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Choo Beng Teong
T   h   e     W   i   l   d   l   i   f   e     A   r   t   i   s   t

 

Choo Beng Teong at 31 years of age is perhaps the finest wildlife artist in this part of the world. His recent association with Christie’s Auction House for wildlife art signals his first step towards establishing his reputation in the global scene.

Born in Penang, Choo remains a local boy at heart, with his humble and simple ways. His relationship with pencils, brushes, paint and paper began since his kindergarten days, and his artistic growth has been a personal and fruitful journey. He studied commercial art at Sain Academy of Art, Penang, from 1985 to 1987 while attending a 2-year course on art, graphics and painting at Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. Today, he is a full-time artist specialising in wildlife art with birds as his favourite subject.

Why birds?
While Choo has painted flowers, butterflies, plants, and frogs in his repertoire of work, they are mostly book illustrations (“Frogs and Toads” and “Malaysian Insects” for Siri Buku Alam Pak Cipan Series published by the Malayan Nature Society, 1989) or commissioned work ( Two sea turtles stamps for Pos Malaysia). The bulk of his work are on birds, birds and more birds. The artist explains: “…birds are interesting to paint because of the variety of species available, and they come with such an amazing array of colours. For practical reasons, birds are also readily available and easier to study, compared to say . . . mammals. What are the chances of finding a tiger in the Malaysian rainforest?

Malaysian Plover, 7.5 X 19.0 inches, Gouache
 

Bird-watching in Penang
Most of Choo’s birds are of the local species which can be spotted with a little bit of patience. His bird watching spots in Penang are Penang Hill, and the coastal road opposite Pulau Jerejak, where one can spotmigratory birds like the curlew, sandpiper, plover and redshank during migratory season which begins in October. The mainland, Kuala Selangor and Fraser’s Hill are also worthy bird watching spots.

A perfectionist, Choo’s detailed work is the result of hours of painstaking labour with fine brushes. Whenever possible, he tries to study his subject in natural surroundings with careful attention to accuracy depicting his feathered friends. Every feather is individually drawn and leaves are shown with dewdrops and sometimes even a tiny ant crawling over them. Even the delicate pattern of a tree bark is stunningly recreated. Because of this trait, it is not uncommon to find the artist trading his brushes for heavy-duty photographic equipment as he lugs them across hills, forests and beaches in the hope of capturing his subject matter on film. The photographs are then used as references for his drawings which are transferred to paper before paint is applied. His preferred medium is watercolour but gouache also features in some of his works.

Exhibitions
Choo’s first one-man show was at Galeria, an art gallery in Penang in 1987. Three of his paintings are on permanent display at the USM Art Gallery. His paintings also grace the halls and ballrooms of Equatorial Hotel Penang and Novotel Penang. In June 1990, he held an exhibition of wildlife watercolour paintings with Teh Yew Kiang at the Holiday Villa in Subang Jaya to mark the Malayan Nature Society’s World Conference on Biodiversity. His second solo was in 1992 and his third in 1996, both at The Art Gallery, Penang. All his solo exhibitions were sell-out successes.

The Future
Is he going to be painting birds forever? “Not really,” says Choo. He went on to stress that he is willing to move on to some other subject later on - like mammals, for instance. Having stamped his mark on the local art scene, Choo is looking towards making a name for himself in the global art scene. The good folks at Penang Insights wish him the very best of luck towards that endeavour.

For a private tour of Choo Beng Teong’s virtual gallery, enter here.

Gallery I | Gallery II | Gallery III | Gallery IV | The Artist

Limited prints by the artist are available on demand. To contact Choo Beng Teong, kindly e-mail here.

Enter a private tour of  Choo Beng Teong’s
virtual gallery

 

GALLERY I

GALLERY II

GALLERY III

GALLERY IV

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