TAY BAK KOI
Tay Bak Koi,born in Singapore 1939 - died in 2005,was an artist renowned for his portrayals of fishing villages, kampung scenes and urban landscapes.
He specialised in oil and watercolour and his works have been exhibited extensively in Singapore and various other countries, including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Germany and the United States.
His style tended toward a blend of realism and fantasy, and he was known for his recurring stylised imagery of the buffalo. In 1970, he was commissioned to produce 300 works for the Hilton Hotel in Singapore.
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.
Having a rebellious streak, Tay soon became dissatisfied with the structural rigidity and formal instructional methods of the school. Not surprisingly, he spent much of the duration of his three-year course earning a living selling crabs at a market stall while experimenting with oils and watercolours at the same time. He was convinced that his lifelong career would involve the arts, specifically as an artist, but he was also aware that he would develop as an artist only if he had a distinctive style.
Although Tay's art was seldom described as radical, it was not conformist either. He eschewed blind deference to Western art forms and theories. His regular buyers have claimed that they can recognise his artwork from a distance.
His distinctive style was largely attributable to his dexterity in merging fantasy with realism. For example, when depicting urban landscapes, he tended to disrupt the realistic mise-en-scène with fantasy and fairytale-like interjections that emphasised the crisscrossing of urban lines and subtle nuances of urban lifestyle. While he placed emphasis on the 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.
He also displayed a deep appreciation of colours and attention to rich textural surfaces, decorative details and acute linework. He used colours sparingly in some of his works, playing on the resonances and complexities of the main cool hues like blues and greens and punctuating them with spots of bright colours. In others, he allowed his colours to emerge in a riotous burst of vivid reds, yellows and blues. In his representations of the Singapore River, he chose to focus on muted tones of greys and browns.
A recurring motif in Tay's works was that of 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.