Tay Bak Koi presents a lively market scene in At the Market. In the foreground, fresh catches and other sundries are laid out on display on weaved mats. In the background, people emerge from a bustling pathway between rows of atap-roofed houses. Tay spent most of his time refining his technical skills and a keen sense of colour, eventually developing a fresh and unique approach to documenting the idyllic kampong lifestyle of a bygone era.
Painted in 1967, Tay’s market scene fuses the artist’s memory and imagination, creating an idealized landscape. Angular outlines define the simple village architecture and suggest the organic material used in the buildings and objects, while living subjects are imbued with energy through the use of softer, more organic shapes. The warmth of Tay’s palette enhances the tropical ambience of the scene, as if the market place were aglow under the early morning sun. Pops of colour, like the lady’s bright blue headscarf or the red traditional Malay dress of the fishmonger in the foreground, punctuate the otherwise monochromatic canvas. Tay maintains a sense of tranquility by creating an empty space between the foreground and background, distancing the viewer from the hustle and bustle.
The simplicity of Tay’s compositions, and the heavily textured surface of his canvas conveys a child-like spontaneity in his artistic practice. Contrary to this, underlying Tay’s works are a great deal of planning and preparation in striving to achieve the maximum balance within a composition.