simplicity and essence of kampung living, so much so that looking at his paintings transports the viewer to childhood memories of running around barefeet in the yard, chasing chickens while coconut trees swayed in the breeze amidst a backdrop of traditional wooden houses on stilts – or climbing into long wooden boats and watching fishermen docking at rickety jetties in the evening.

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New Sarawak state assembly building’ next to the river.

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Paddy field in Sekinchan transports the viewers to this agricultural town, famed for its endless yellowing fields of ripe paddy and blue skies.

Seah’s fondness for rural scenes came from his own childhood, as he grew up in a village.

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“I often paint on the spot. If I can’t finish it, I take photographs to be continued at home,” he said. Sometimes a painting may take several tries.

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Heritage buildings are also a favourite subject – like the Christchurch Melaka (left).

It was amazing to see how skillful the artist was with his brush strokes.  I can’t claim to be a high culture person, but I enjoy looking at art I can understand and which connects emotionally with me on a deeper level, instead of random swishes and abstract notions.

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