At full gal­lop

One of the most ta­lented artists on horse paint­ings in­fuses his work with his soul.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ART - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@thes­ > SEE NEXT PAGE

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.

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