At full gallop
One of the most talented artists on horse paintings infuses his work with his soul.
IN the wild, the spirited horse unleases its boundless energy. The wind caresses its mane and its hooves kick up dust. It’s born free.
On the racetrack, the horse charges forward on a single mission – to win!
Through the years, Chinese horse painting artist James Phua, 43, has captured horses in various settings and using different media like paper and canvas. Despite a 25-year art career, the Muar, Johor-born Chinese brush painter took the last 10 years to specialise only in horse paintings. At 19, the self-taught artist had his first solo Chinese horse painting exhibition at Chin Woo Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, and sold more than 40 paintings.
In 1992, he graduated from the Malaysian Institute of Art with a major in Chinese ink painting. He learnt traditional Chinese ink painting from several renowned artists including local Chinese painting master Chung Chen Sun. Having mastered Oriental and Western art, he also taught both streams of art.
“It takes me 10 minutes to an hour or more to perfect the painting of a horse depending on the (painting) style,” said the founder of James Phua Art Centre (in Petaling Jaya, Selangor).
“The horse is (like) a bridge. Adopting it as the subject of my artworks has connected me to my art viewers. Painting horses is my profession and source of creativity.”
As a child, Phua was impressed by the beauty of horses. Sketching and painting horses on recycled paper became his pastime as his family could not afford a television set. He credited his mother, Toh Liang Kwee, as playing an important role in encouraging him to develop his hobby.
As an adult, he sees the horse with “different” eyes. There is also no boundaries in the media employed for his horse paintings. He has dabbled with charcoal, acrylic, watercolour and mixed media.
“The majority of my horse paintings are in ink and colours. Chinese brush painting is one of the best mediums to capture the spirit of the horse,” he explained.
Further along, Phua elaborates that he employs qi dao (literally, the way of energy flow) in his horse paintings.
“Qi dao is an innovative painting style in which I embody the flow of qi (energy) in my artwork by completing the image of horses without a break.”
Strides ahead: Secondtonone,Secretariat (97cm x 180cm) by James Phua pays tribute to the greatest racehorse of the century, the american thoroughbred, Secretariat.
a giant horse painting by Phua. It was the longest Chinese horse painting at Suria KLCC Kuala Lumpur and it earned a place in the Malaysia book of records.