Cheah Thien Soong (1942 - )
Cheah Thien Soong is a celebrated Malaysian artist born in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. He graduated from Chung Hua High School Seremban, Malaysia in 1959 and enrolled at NAFA in Singapore, graduating in 1962. Cheah trained in Chinese ink and Western painting under Nanyang pioneer artists Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong Soo Pieng, Chen Chong Swee, See Hiang To, and Georgette Chen, teachers who deeply influenced his artistic sensibilities. He furthered his studies and received his doctorate from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico in 2002.
Cheah exhibited his work for the first time at the Malaya Art Exhibition Tour to India in 1962 at the age of 20, freshly graduated from NAFA. To date, he has participated in 25 group exhibitions and 21 solo exhibitions in Malaysia, China, Singapore, and South Korea –– making him one of the most prolific artists in the region. In a joint event by Starhill Gallery and Han Culture Center Malaysia in 2016 “The Enchanting Orient”, he exhibited a series of black-ink lotus pond paintings that incorporated batik elements for an added local touch. It was well-received for its fresh and innovative approach to Chinese ink painting.
Cheah clinched several prestigious awards, including the Outstanding Creative Award awarded by the Chinese Calligraphy, Painting & Seal Art Society, and the Chinese Cultural Activity Association, Taiwan, and won 1st Prize in the 1st International Competition of Calligraphy, Painting & Seal Art Exhibition, Taiwan, both in 1995. A leading figure in art education of Malaysia, he founded the Seremban Institute of Art in 1985 and lectured at the Malaysia Institute of Art from 1990 until 2002.
Beyond Chinese ink painting, Cheah also experimented with painting on porcelain and Jingdezhen clay upon his return from Jiangxi in 2003. Cheah believes in the Chinese philosophy of Tao,
where Tao is the natural order of the universe that human intuition may learn to discern, in order to realise the potential of individual wisdom. This knowledge is obtained through the living experience and of everyday life, therefore, Cheah believed art must be a reflection of life and infuses his work with local flavour. This philosophy manifests in his works as poems and Buddhist scriptures, natural landscapes; mountains, birds, rivers, rocks and especially trees, which have become a signature icon in his works.