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An Expression of 60 Years (Part II) with Cheong Laitong

March 22, 2015
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One of my favourite parts of my job is meeting people of all walks of life that I certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunity to outside of it. Most recently, I got to speak with a veteran artist who had the most inspirational — not to mention, moving — story to share. We sat down for an interview that was meant to only be half an hour long but turned into an hour affair.

This guy was none other than Cheong Laitong, one of Malaysia’s pioneering artist who played a pivotal role in kickstarting the art scene in Malaysia. There is a full feature I wrote of him and his journey — from his early days in China to how he had to flee his home to come here to Malaysia — for Tatler that you can read here so I won’t repeat myself with the details, but I can safely say he’s one of the most fascinating people I’ve had the chance to sit down with, have a conversation and write about yet.

Following the interview, we were invited to go for the opening of his solo exhibition and for the first time, art pulled a string in my core, maybe because I got to have a glimpse into the story of the artist prior to seeing his works.

One of the things he told me during our interview was, “My art has always been a reflection of my feelings through my physical actions.”

Looking at his works, I could actually feel it within me his feelings that he translated into each stroke of the brush and each coming together of colours, lines and gradation. That was the first I felt the same wave of prickly warmth that washes its way down my back and into my chest when I consume the words of the greatest authors. Only this time, not a single word was spelled nor was it uttered. That’s saying something because I’ve always loved words; I’ve always drawn my greatest inspirations from literature and the power it has to plant ideas, move emotions and make you feel more than just the mere mortal you are.

For an evening, I found the same effect from a canvas of carefully thought out lines and colours instead.

It was, in a word, beautiful.

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The artist himself, Cheong Laitong. Thank you for sharing your story with me.

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A string quartet! I’ve never seen one live in action before, heh.

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The crowd on opening night. Impressive, isn’t it!

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I love how this Ninja is always up for an adventure whenever I suggest one. He said yes to coming to the art exhibition even though the both of us know close to nothing about it with the same enthusiasm he agreed to hike Mt Kinabalu even though he hates the great outdoors — with a shrug of the shoulders and an upbeat “Why not?”

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That piece on the extreme right is one of my favourites. I just love the colours in there and the organised mess of the whole piece.

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Joey, an ex-classmate from college, is the founder and owner of a events management company now (I’m so proud of her!), the very one that organised this exhibition. Great job, Joey!

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There was even a harpist! As you can tell, I don’t go to a lot of things often. After this one, though, I’m definitely going to change that.

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Here is Laitong’s star piece, which I heard fetches more than half a million.

Here’s to more new experiences on the weekends. Because “why not?” 🙂

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