TAY CHEE TOH (Malaysian, B. 1941)
TAY CHEE TOH (Malaysian, B. 1941)

Three Boys

TAY CHEE TOH (Malaysian, B. 1941)
Three Boys
signed and dated 'Chee Toh 63' (lower left)
oil on board
89 x 63 cm. (35 x 24 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1963

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Born in Johor, Malaysia, Tay Chee Toh's move to Singapore in 1958 to pursue formal arts education at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts placed the artist in the midst of a bourgeoning local arts scene, led by the pioneering artists who had arrived in Singapore in the late 40s and early 50s. Taught most notably by artists Cheong Soo Pieng and Georgette Chen, Tay began the development of his own distinctive style of artistic expression which ranged from the depiction of rural village life in Southeast Asia, to modernist experiments in abstraction, as well as sculpting.

Three Boys (Lot 675) and At the Market (Lot 676) are two rare, early examples from Tay. They convey nostalgia for rural life in scenes of bustling communal activity and camaraderie. Tay's figures conform to the angular style of cubism, where colours are segmented into geometric forms, providing different perspectives onto the canvas. By the time Tay arrived in Singapore, the use of Western concepts of modernism, combined with Eastern sensibilities of tone and light had evolved into a distinct Nanyang school of painting. The two present lots are examples of Tay's fresh interpretation of the Nanyang style.

Beyond The Window 2 (Lot 677) presents Tay's shift towards modernism in his art - a likely by-product of his association with Alpha Gallery in Singapore from the 1970s onwards, where Tay became a contemporary of artists such as Khoo Sui Hoe and Anthony Poon. Together, these artists innovated new forms and compositions in their art, tending towards the regularity of shape and form, as well as the bold use of colour. Beyond The Window 2 is a striking culmination of Tay's techniques and interests. From the mimicry of the tonality achieved from traditional batik dye in the painting's background, to the central incorporation of stylized Dayak tribal motifs found across many of his paintings, the painting offers multiple interlocking and overlapping windows through which Tay's ideas can be viewed, and he successfully challenges a clear distinction between boundaries, and encourages us to look beyond them.

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