Koeh Sia Yong is an influential figure in the development of art in Singapore. He was born in 1938 and studied Western Painting at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1958. During his time at NAFA, he joined the Equator Art Society, an art collective that promoted social realism and drew attention to the lives of the working class through their artworks. Before it was dissolved in 1972, Koeh actively supported the group’s activities and was considered a key member. He then became an art editor for the art column with Sin Chew Jit Poh, and later, in the 1980s, a graphic designer and political cartoonist for the Nanyang Business Newspaper. After over two decades in the advertising industry, Koeh decided to dedicate his time to art.
At the height of the modern period in Europe, the Impressionist movement was gaining a foothold in the repertoire of great oil painters. This movement sought to paint ‘light’ and ‘energy’ into the subject rendered, as opposed to simply mimicking scenes. Koeh’s practice as an oil painter inherits this tradition of developing light and colour through observation and practical alchemy to re-create nature upon the canvas. Sunflower was painted in 1998, bearing traces of textured impasto in oil, creating thick swathes of colour that build a visual harmony. The accuracy in drawing out the flowers in the context of where they grow flushes the composition with a unique scale that is not too large or too precious. The result is a sculptural assembling of the palette that not only helps us to see colour more vividly but invests an energetic quality on the canvas, lifelike and nature as it should be.