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.
Penang Clock Tower depicts a wide-lens view of the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower and its surrounding landscape. When Penang was still part of the British crown colony, Cheah Chen Eok was commissioned to design a 60-foot tower to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Set against a foreground featuring rows of shophouses, the painting melds architectural modernity, maritime significance and hilly wilderness in the background, attempting to epitomise the core ways of life in Penang’s state capital of Georgetown. Tan created basic shapes filled with light, translucent washes of muted colours in varying tones of browns and greens. Each element in the painting is defined with clear outlines, lending a sketched effect to the work.