CHEONG SOO PIENG IN LONDON
Under the generous patronage of Singapore cinema magnate Dato Loke Wan Tho, Cheong Soo Pieng resigned from his post as teacher at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Art in Singapore, and embarked on a two-year long sojourn in Europe from late 1961 to 1963. The Europe trip was a turning point in Cheong's artistic career - with a move toward abstraction, and the eventual development of his own characteristic style of abstract expressionism with Chinese aesthetics.
Whilst in Europe, Cheong held three solo exhibitions - Frost & Reed Gallery in London, Galerie Schoninger in Munich, and Redfern Gallery in London. The works produced during this European-period remain some of the most sought after works from his entire artistic career.
Coming from a single private collection in London, Lot 486 - 490, presents us with the rare opportunity of surveying Cheong's remarkable range of artistic production during his time in Europe. No doubt inspired by the English watercolourists and the moody ambiance of Turner's paintings, View of St. Paul's Cathedral, London (Lot 487) and River Landscape (Lot 489) mark the beginning of Cheong's experimentation with semi-abstraction in ink wash, and his innovations in pictorial composition within the traditional Chinese hanging scroll format.
Malay Boys (Lot 488) sees Cheong reworking the representation of the figure within his art. The slender bodies of the two boys prefigure the stylized forms of his Balinese works of the late 70s, while the earthy tone of the background, and the ethnic headdress of one of the boys reveal his continued attachment to Southeast Asia, even while abroad.
Cornwall (Lot 486) is a semi-abstract representation of the English seaside town, made unique with Cheong's melding of abstract composition with the diffuse quality of Chinese ink. Passage (Lot 490) is a work reminiscent of Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki, who was also working and exhibiting in London at the time. Featuring Cheong's characteristic suggestion of a rising or setting sun, a symbol of the cycle of life and death, this is a work that provokes meditation and immersion into the scene.