Soh Boon Kiong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
“Indeed, his paintings evoke a serenity in an ‘otherworld’ atmosphere, and contain duality: clarity and enigma; sanctuary and vociferance; solemnity and excitement. Soh draws the viewer inextricably into his world of time suspended that feeds his imagination, as it then feeds his audience. The use of vibrant, saturated colours – beautiful in their intensity – contributes to the energy that the paintings give out. The serendipitous result are seductive and powerful images.”
Dom Pérignon Portrait of a Perfectionist,
The PEAK Magazine 2001
Soh Boon Kiong is an acclaimed artist recognised for his larger-than-life abstract paintings. He is a colourist who is universal in his art, both in content and language. His expressions are poetic and musical, not confined to any geographical region. Soh was born in 1966 and grew up in Kuantan, a quiet city on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, famous for its beaches. He is able to speak and write in English, Malay, Chinese, French and Japanese fluently; a result of having resided in Malaysia, France and Japan. Since his first solo exhibition in 1990 at Empress Place Museum in Singapore, Soh has held numerous solo exhibitions in galleries, museums, and art fairs from Malaysia to New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Taiwan, Mauritius and Lebanon.
It was at the Central Academy of Art in Kuala Lumpur in 1987 when his lecturer saw his talent as an artist. Thereafter, Soh moved and spent the next five years in Paris (1988 – 1993) where he immersed himself in French culture and its vibrant artistic community. Through his studies at Ecole Nationale, Supérieure des Beaux – Arts de Paris, France, he embraced the western way of making and looking at paintings. His regular visits to museums and galleries in Paris renewed his appreciation of the Master painters. He was notably inspired by the rich colours of the impressionists. At the same time, Soh also witnessed the western art movement such as lyrical abstraction.
From 1998, Soh started to divide his time and practice between his studios in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Amagasaki, Japan. In Japan, he learnt another culture and a new way to connect to art, time and nature. He could appreciate ukiyo-e masters such as Hokusai and discovered the Gutai artists. Nourished by both eastern and western aesthetics, he blends comfortably and seamlessly into the different cultures in his paintings with apparent ease.
In 2010, Soh was invited by the former Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaya (UM), Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon to be the second Artist-in-Residence at UM. He was the second Artist-in-Residence at UM (2010 – 2014). The first Artist-in-Residence was the late Dato’ Ibrahim Hussein (1971 – 1978). UM was the perfect place for Soh, at the time when he was constantly researching and developing his techniques. His massive canvasses still hang in both lobbies of the Chancellery Building and Penthouse floor, Wisma R&D at the university today.
Soh Boon Kiong’s evolution as an artist is reflected in his canvasses. In his pieces, Soh strives to express the vastness of nature; visually and spiritually. His current work reveals complexity and a wide range of techniques which he has developed over the years. Inspired by the beauty of nature, changing seasons, Chinese calligraphy, and classical music, his appreciation is expressed through his use of a plethora of colours and textures. They inspire a certain kind of positivism, optimism, and strength, reflecting the spirit of history and civilisations of humanity. Each artistic creation is distinctive, first revealing itself in the mind of the artist, taking shape, telling a story, forming its own identity and some even making a statement. Every layer, brushstroke, line, spot and splotch is meticulously planned and carefully executed. Every mark has an intention. The abstracts become real, finding harmony and a soulful equilibrium.