TAY BAK KOI
B. Singapore, 1939-2005
Boats with Village Scene, 1967
Signed and dated “BAK KOI 67” on middle left edge
Gouache on paper
93 x 45 cm
Private Collection, Singapore
“My aim is to give people something beautiful to remember and cherish; something that they are familiar with but have forgotten. My subjects may look ordinary enough, but each has its own meaning. I paint from what I see, from my memory, and then use my artistic license to beautify them.”
Tay Bak Koi’s works carry that idyllic and dream-like quality, the lines between fantasy and reality usually blurred. As a matter of fact, it is signature – his dexterity in merging fantasy with realism. For example, when portraying landscapes, he had a propensity for disrupting realistic sceneries with fantasy and fairytale-like interjections that emphasized the crisscrossing of reality and perception, as seen in this piece of a lady with her children taking shade under a tree. Although he emphasized on the observable reality, he engaged in a process of exclusion and distortion in order to reduce complex forms to their basic shapes. As a result, there is a keen appreciation and presentation of the two-dimensional aspects of his pieces.
Tay Bak Koi 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. 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.