One of the most beautiful and complete compositions on paper from Cheong Soo Pieng, Two Sisters (Lot 366) contains many of the characteristics of his iconic later style.
Perhaps what is most intriguing about the work are the hieroglyphic script and symbols that make an appearance in the work. Having travelled extensively in the Southeast Asian region, and being exposed also to the various cultures of the indigenous peoples who so fascinated him, Cheong had an enormous resource of influences and visual cues from which to draw from.
Here, Cheong has transformed Dayak motifs into a stylized script of his own design – not being able to understand the true meanings or intents behind the decorative motifs that he must have encountered frequently during his travels, Cheong represents the motifs as a series of geometric shapes and colours – evoking a visual rather than linguistic interpretation of the foreign script. The intricate patterning is mirrored on the brightly coloured sarongs of the ladies. The geometric regularity of their bodies and arms, interrupted only by the smooth swells of their breasts, suggest that they too, are constructed out of regular shapes and colours. Cheong’s stylization of the female figure would reach maturity following his second trip to Bali in 1977, although it is clear from this work that he had already begun to conceive of his figures as figure-types by the early 70s.
Cheong’s figures are hence modernist in conception rather than following the rules of traditional figurative composition. Abstracting the irregularity of human form into an idealized regularity of form helped Cheong achieved the balance and harmony that he sought to express through his art.