Sarawak is Art - Past and Present
In 1949, Lucy Morison founded the Kuching Art Club. It was the only association of its kind, and the club’s activities are the best record of Western style art development in Sarawak.
Although earliest records have been lost in a fire but we know many of the club’s activities through newspaper reports.
Morison, secretary to the Sarawak Governor, departed Kuching in 1962, leaving behind a fine art scene.
Mrs Lucy Morison
“With many good wishes for the future”
Members of the Kuching Art Club
12 May 1962
For most of the world, their first glimpses of Sarawak came in the form of Western style art created in the 1800s.
Sir James Brooke commissioned Eastern Archipelago Company artists to document living habits, flora and fauna in the new Kingdom.
Many were lithographs, brought to London, and copied for the masses, Some pieces are now in the Sarawak Museum's collection.
Art by locals must have had its beginnings soon after. One can picture European artists observing Sarawak, painting Sarawak, just as they themselves were being observed by locals, curious to paint.
Local Art By Locals
The Kuching Art Club's goal was to organise the burgeoning art scene. It operated alongside other groups - like the Music Societies and Floricultural Improvement Society (both formed in 1947) - in the optimistic air that was post World War Two.
Newspapers from the mid 1940s report of twice-a-year art exhibitions, weekly classes and even reviews of solo shows.
Within the first year of the Art Club's founding, it had gathered 80 "very active" painter members, The Sarawak Tribune reported.
A year later, the Club had enough art to hold an "all member exhibition" on the weekend of February 11 at the Maderasah Melayu (present day Islamic Heritage Museum).
"Ladies and gentlemen, some members are old hands, but for others, this may be the first time they have shown their paintings, and some of us are naturally a little nervous but we can all learn something from each other's work and be inspired to go ahead with our own.
"We hope too, the public will find something that interest them and that more members will be added to the club."
This gallery shares the same aspirations. Our gallery is a mirror from the past and a window to the future. You will find the works of artists like Stephanie and Willie Eng, who was present at the Kuching Art Club's first exhibition.
Sarawak art veterans like Foo Syn Choon, Lam Siong Onn, Chew Fang Chin, Lee Hock Kia and Michael Chong all have their works here.
This gallery also contains artefacts like original vases, which are crafted using traditional techniques but with modern touches like paintings on them.
Other precious originals include art textbooks from the Batu Lintang Teacher Training College from the 1950s, and scripts and scrolls from private collections. This gallery also features contemporary artists like Leonard Siaw, Nia Latif, Kee Huang.
Artists past & present offer unique Sarawakian paints of views - Chinese ink depicting longhouse villages, sfumato works of smiling indigenous women and more.
Art and Support
"Just as poets put their feelings into words and musicians express theirs through music, so an artist illustrates his or her feelings in pictures. Every picture tells a story, and an adept artist is able to put into effect a story in more vivid details than it could ever be written in words.
"Time may pass away but pictures will still retain their stories fresh and beautiful just as they were first painted."
- Dennis Law, The Sarawak Tribune, 1949
Hoan Gallery by Kee Huang is a passion project of patience and paint.