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朵朵葵花向太阳, est. 2000s, Oil on Canvas, 54.5 x 70 cm
Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” are perhaps one of the, if not most, famous sunflower still life paintings. The impression of those gleaming yellow bouquets have been seared into many minds. When speaking about his own sunflower paintings, local artist Koeh Sia Yong brings up the Dutch painter’s works as well, the comparison almost an inevitable occurrence. However, there is a key difference—Koeh says that while Van Gogh’s tends to depict sunflowers that are in the midst of wilting, he strives to catch them while they are still flourishing. This is evident in how the sunflowers raise their heads towards the sky, gazing at the sun in mimicry of their namesake. Koeh even writes in Mandarin Chinese on the side of the leftmost painting “A bunch of sunflowers facing the sun”. In his signature expressiveness, the artist uses an impressionistic style, selecting more muted desaturated tones for the leftmost painting. This has the effect of creating a sort of haze over the image, as though one is viewing it in the heat of a late afternoon sun. White splotches in the background, as though the ground is brightened to the point of overexposure by sunlight, reinforces this idea. The other paintings follow suit, though their backgrounds are considerably cooler in hue, swathed in refreshing green. They had planted sunflowers in the garden of the Singapore Arts Society building, Koeh recalls fondly. He and the other artists present often liked to sit there painting the flowers, and once the artists from the surrounding art societies had heard of the garden, they too joined in. It is a heartwarming story that matches the lively cheerfulness of these pieces.
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