From storeroom to spotlight: Chong Liew Syn’s Never-before-seen works debut at Hoan Gallery on Jan 19

An artwork by Chong portraying an image of fish and vegetables, prepared for a meal.

By Ashley Sim

KUCHING, Jan 16: The never-before-seen life works of the esteemed late Chong Liew Syn, founder of the Sarawak Fine Arts School, is more than just an exhibition; it is a touching tribute from her son, giving the public a chance to appreciate the immense talent that defined his mother’s artistic journey.

The exhibition, titled ‘Hidden Gems: The Life Works of Chong Liew Syn’, is scheduled to commence on Jan 19 at Hoan Gallery, located in La Promenade Mall. The exhibition will feature around 60 art pieces, including some that have never been exhibited before.

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

“My mother studied art in Hong Kong during the 1960s. So some of the works you see here date back to the 1970s, 1980s, and, most recently, 1990s, before her passing in 1999.

“All of her artworks have been tucked away in the storeroom of my shoplot for quite some time. When Mr Hoan, the director of Hoan Gallery, approached me, I wasn’t quite sure if I should exhibit my mother’s artworks or not.

“After a certain period of time, I noticed Mr Hoan’s impressive efforts in showcasing artists’ artworks. It dawned on me that this year would be the perfect opportunity to exhibit my mother’s artworks, with the right people and in the right place,” said Ken Loh, the late Chong’s son, during an exclusive media preview of the exhibition held today at Hoan Gallery.

When asked about his emotions as he prepares to watch the exhibition take shape this Friday after nearly a decade of working on his mother’s exhibition, Loh expressed his deep appreciation for the collaborative effort of the team at Hock Seng Lee, Hoan Gallery, and his mother’s former art school.

“My mother’s exhibition could not have taken place without them. So my emotion would be gratitude. A heartfelt thank you to them,” he added.

Loh poses with two of his mother’s artworks at Hoan Gallery of La Promenade Mall, on Jan 16, 2024.

According to a press handout, 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,” it reads.

A photograph was taken of Chong’s students in an art class at her former Padungan school.

‘Hidden Gems: The Life Works of Chong Liew Syn’ exhibition encompasses the entire career of Chong. There will be watercolours, oil paintings, and acrylics.

Chong’s teaching aids, old pallets, paint brushes, and past memorabilia such as brochures from decades-old student art shows will also be on display at Hoan Gallery.

The good news is that, the majority of Chong’s artworks will be for sale, ranging from approximately RM3,000 to more than RM10,000, depending on medium, size, and age.

Deputy Premier of Sarawak Datuk Amar Dr Sim Kui Hian, who happens to be Chong’s former student, has been extended an invitation to officially open the exhibition at Hoan Gallery this Friday, Jan 19 at 7pm. — DayakDaily