Malaysian Arts

Traditional Malaysian art is primarily composed of Malay art and Bornean art, which is very similar to the other styles from Southeast Asia, such as Bruneian, Indonesian and Singaporean. Art has a long tradition in Malaysia, with Malay art dating back to the Malay sultanates, has always been influenced by Chinese, Indian and Islamic arts, and is also present, due to the large population of Chinese and Indian in today’s Malaysian demographics.

Colonialism also brought other art forms, such as Portuguese dances and music. During this era, influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, and the British, were also visible, especially in terms of fashion and architecture in many colonial towns of Malaya and Borneo such as Penang, Malacca, and Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Jesselton. Despite the influences of aboard, the indigenous art of Malaysia continues to survive among the Orang Asli of peninsular and numerous ethnic groups in Sarawak and Sabah.

Nowadays, given the globally influenced and advanced technology, the younger generation of Malaysian artists have moved from the traditional material such as wood, metals, and forest products, and becoming actively involved in different forms of arts, such as animation, photography, painting, sculpture, and street art. Many of them attained international recognition for their artworks and exhibitions worldwide, combining styles from all over the world with the traditional Malaysian traditions. – Wikipedia

Below we are featuring Malaysian artists in Canada with their artworks. 

Yeow Teck Chai

Yeow Teck Chai (b.1950) lives and paints in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. His work integrates painting and pencil/ink pen sketches, using watercolour as his main medium. His approach to art prioritises intuition, light, and the fluidity of colour. He is primarily self-taught, having had no formal art training apart from art classes in school. Born in the small town of Kuantan, his flair for drawing started during his early kampung years. As a mischievous youth, he once drew an enlarged five ringgit note and tried to use it as currency at a coffee shop. Later, he focused on the human physique with his monochrome sketches of runners and dancers, and portraits of his children. After graduating from University Malaya in 1974, Yeow joined the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA), where he spent the next 32 years of his career. He became well-known for his monthly comic strip “Durian Talk” in the MIDA Club’s newsletter - a series of comically serious discussions among a group of durians about Malaysian matters. Yeow revived his love for painting post retirement in 2006. Also a passionate cook, Yeow would invite friends home for a meal, where they soon discovered a veritable treasure trove in his portfolio of paintings. Demand soon grew for his paintings, with friends commissioning pieces of a favourite scenic landscape or portraits of loved ones and pets. In his free time, Yeow enjoys listening to music, golf, and cooking for his family.

Selected artworks

Birds

Asian Fairy-bluebird (male)

Irena puella
This bird's striking cerulean blue upperparts and vent are the main highlight and I really wanted to focus on getting the shiny blue feathers on its back just right. While the male of this species hasa startling jet black face, breast and wings, the female is an all over bluish-green with the same red eyes.

Crested Goshawk

Accipeter trivirgatus
A tropical bird of prey, it's piercing gaze immediately captivated me as I sought to capture the same intense stare of its golden eye orbs, as well as the striking black barred markings on its breast that heightens its fearsome predatory image.

Great Hornbill

Buceros bicornis
This giant hornbill is over a meter in length and rather intimidating sight. Apart from its size, it is easily recognizable by its huge yellow casque and bill and yellowish-white nape and neck, as well as the bands across its wings. Its voice is loud and often heard in flight. Here it is peacefully perched on a heavily fern-covered branch in the middle of its rainforest home that is receding by the day, hence its current vulnerable status.

Rufous-collared Kingfisher (female/male)

Actenoides concretus
Can you spopt this bird's rufous collar amidst its many other brilliant colours? The male's royal blue moustache, back and wings are a sight to behold, topped by a green crown. Its long yellowish bill topped with a black culmen is poised to strike any unsuspecting small vertebrate or invertebrate. This near threatened colourful kingfisher species has suffered habitate loss due to rapid deforestation of our rainforests. It has become rare to spot in Malaysia and is now extinct in Singapore. Inhabitating closed-canopy forests, it is no dependent on fish or water.

Malaysian Eared Nightjar

Lyncornis temminckii
While at first glance this small nocturnal bird looks fairly unassuming, it is the intricate cryptic brown and white patterns on its plumage that make it a work of art, reminiscent of a heavily patterned traditional sarong batik print. Its characteristic call is a loud and far-carrying three note "pip-pee-pheo" given while flying over the forest.

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (male)

Dicaeum trigonostigma
A common resident throughout Malaysia, this dainty flowerpecker stands at only 8 cm. The male stands out among other flowerpeckers for its slaty-blue upperparts from crown to tail and orange lower breast, mantle and back. This particular little fellow can be seen feasting on a berry as part of its fruits and seed diet.

Oriental Pied Hornbill (female)

Anthracoceros albirostris
One of my earliest hornbill paintings was this small oriental pied hornbill, commonly found in Langkawi where the source photo for this particular bird was taken. This iridescence of its shiny black plumage caught my eye, as well as this picturesque composition amidst colourful berries.

Collared Owlet

Glaucidium brodieioi
The smallest owl in Asia at only 15 cm, this territorial owl is more often heard than seen. Its spotted head and intricate barred wings make for a complex art piece, however its bright lemon-eyes that captivate, as well as its adorable pygmy stature.

Wrinkled Hornbill (male)

Rhyticeros corrugatus
This magnificent large hornbill is unfortunately an endangered species due to the rapid loss of their habitat to illegal logging and wildfires. Its red and yellow wrinkled squarish casque gives it its name, and while the male has a plain yellowish gular pouch under its throat, the female's gular pouch is blue against their fully black head and throat. A monogamous bird, these hornbills mate for life. Their call is a loud ""kah-kah" that can be heard for miles.

Kampung (village)

Malaysians are skillful craftman, well known for their skills in making pewter, kris, batek, tops, kites, etc. Here is a one making the wau bulan, an intricately designed Malaysian moon-kite (normally with floral motifs) that is traditionally flown in the Malaysian state of Kelantan. The wau bulan is one of Malaysia national symbols.

Fishing boats at the estuary of Tanjung Lumpur in my hometown of Kuantan. It brings back fond memory of my young day when I would spend many hours fishing and swimming in the river during high tide.

A scene from the 60s when we had to use the ferry to cross the many rivers from one town to another in the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia. Sometimes during the monsoon season, the rivers would be flooded with strong current and logs streaming down but the experienced and skillful boatman knew how to maneuver the current and logs to take us safely to the other side of the river. Thinking back, it was fun but dangerous.

Norman Choo

Born in Kuching on Borneo Island, Norman found his passion for the Visual Arts in his schooling years. Hungry to learn, he taught himself and sought out the best teachers he could reach. His journey as an artist began in the late 90s by participating in numerous artist organizations and events in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, Australia, Poland, the USA, and Canada. Norman moved to Canada in the middle of the 2000s and had been living there since.

Selected artworks

Lili Choo

Born in Malaysia and migrated to Canada, I spent years working with children with special needs, mainly Down Syndrome, Autism, ADHD etc., in Early-Intervention-Programme. In the process, I interacted with the children through Arts & Crafts to promote their development in eye/hand coordination, attention span, and communication. Finding joy and fulfilment in working with my hands, I spent most of my free time in craftwork. The opportunity to draw realistically came to me when I met and learned from my husband. It is something we share and grow together with, and it is my aspiration to be a Portrait Artist.

Selected artworks

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Malaysian High Commission in Ottawa

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Malaysian Association of Canada
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