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Labourer (Boatman), 1960, Oil on Canvas, 91 x 61cm
In this portrait, Koeh Sia Yong uses an impressionistic style. The man here is a boatman, part of Koeh Sia Yong’s favourite subject matters in focusing on ordinary citizens. The mix of dull green, red, yellow in the background give the illusion that the wall is moving, slightly disorienting to the eye. Attired in a tattered white singlet, a thin blue jacket and a green hat, the man wrings his hands nervously as though in anticipation of the viewer’s attention. In this it carries a narrative concerning Singapore’s early years of nation building as well. It tells the viewer to remember the contributions of the individual coolies and Samsui who were part of the foundation for the country’s development.
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