Penang artist Tan Choon Ghee is one of Malaysia’s best-known watercolourists who is an alumnus of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore and Slade School of Fine Art, London. Before Tan devoted his time to becoming a full-time artist in 1969, he was a successful chief set designer for Singapore and Hong Kong television. Paintings of his hometown featuring vibrant streetscapes and its people are some of Tan’s favourite subjects.
In Boats Galore, fishing boats along a wooden jetty in the centre of the painting draw viewers’ attention to the rippling water, depicted in short brushstrokes of different tones of blue. Human figures on sampans, which are small, flat-bottomed boats, exemplify a slow pace of life reminiscence of seaside village settlements before Penang’s entrepôt during the colonial era. Painted in 1981, Boats Galore captures the diminishing maritime traffic through Penang since its revocation as a free port in the 1970s.