This adhoc system is, in the absence of a proper format, quite a commendable effort to rectify, at least for the time being, the deficiency of a proper chronological order.
Using the yardstick of this time measurement, the late Khaw Sia seems to fall into the category of a first generation or a pioneer Malaysian artist. He can be given a unique place in the short history of Malaysian art. At his best, his works are as near perfection as possible and seemingly above criticism. Admittedly, during his era, the main stocks in trade of the artists encompassed the normal land and seascapes, the villages, the flowers (he chose the orchids). Simplicity was the order of his day although there were already some influences of "modern" art being introduced into the country. The qualified art teachers returning home after receiving their formal art education overseas became an influential lobby group in promoting the modern art movement.
Khaw Sia was born in 1931 in China at a moment of chaos and uncertainty. There was scant attention given to the development and appreciation of the arts and aesthetic values. Nonetheless, a great man did arise in such a depressed state. He managed to obtain the right encouragement and opportunity to cultivate his artistic talent to the fullest. His works, for example, were accepted for display in London and Paris in the mid-fifties.
Khaw Sia's temperament and love of the water colour medium is most noticeable. He drew and painted on subjects that interested him, especially Penang landmarks and street scenes. During his travels to Europe, he drew many buildings such as churches and castles. These are faithfully captured in his personal sketch book of 31 pages, which form part of the Khaw Sia collection. Towards the later part of his life, he specialised in painting orchid flowers, revealing his love for beauty and nature. One will, furthermore, notice his “signature” represented by the dew drops resting on the leaves of the orchid plants. There are also sketches of his travels to the homes of orchid lovers, especially in Singapore. These sketches will later be transposed to his finished works. The written records in his sketches show the names of the orchids, the identity of the owners and the dates of his visits.