Chng Huck Theng is a Malaysian Artist that resides in Penang. This talented artist is heavily involved with promoting art and artists in Malaysia, he currently holds the position of President of the Penang Art Society and since 2008 has been on the Board of Trustees of the National Art Gallery, Malaysia.
Ch’ng is a versatile artist creating abstract impressionist pieces that are held in galleries, private collections and large institutions. We sat down with him to uncover what inspires him and what his future goals are.
We would like to start things off by finding out a little more about you. At what age did you first start to paint and what or who influenced you?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: Actually, I started painting pretty late and it was not with the intention to be an artist. I collect Chinese porcelains and when I was doing my Bachelor and Master degrees in Australia, I initially took up painting simply because I wanted to know more about colour mixing so I can do some repair on my broken porcelains.
But it turned out to be a blessing as I actually enjoyed the time I spent learning how to paint with a prominent Australian artist Alan Upton down south Sydney in Wollongong. I was studying Management during the weekdays and painting during the weekends. It was fun.
Your earlier paintings were less abstract than your current style of painting, what was it that made you change your style to that of a pure abstract/impressionist?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: My early paintings were very detailed like my teachers. However, after painting a few, I asked him that if it was ok for me to change to my own style and he was happy and encouraged me to do so.
Initially, they were still very ‘less abstract’ but as time went on, my inner expression prevailed and I knew I had to follow my heart. Many would categorise my style as abstract but I think it is more ‘abstract expressionism’. This is because although my art may seem very loud and bold, it does still carry an ‘image’. People should be able to notice ‘the hidden image or message’ in between.
What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: Everything is an inspiration to me, whether it is a still object or alive. One has to be able to admire the actual visual and see beyond the object to understand the inner beauty. Other times I just get inspired from a day’s usual of ups and downs. I find that stress sometimes helps to create a beautiful painting.
Given your huge involvement with the Art scene in Malaysia, which ‘homegrown’ artists do you admire and why?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: I actually admire most artists as everyone has their own character and style. However, the ones that I truly admire are those that have big hearts. Good artists do produce good paintings but the best are from those that don’t have a selfish attitude or bad mouth behind others. They are not afraid to see other fellow artists rise and they actually help promote others.
Outside of Malaysia, what other artists do you admire and why?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: There are so many good artists around the world. Where do I start? I admire those that knew/know what they were doing with their life and art either crazily or theoretically. These are those that have ideas on how to present their works and how to contribute to society.
Please tell us about your latest series of paintings and what you are trying to achieve with them?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: My style is a combination of Eastern method and Western philosophy. The new series intends to bring this combination to another level where it will combine abstract and detail, loud and soft, movement and stillness, together.
Producing an image that not only will capture the public’s attention but also comes with a message of ‘ we have to bring our children to see dinosaurs in the museum but it would be a shame if one day our grandchildren have to see an apple in the museum!’ This is very simple, if humans choose to ignore and take for granted the current environmental issues, we may not be the ones suffering but our future generation will.
Will you be exhibiting in the near future and if so where?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: In March 2011, I will be exhibiting in the New York Art Expo. I am still trying to work out the rest because I only do a limited amount of paintings in a year. I do not paint for the sake of selling.
What institution collects your art?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: Ecole Nationale supérieure des Beaux-arts (Ensba) in Paris, Shanghai Art Museum, Singapore Art Museum, Hong Kong University Museum, National Art Gallery Malaysia, etc.
Have you won any international art awards?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: In 2010, I have won the Asian Art Award in Korea and the Shortlist final for the London International Creative Competition which had over 70 partaking countries and a few thousand entries.
What other interests do you have (besides painting)?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: Collecting antiques and paintings. Travelling and meeting new people, building new experiences.
What near term plans/goals do you have to help promote awareness in the Malaysian / Penang art scene?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: I am currently the President of Penang Art Society and we are looking to go beyond borders to promote local art. I am also on the Board of Trustees, National Art Gallery Malaysia and it is not an easy task to promote art in a developing country as it is not a priority in the government agenda. But we are still trying every possible avenue to promote Malaysian art to the world.
Finally, what advice would you give to any ‘budding’ artists just starting out?
Ch’ng Huck Theng: It is not an easy game and sometimes the pressure is just too much to handle especially when bills are due. You can sell your paintings but you should never sell your soul!