Dato’ Chuah Kooi Yong is one of the most active Malaysian artists today. Apart from having been involved in the development and growth of his artistic career, he is also an educator in the arts where he is currently the principal of the Equator Academy of Art and Design in Penang while being involved in the corporate industry of design where he practices his skills as an Interior and Graphic Designer at the D’Elegance Design company. Kooi Yong was born in 1938 from Penang where his early education in the arts came from the highly prestigious Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore. After that he served as a school teacher before he returned to Singapore and then embarking on to the Hornsey College of Art in the United Kingdom where he finished his course in Graphic Design.
After that, Kooi Yong returned to his hometown where he started his own Interior and Graphic Design company which saw him commissioning work from major companies like airlines, hotels and many others. Still very much a practicing artist, Kooi Yong draws his inspiration through his travels around Europe and other countries where he is known for his exemplary works in the oil and watercolour mediums respectively.
Achievements and artwork
As an artist, Kooi Yong has been previously involved in countless exhibitions where he had a solo show in Penang as well as in many major galleries around the region. Apart from being the Principal and the CEO at Equator where he is constantly working toward improving and expanding the education of arts in Malaysia and abroad, he is also actively involved in the promotion and development of the Malaysian art scene. This is done through his membership in the Penang Art Society, the Penang Watercolour Society as well as the Penang Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In Kooi Yong’s body of work, he is known to belong to the early generation of watercolour artists where they are very much known for the more traditional method of using this medium. The works are commonly regarded to be highly expressive where they capture the essence of the moment of the scene that was painted. The scene will most likely offer a snapshot into the current time line where one would be able to perceive the livelihood and the societal situations of that era.
Dato’ Chuah Kooi Yong – Penang Street Hawker
In Dato’ Chuah Kooi Yong’s watercolour painting of ‘Penang Street Hawker’ the rustic and old-fashioned street hawkers in Penang was depicted. In fact, this is still very much the situation today where the peddlers are still carrying out their trade around Penang. However, what is seen in this painting is the exemplary skills that Kooi Yong demonstrates especially through the whiter shades on the walls painted in contrast with the colourful umbrellas of the hawkers. Details like the clothes hung out to dry and certain others create an environment that provides a richer painting which is often seen in Kooi Yong’s artwork. Despite his more ‘traditional’ approach through this medium, it is works like these that gives artists like Kooi Yong their identities and stature of the earlier generation of Malaysian great artists.