Art Talk

Our House and Tan Choon Ghee
By Ee Lene

Beach Street, Penang II, 1959, Watercolour 

When my parents started The Art Gallery, Penang in 1989, one of the first artists they promoted was Tan Choon Ghee (1930 - 2010). He is well known for his watercolours of Penang Streetscenes. In fact, many Penangites who are art collectors told me that it is a “must” to own a piece of his streetscene. However, what is less known is his fascination with boats, ships, junks and all sorts of sea-going vessels. This was a result of his student days in England when he travelled extensively via cargo vessel to all parts of Europe, especially France, Italy, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Austria. With sketch pad and pencil in hand, he sketched whatever caught his eye during stopovers at the ports. But most of all, he sketched boats, ships and the sea. He was finally able to realise his dream of cruising on Q.E. 2, the luxurious mother of all ocean-liners in 1992 (which unfortunately was decommissioned not long after, following a fire).
Boats at Rest, 1982, Watercolour

Boats Together at Rest, Ink
In 1991, my father invited him to produce three watercolours of our house, one for my parents and one each for my brother, Chien Li and myself, so that in future we could have his painting each in our own houses. I was only 12 years old at that time and I was very impressed with his sketching, while seated at the edge of our garden. I watched quietly behind him as he was very focused when working. However, he was very friendly and shared his ideas on how he was going to paint the house, with different identities for each piece. Overall, Choon Ghee was a rather shy and reserved artist. He enjoyed his privacy and simple life.

Our House, 1991

Quietly observing Choon Ghee working on his sketch of my family's house
In 2009, as the managing director of Art Salon @ SENI at Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, I was proud to host his exhibition, titled 'A tribute to Tan Choon Ghee'. The exhibition was well received but sadly, he passed away soon after. It is a pleasure and privilege to have known such a famous artist, who in addition to watercolours, painted oil and ink paintings as well. I am proud to have a collection of his excellent works.

Fishing village, 1962, Watercolour

St.Mark's square, 1965, Ink and colour

Street discussion, 1972, ink and colour


Venice, 1962, oil on canvas

Shenton Way, Singapore, 1965, Watercolour

Paintings are up for sale. Contact us for further enquiries. 
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