A Personal Account of Soo Pieng
by Lin Hsin Hsin
IT inventor, artist, poet, composer

Soo Pieng was a man of few words, his visual expressions spoke louder. His natural language deficiency was highly compensated by his ability to hold and execute a definitive and/or powerful brush stroke, defining his visual linguistic forms. His approach to visual art was top-down, filling in the details as and when required.

In art, it is important to arm with the ability to sketch, draw, paint, mold and sculpt. Soo Pieng understood aesthetics, was artistically eloquent and prolific as an artist. He has no lack in any of these skills, and was able to conceptualize and visualize a composition with his own set of visual vocabularies. Though his subject matters seems to be confined to a selected palette of his choice, nevertheless, he was able to convey abstract expressionism and portray a subject photo realistically when desired.

In sharp contrast to his linguistic ability, Soo Pieng was well-read. During his 9-month art residency in Munich, Germany, he has acquired an in-depth knowledge of European masters. Amongst others, Soo Pieng was able to interpret the beauty of the mobiles and stables by Alexander Calder as well as the stick-man by Giacometti. He tipped the differences of the still life between George Braques and Pablo Picasso while narrating the geometry of Kandinsky, the poetic humors in Paul Klee and the boldness of Joan Miró. His artistic mind was aligned with the contemporary and the post modernistic. His sliced and diced the details and registered outlines visually of the huge repertoires of the Western masterpieces: from the traditional to the avant garde, from the conventional to the pop culture.

Soo Pieng was a good teacher. To many, he was not as interactive as they would have liked him to, simply, he "doesn't teach per se". Indeed, this was the very quality that I admired. Soo Pieng didn't look over my shoulder, he had full respect of his student ? he empowered the freedom and ability to express individualistically in his student. He guided me from a distance and didn't interfere with my canvas unnecessarily. In life, you can't choose your parents and your place of birth, however, you can choose your friends, associates, partners and teachers. I knew I have chosen the right one. With his tutelage, I have read intensively, analyzed and understood what is and what isn't art while i mastered my artistic skills technically during my formation years. From time to time, I was perplexed by the details of an artwork or the intent of a masterpiece philosophically, the Soo Pieng-solution was always a command line: READ!, and my reply was, as usual, "Yes, Sir!" the ever obedient student in this aspect. The Soo Pieng atelier housed a sizable collection of reading materials on art in English, French, German and Chinese. Over the years, I became an avid reader of artists' biographies, reviews, monographs, magazines and periodicals. As such, my literary repositories became a compendium to all my art museum visits across continents as I thread the path of my artistic pursuits. Though I have studied Western contemporaries predominately, I have also acquired the understanding and techniques of Chinese brush paintings during then. Therein, lies the invaluable principle of executing a brush stroke in one breath (一气呵成, yī qì hē chéng) discipline.𝄞

Mastering the bristle to sketch, draw and paint was a tradition that I treasure in the analog world. It has been a foundation for my 2D & 3D digital art which I pioneered since 1985. Precisely, this is d'raison être that I am able to mathematically formulate my digital bristles and command my two-button mechanical mouse to paint at ease digitally. As a firm believer in Eco-computing (an initiative I founded since 2007), I conserve computing resources in the pursuit of digital arts, a cultivated virtue since Soo Pieng days.

Away from the artistic palettes, we have shared the common delights of the signature Xiamen po-piah, handmade by my mother. During the many moments of my afternoon intermissions, my indulgence in Kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) were always the highlight of the day ? my source of inspirations! While I sipped a cold drink, he would use "the other end of his bristles" one that was used to enable marks on his canvases, to stir the sweetening agent in his coffee mug, left me starred in awe! This is when we chatted, and exchanged informations. One of the most significant anecdotes was his decision to rename his first name in Chinese characters by removing the water radicals, so as to align with his legendary artistic signature!

Though Soo Pieng was diligent and has accumulated wealth, he was frugal till his very end. He has one regret in his life, for he knew he has never been recognized during his relatively short life span. In his own words:"ignored and side-stepped". His realization drifted in and out of his melancholic facial expressions, disclosed by occasional utterance, steeply incubated in his color palette and surfaced in the textures of his choice. Perhaps, this downfall could be attributed to his inability to articulate? Indeed, as in any pursuit, visual art needs to be seen and heard!

 

 

Bird's-eye view -- ground up!

This essay is written for the Cheong Soo Pieng Retrospective
@ the National Art Gallery Singapore

digital art museum, first virtual museum in the world since 1994