Tay Bak Koi



Tay Bak Koi (b. 1939, Singapore — d. 2005, Singapore) was an artist renowned for his portrayals of fishing villages, kampong (village) scenes and urban landscapes. He specialised in oil and watercolour and his works have been exhibited extensively in Singapore and other countries, including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Germany and the United States. His style tends toward a blend of realism and fantasy, and he was known for his recurring stylised imagery of the buffalo.1 In 1970, he was commissioned to produce 300 works for the Hilton Hotel in Singapore.2

Artistic beginnings
Tay’s talent for drawing was discovered by his father’s friend, who subsequently enrolled him in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1957. His teacher, the late Cheong Soo Pieng, taught him to appreciate existing works of art in new ways and to challenge conventional art forms.3


However, Tay was dissatisfied with the structural rigidity and formal instructional methods of the school. He spent much of his three-year course selling crabs at a market stall while experimenting with oils and watercolours. He was convinced that his lifelong career would involve the arts, specifically as an artist, but he was also aware that to develop as an artist, he had to hone a distinctive style.4

Stylistic conventions
Although Tay's art is seldom described as radical, it is not conformist either. His regular buyers have claimed that they can recognise his artwork from a distance.5


His distinctive style was largely attributed to his dexterity in merging fantasy with reality.6 For example, when depicting urban landscapes, he tended to disrupt the realistic mise-en-scène with fairytale-like interjections. While he placed emphasis on observable reality, he engaged in a process of elimination and distortion in order to reduce complex forms to their basic shapes. The result was a keen appreciation and presentation of the two-dimensional aspect of painted surfaces.7

He also displayed a deep appreciation of colours and attention to rich textural surfaces, decorative details and acute linework.8 He used colours sparingly in some of his works, playing on the resonance and complexities of cool hues such as blues and greens, punctuating them with spots of bright colours.9 In others, he allowed his colours to emerge in riotous bursts of vivid reds, yellows and blues. In his representations of the Singapore River, he chose to focus on muted tones of greys and browns.10

A recurring motif in Tay’s works is the stylised buffalo, represented by a basic cut-out shape of a massive humped body supported by a pair of inverted V-shaped legs and a small head adorned with two elegantly-curved horns.11

Solo exhibitions12
1964:
Tengah Airport Club, Singapore.

1964–65: National Library, Singapore Art Society, Singapore.
1966: Ipoh Public Library, Malaysia.
1970–71: Gallery Fine Art, Singapore.
1971: National Library, Singapore.
1974–75: National Library, Singapore Art Society, Singapore.
1975: Raya Gallery, Melbourne, Australia.
1978: Gallery Fine Art, Orchard Towers, Singapore.
1979: Raya Gallery, Hyatt Hotel, Singapore.
1981: Hyatt Hotel, Singapore.
1990: Lone Pine Gallery, Ming Court Hotel (now Orchard Parade Hotel), Singapore.
1990: Impression: The Art of Tay Bak Koi, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore
1996: In Harmony with Nature, The Art Gallery, Penang.13
1997: From Joy’s Diary…, Eagle’s Eye Art Gallery.14
2007: Reminiscences of Tay Bak Koi, Stamford House, Singapore.15

Group exhibitions16
1961–77
 : Singapore Art Society Annual Exhibition, Singapore.

1963: Salon De Mei, Penang, Malaysia.
1963: 6th National Art Gallery Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore.
1963: Society of Chinese Artists Exhibition, Singapore.
1964: Young Asian Artists, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
1964–65: Modern Art Society Exhibition, Singapore.
1966: Youth of Asia, Japan.
1967–81: St Andrew’s Hospital Charity Show, Singapore.
1969: Eden Hall Charity Show, Singapore.
1976: Six Men, Tang Chou Art Gallery, Singapore.
1976: Inaugural Exhibition, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1976: Colour, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1977: Large Paintings, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1977: Paintings and Sculptures, Alpha Gallery, Singapore.
1977: Royal Overseas Art Exhibition, London, United Kingdom.
1977: Preliminary Art Exhibition, Cologne, Germany.
1978: Galloway Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.
1979: Singapore Art Exhibition, Bahrain, Dubai and Kuwait.
1980: Three International Artists, Galloway Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.
1980: Singapore Art Exhibition, Tel Aviv, Israel.
1981: Hong Kong Arts Festival, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong.
1989: Twenty Singapore Artists for New York Art Expo, Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre, New York, United States.
1989: 1st Bru-Sin Art Exhibition, National Museum Art Gallery, Negara Brunei Darussalam.
1990: 2nd Bru-Sin Art Exhibition, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.
1993: Singapore Artist Directory Exhibition, Empress Place Museum, Singapore.
1994: Reminiscences of the South Seas: Two-Man Exhibition by Tay Bak Koi and Tew Nai Tong, Shenn's Fine Art, Singapore.
2000: Elite Painters 2000 – An Ode to Joyful Living, Eagle’s Eye Art Gallery17
2001: Elite Painters 2001 – Painters of Praise, 12 Asian Artists, Eagle’s Eye Art Gallery18



Author

Nurhaizatul Jamila Jamil



References
1. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RART q700.95957 SIN)
2. Out and about. (1988, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, pp. 198–199. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN); Chia, W. H. (1994). Reminiscences of the south seas: Oil paintings. Singapore: Shenn's Fine Art, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 TAY)
4. Sharp, I. (1969). Tay Bak Koi: Comment. In Tay Bak Koi. Singapore: Creative Press. Retrieved from PublicationSG.
5. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
6. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
7. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
8. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
9. Reminiscences of the south seas: Oil paintings. Singapore: Shenn's Fine Art, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 TAY)
10. Sharp, I. (1969). Tay Bak Koi: Comment. In Tay Bak Koi. Singapore: Creative Press. Retrieved from PublicationSG.
11. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
12. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
13. Loh, J., & Cheng, D. (2002). Memoirs of Tay Bak Koi. Singapore: Eagle's Eye Art Gallery... (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 MEM)
14. Loh, J., & Cheng, D. (2002). Memoirs of Tay Bak Koi. Singapore: Eagle's Eye Art Gallery. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 MEM)
15. What’s up this weekend..and the week ahead. (2007, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 71. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1993). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Art and Artist Speak, p. 198. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
17. Loh, J., & Cheng, D. (2002). Memoirs of Tay Bak Koi. Singapore: Eagle's Eye Art Gallery. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 MEM)
18. Loh, J., & Cheng, D. (2002). Memoirs of Tay Bak Koi. Singapore: Eagle's Eye Art Gallery. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 MEM)



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Artists
Arts>>Painting
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists
Painters--Singapore--Biography
Tay, Bak Koi, 1939-2005