Hoan Gallery to feature Sarawak Fine Arts School founder’s life works


Hoan Gallery’s 2024 season will open with an art show highlighting the life works of the late Chong Liew Syn, who is Sarawak Fine Arts School’s founder.

KUCHING (Jan 11): Hoan Gallery will launch its 2024 season with an art show featuring life works of the late great Chong Liew Syn, founder of the Sarawak Fine Arts School.

According to a press release, around 60 art pieces, many never before seen, will be showcased at the gallery for an eight-week long show, which promises to be a highlight of Sarawak’s cultural calendar this year.

The show, titled ‘Hidden Gems: The Life Works of Chong Liew Syn’, starts Jan 19 at the gallery at La Promenade Mall in Kota Samarahan.

The late Chong, who passed away in 1999 at age 50, set up the first government accredited art school in Sarawak.

Her institution at Padungan, Kuching, produced numerous luminaries of Sarawak’s present art scene, not to mention a host of VIPs in various fields, from politics to scientific research.

Hoan Gallery director Hoan Kee Huang described the upcoming show as ‘significant’ and ‘likely an emotional reunion for Chong’s loved ones and students’.

A thousand profound meanings lie within Chong’s painting featuring a woman adorned in a ‘kebaya’.

“The gallery, with the aid of Hock Seng Lee, has been working on Chong’s show for almost a decade.

“Chong’s son, Ken Loh, has opened up the family archive and allowed us the privilege to sift through important, never-seen-before works. There are real gems – historical and significant to Sarawak’s art scene – which we’ve recovered.

“We found Chong’s art from when she herself was a student in Hong Kong in the 1960s through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. We cherry-picked the most beautiful works, which also reveal the transformation of her artistic style over her lifetime,” he said.

The show collection encompasses the entire career of Chong. There will be watercolours, oil paintings, and acrylic.

Hoan noted that Chong’s still-life paintings and landscapes were particularly beautiful.

“Chong’s art pieces, like herself, are full of warmth, honesty, and beauty. She’s a master of shading and light.

“She’s painted some beautiful sunsets of long-disappeared riverine scenes and the most lovingly captured still-life of humble market produce,” he remarked.

A photograph captures Chong’s art class with her students focused at her former Padungan school.

Recovered from her studio are teaching aids, her old pallets, paint brushes, and past memorabilia, such as brochures of students’ art shows from decades ago.

Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Dr Sim Kui Hian, who will be officiating the art show, was Chong’s former student.

“I’m thankful for the invitation to my late teacher’s first posthumous art show. I spent time learning from her from Form 1 to Form 3,” he said.

The majority of artwork from the show will be for sale, with prices ranging from around RM3,000 to over RM10,000, depending on the medium, size, and age.

Last year, Hoan Gallery opened its 2023 season with Alena Murang’s ‘Colours of the Highlands’.

A record-breaking 36 out of 51 pieces from the show were sold during the eight-week run. Collectors included those from Kuching, Singapore, and as far as Spain.

Hoan Gallery’s 2024 season opener is to be followed by an abstract art show by David Chew and artist Joanne Lau’s showcase.

Hoan Gallery opened in 2021 with the ‘Rebirth’ exhibit, featuring 10 Sarawakian art masters. The works of veterans, such as Lee Hock Kia and the late Micheal Chong, were highlighted alongside new talents like mural artist Leonard Siaw.

The gallery has also featured an all-oil painting show by Bong Choo Chew.

Hoan himself has an illustrious career, including invitations to paint portraits of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

For more information, visit hoangallery.com or search @HoanArtGallery on social media platforms. Updates are also available at lapromenademall.com.my and @LaPromenadeMall.

‘Hidden Gems: The Life Works of Chong Liew Syn’ starts Jan 19 at Hoan Gallery at La Promenade Mall.